Tomatoes are one of the most popular garden plants, and for good reason—nothing beats the taste of a fresh-off-the-vine home-grown tomato. While you’re enjoying the succulent flavor of that fresh picked (or home canned!) tomato, consider this fruit’s other many attributes, starting with its many health benefits. Tomatoes might be packed with good taste, but they’re also brimming with antioxidants and offer measures of protection for our bodies. So whether you’re dicing them up for summer salads, preserving them for later, or enjoying the taste of home-canned tomatoes this winter, consider these many health benefits of tomatoes.
Photo By Povy Kendal Atchison
Health Benefits of Tomatoes
Tomatoes are packed with antioxidants, including vitamin C and manganese, but also important phytonutrients like flavonones, flavonols, hydroxycinnamic acids, glycosides and carotenoids (including beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene, which gives the tomatoes their red coloring). Just one serving of tomatoes or tomato products a day can help protect your cells from damage. A recent study from the University of Barcelona suggests that organically grown tomatoes contain more antioxidants, so be sure to either grow or buy organic tomatoes.
Regular consumption of tomatoes can also promote a healthy heart and help reduce risk of heart disease. Lycopene has been shown to help manage the level of fat in our blood and lower cholesterol levels, and tomato extracts have shown in studies to have anti-platelet properties, which keeps platelet cells in the blood from clumping together, a condition that often precedes atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries often associated with heart disease.
Another surprising health benefit of tomatoes is its ability to promote healthy bones. In a four-week study of postmenopausal women, researchers discovered that women who had lycopene removed from their diets experienced changes in bone tissue and oxidative stress to the bones that put them at risk for osteoporosis. The study’s researchers argued that lycopene-containing foods, especially tomatoes, are critical to the diet and may play a previously un-thought of important role in maintaining good bone health.
Thanks to its treasure trove of antioxidants, tomatoes offer a lot of protection from various types of cancer. Research shows that regular consumption of tomatoes can definitely lower the risk of prostate cancer in men. This ability is due in part to alpha-tomatine, a phytonutrient found in tomatoes that alters the activity of developing prostate cancer cells and triggers the death of fully formed cancer cells. Research also shows a strong connection between tomatoes and reduced risk of pancreatic and breast cancer.
There are countless ways in which to enjoy tomatoes! Here are a few of our favorite tomato recipes.
Roasted Tomato Sauce
Creamy Roasted Tomato Soup
Canned Whole Tomatoes
Avocado, Tomato and Red Onion Salad
Polenta Fries with Roasted Tomato Sauce
Sun-Dried Tomato and White Bean Spread
Chickpea and Tomato Curry
Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of Mother Earth Living. Find her on Google+.