Tomato Health & Nutrition
Tomatoes: One of the World's Healthiest Foods
Tomato products are one of the healthiest foods in your kitchen as well as one of the most affordable ways to get a serving of vegetables and stay within your budget. Eating more tomato products everyday can protect your body against cardiovascular disease, various forms of cancer, inflammation and other conditions. Furthermore, tomato products may offer particular strength in guarding against sun damage (anti-aging), osteoporosis and prostate cancer. Health Benefits To learn more about the many health benefits of consuming more processed tomatoes, click on one of the following:
A Tasty Nutritional Powerhouse
Tomato products are loaded with essential vitamins, minerals and fiber while being low in fat and calories. One cup of canned tomatoes contains 41 calories, 0 grams of fat, 2.4 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, 37% Daily Value (DV) vitamin C, 8% DV vitamin A, 9% DV vitamin K, 13% DV vitamin B6, 13% DV iron, 13% DV potassium, and 9% DV manganese.
Inflammation is defined as a localized reaction of tissue to irritation, injury or infection with symptoms including pain, swelling, redness and even the loss of movement or function. Research continues to suggest that inflammation is emerging as the root cause of many chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Both epidemiological studies and intervention trials support a link between the role of diet and the subsequent increase or reduction of inflammation. Recent findings indicate that consuming tomato products may protect against or reduce inflammation. The regular consumption of tomato products has long been associated with a lower risk of several types of cancer and coronary heart disease. Using a multi-center, randomized, controlled trial, researchers have recently found that consumption of processed tomatoes was associated with lower serum C reactive protein which is recognized as a biomarker of inflammation.
Through positive changes in the diet and adding foods like tomato products which can reduce inflammation, you can improve your health and reduce your risk for chronic diseases.
Antioxidant Benefits of Lycopene
Tomato products are rich in carotenoids – the antioxidant group that helps protect against cancer. A great deal of media attention has been recently focused on lycopene in tomatoes. More than 80% of the lycopene in American diets comes from the consumption of tomato products making processed tomatoes the number one source of lycopene.
Lycopene from tomatoes has been repeatedly studied in humans and found to be protective against a growing list of cancers. These cancers now include colorectal, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers. Lycopene has been shown to also prevent heart disease. The antioxidant function of lycopene provides the ability to help protect cells and other structures in the body from oxygen damage which has been linked in human research to the protection of DNA (our genetic material) inside of white blood cells.
Consuming processed tomato products enables the body to better absorb lycopene than through the consumption of fresh tomatoes.
Consuming tomato products have been shown to be helpful in reducing the risk of prostate cancer due to the fact that tomatoes contain lycopene and a variety of protective phytonutrients.
A 14-month study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute underscores the importance of a healthy whole diet rich in tomatoes in the prevention of prostate cancer. Additionally, a meta-analysis – the “gold standard” of medical research – of 21 studies published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention confirms that eating tomatoes, especially cooked tomatoes, provides protection against prostate cancer. When the data from all 21 studies was combined, men who ate the highest amounts of raw tomatoes were found to have an 11% reduction in risk for prostate cancer.
These studies support those who advocate whole foods in the debate about whether cancer prevention is best achieved with whole foods or concentrated single compounds.
One of the deadliest cancers, pancreatic cancer progresses so rapidly that individuals with the disease who are participating in studies often die before their interviews can be completed-so the benefits noted in the following study of a diet rich in tomatoes and tomato-based products are especially significant.
In a 3-year Canadian study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, individuals with pancreatic cancer were age and gender matched with individuals free of the disease. After adjustment for age, province, body mass index, smoking, educational attainment, dietary folate and total caloric intake, the data showed men consuming the most lycopene had a 31% reduction in their risk of pancreatic cancer. Among persons who had never smoked, those whose diets were richest in beta carotene or total carotenoids reduced their risk of pancreatic cancer by 43% and 42%, respectively.
Promoting Optimal Health
Researchers at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel, may have identified the unique mechanism through which lycopene protects against cancer by activating cancer-preventive phase II enzymes. When the researchers incubated breast and liver cancer cells with lycopene, the carotenoid triggered the production and activity of certain phase II detoxification enzymes that other carotenoids, including beta-carotene, astaxanthin, and phytoene, did not.
Since much epidemiological evidence indicates that lycopene acts synergistically with other phytonutrients to give tomatoes their protective effects, and recent studies have shown that eating tomato products prevents cancer more effectively than taking lycopene alone, the researchers concluded that other carotenoids stimulate phase II enzymes via different pathways from that used by lycopene.
Significant Anti-Oxidant Protection
Tomatoes are packed with traditional nutrients that have been shown in many studies to be extremely beneficial. For example, tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A, the latter notably through its concentration of carotenoids including beta-carotene. These antioxidants travel through the body neutralizing dangerous free radicals that could otherwise damage cells and cell membranes, escalating inflammation and the progression or severity of atherosclerosis, diabetic complications, asthma, and colon cancer. In fact, high intakes of these antioxidants have been shown to help reduce the risk or severity of all of these illnesses.
Reduction in Heart Disease Risk
Regular intake of tomato products has been consistently associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease. One study, published in the Journal of Nutrition (2003), of 40,000 middle-aged participants, found that higher levels of tomato-based products in the diet were linked to lower rates of cardiovascular disease.
During more than 7 years of follow-up, those who consumed 7 to 10 servings each week of lycopene-rich foods (tomato-based products, including tomatoes, tomato juice, tomato sauce and pizza) were found to have a 29% lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those eating less than 1.5 servings of tomato products weekly.
More good news for those at risk of atherosclerosis, or who are simply trying to avoid it, is that tomatoes are a very good source of potassium and a good source of niacin, vitamin B6, and folate. Niacin has been used for years as a safe way to lower high cholesterol levels. Based on the findings, these nutrients appear work together to make tomatoes a truly heart-healthy food.
Controlling Blood Pressure
Low-sodium tomato products have the perfect nutritional profile to fit into the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet (DASH). Research published in the American Heart Journal (2006) has confirmed that tomato products may aid in treating hypertension. In one single-blind, placebo-controlled study involving 31 participants, a short-term treatment with tomato extract reduced blood pressure in people with Grade 1 hypertension untreated with drugs.
Protection Against Sun Damage
Tomato products may provide natural protection from the sun’s damaging UV rays. In nature, carotenoids and flavonoids protect plants against excess light. Based on scientific research, it appears that this protection may be conferred to people when they eat foods rich in carotenoids and flavonoids such as tomato products. Researchers in Germany found that consumption of tomato extract protects against UV light-induced erythema or sunburns in humans. In 2007, Molecular Biotechnology (2007) reported that dietary micronutrients such as processed tomato products may contribute to life-long protection against harmful UV radiation because of the presence of powerful anti-oxidants like beta-carotene and lycopene. Research continues to point out that an effective way to fight UV damage to your body may be from the inside out with the amount of tomato products you consume.
Helping You Bone Up
Tomatoes are a very good source of vitamin K. The 17.8% of the daily value for vitamin K that is found in one cup of raw tomato is important for maintaining bone health. Vitamin K1 activates osteocalcin, the major non-collagen protein in bone. Osteocalcin anchors calcium molecules inside of the bone. Therefore, without enough vitamin K1, osteocalcin levels are inadequate, and bone mineralization is impaired.
Laboratory research has also indicated that carotenoid intake may protect bone health. A new study found that the people who consumed the highest total carotenoid in their diets had the lowest risk of hip fractures.