The much-loved fruit is everywhere and that's a good thing, Calorie Countess Lisa Westfall says.
Tomatoes are everywhere. We put them in our salads, on our sandwiches, on pizza, or eat them whole like an apple. And that's a good thing, not only for our palates, but also from a health perspective.
Tomatoes are a good source of fiber, vitamins A, C, and K, potassium, niacin, folate, and vitamin B6.
Tomatoes contain lycopene, which has an antioxidant property as well as cancer-prevention properties. It helps protect cells from oxygen damage. Research has shown that it helps protect our DNA inside our white blood cells. Lycopene has also been shown to prevent heart disease as well as colorectal, breast, prostate, lung and pancreatic cancers.
A study dealing with tomatoes and cholesterol levels showed that a high dietary intake of tomato products reduced total cholesterol and LDL levels. Participants in the study refrained from eating tomatoes for three weeks and then added tomatoes to their diet. At the end of the period in which they consumed tomatoes, their cholesterol levels dropped an average of 5.9 percent and LDL cholesterol levels decreased by 12.9 percent.
Tomato juice can be thought of as an anti-inflammatory, according to an Italian research study. The report suggested that by drinking one glass of tomato juice a day, markers of inflammation are lowered by about 35 percent in less than one month.
Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin K. Almost 18 percent of the daily value for vitamin K is found in a cup of raw tomatoes. Vitamin K is important for bone health by helping activate a non-collagen protein in the bone, which anchors calcium inside of the bone.
Did you know that there is a huge difference between the nutritional benefit of organic ketchup vs. regular ketchup? Organic ketchup contains three times as much lycopene as non-organic ketchup. Organic ketchup provides 183 micrograms of lycopene per gram of ketchup, while non-organic ketchup averages 100 micrograms per gram. The benefits of lycopene are increased when it is mixed or eaten with a fat-rich food such as olive oil and nuts.
When buying tomatoes, choose ones that are deep in color. This reflects that the tomato is rich in lycopene and that it will provide a lot of flavor. There should not be any cracks, bruises or soft spots. Tomatoes that haven't been sliced should be stored at room temperature because they are sensitive to the cold, and this will interfere with their ripening process. Tomatoes should keep up to one week depending on how ripe they were when you bought them.
The next time you decide to buy or eat a tomato, just think of the wonderful health benefits you are getting from just one fruit.
Lisa Westfall is a registered dietician at Dublin Methodist Hospital.