Great day leader! Myself and the ILEAD Company® team welcomes you to Fitness Friday.
On Fridays, I will educate you on becoming mentally sound and physically fit. Nutrition and Fitness is influential! We are still on our superfoods marathon. Our food of focus today is the tomato! Let’s dive into it (and head up… the message is quite length and scientific.)
Healthy Food – Discover the Transformational Impact Tomatoes Has In Our Lives
The tomato was considered a poisonous food once upon a time. Fortunately, for us it regained its popularity in the late nineteenth century.
The Role of Lycopene with Tomatoes
Lycopene, a member of the carotenoid family and a pigment that contributes to the color of tomatoes, is a major contributor to their health promoting power. Lycopene has demonstrated a range of unique and distinct biological properties that have intrigued scientists. Some researchers have come to believe that lycopene could be as powerful an antioxidant as beta-carotene. We do know that lycopene is the most efficient quencher of the free-radical singlet oxygen, a particularly deleterious form of oxygen, and lycopene is also capable of removing a large number of free radicals.
Lycopene is a nutrient whose time has come. It’s been the subject of great interest lately as more and more researchers have focused on the particular power of this nutrient. The attention began in the 1980s when studies revealed that people who ate large amounts of tomatoes were far less likely to die from all forms of cancer compared to those who ate little or no tomatoes. Many other studies echoed these findings about the effect of eating tomatoes.
It’s not only cancer that the lycopene in tomatoes helps mitigate. Lycopene is an important part of the antioxidant defense system in the skin. Dietary lycopene by itself or in combination with other nutrients can raise the sun protection factor (SPF) of the skin. In other words, by eating tomatoes (cooked or processed) you’re enhancing your skin’s ability to withstand the assault from the damaging rays of the sun. It acts like an internal sunblock!
A study conducted by Dr. David Snowdon, of the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at the University of Kentucky, assessed eighty-eight Roman Catholic nuns ranging in age from 77 to 98. The nuns with the highest concentrations of lycopene in their blood were the most able to care for themselves and complete everyday tasks. Overall, those with the highest levels of lycopene were 3.6 times better able to function in their everyday lives than those with the lowest levels. Most interestingly, no similar relationship between vigor and the presence of other antioxidants (such as vitamin E and beta-carotene) was found.
Lycopene is rare in foods, and tomatoes are one of only a few that are rich in this powerful antioxidant. And ketchup, tomato juice, and pizza sauce account for more than 80 percent of the total lycopene intake of Americans.
While lycopene has received a lot of attention recently, tomatoes are rich in a wide variety of other nutrients as well. All nutrients in the tomato seem to work synergistically to promote health and vitality.
Low in calories, high in fibre, and high in potassium, tomatoes are not only a rich source of lycopene, they’re also a source of beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and various polyphenols. They contain small amounts of B vitamins (thiamine, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, and niacin), as well as folate, vitamin E, magnesium, manganese, and zinc.
What Does Dr. Edward Giovannucci’s Study of Tomatoes Reveal
Some of the most exciting studies on tomatoes have focused on their ability to protect against cancer, especially prostate cancer. Dr. Edward Giovannucci, of the Harvard Medical School, has published two interesting studies that investigated the effects of foods, particularly tomatoes, on cancer risk. In his 1995 study, Dr. Giovannucci found that of the 48,000 men surveyed, those who ate ten or more servings of tomatoes a week reduced their risk of prostate cancer by 35 percent and their risk of aggressive prostate tumors by almost 50 percent. Indeed, it seemed the higher the tomato intake, the lower the cancer risk. Interestingly, lycopene is the most abundant carotenoid in the prostate gland.
Dr. Giovannucci’s subsequent study in 1999 showed that, of all tomato products, tomato sauce consumption—at just two servings a week—was by far the most reliable indicator of reduced risk for prostate cancer.
Two Great Points From The Tomato Study
The first is that processed tomatoes—sauce and paste—are more effective than raw tomatoes at reducing cancer risk. In the raw tomato, the lycopene is bound to the cell walls and fibre. Processing breaks down these cell walls and frees the lycopene to be absorbed by the body. Ounce for ounce, processed tomato products and cooked tomatoes contain two to eight times the available lycopene of raw tomatoes. While processing does diminish the levels of vitamin C in the tomatoes, it elevates the total antioxidant activity, thus you give up one nutrient, that is available in many other foods, to gain a nutrient that isn’t.
The second important point, which Dr. Giovannucci mentions in his article, once again highlights the importance of whole foods. While he notes the association between tomato consumption and reduced cancer risk, particularly lung, stomach and prostate cancers, he makes it clear that “a direct benefit of lycopene has not been proven and other compounds in tomatoes alone or interacting with lycopene may be important.” Given the rich array of nutrients in tomatoes it wouldn’t be surprising if, once again, the synergy of those nutrients was the reason for the positive effects.
Prostate cancer isn’t the only type of cancer that tomatoes seem to help protect against. A growing body of evidence suggests that lycopene provides some degree of protection against cancers of the breast, digestive tract, cervix, bladder, and lung.
In addition to being cancer-protective, there’s ample evidence that tomatoes also play a role in reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease. The antioxidant function of lycopene, combined with the other powerful antioxidants in tomatoes such as vitamin C and beta-carotene, work in the body to neutralize free radicals that could otherwise damage cells and cell membranes. This preservation of cells and their membranes reduces the potential for inflammation and thereby the progression and severity of atherosclerosis.
German Study of Tomatoes
In one study, German scientists compared the lycopene levels in the tissues of men who had suffered heart attacks with those of men who had not. The men who had suffered attacks had lower lycopene levels than those who hadn’t. Interestingly, the men with the lowest levels of lycopene were twice as likely to suffer a heart attack as those with the highest levels.
European Study of Tomatoes
In another large European study that compared carotenoid levels among patients from ten different countries, lycopene was found to be the most protective against heart attack.
Tomatoes are also a good source of potassium, niacin, vitamin B6, and folate—a great heart-healthy combination of nutrients. Potassium-rich foods play a positive role in cardiovascular health, being especially effective in helping to achieve optimal blood pressure. Niacin is commonly used to lower elevated blood cholesterol levels. The combination of vitamin B6 and folate effectively reduces levels of homocysteine in the blood. Elevated levels of homocysteine are associated with a higher risk of heart disease.
Today’s message was long and quote scientific in nature but very educational. It is important to know what you are eating OR should be eating to become a healthier you.
I will be sharing great recipes and other nuggets about tomatoes throughout social media (including the night show at 9pm est via FB live audio). Listen in!