Researchers have found multiple health benefits of tomatoes. Consuming tomatoes regularly can help heal lungs, lower cholesterol, and even fight cancer.
There are plenty of reasons to love tomatoes. Not only are they delicious in soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta sauce, and other dishes, but they are also low calorie and free of fat. And now researchers have found there are multiple ― and sometimes surprising ― health benefits of tomatoes, too.
Tomatoes, which are technically fruit, are rich in the antioxidant lycopene. This phytonutrient, called a carotenoid, has been linked to many of the health benefits of tomatoes.
Good news: The bountiful lycopene in tomatoes isn’t limited to only the fresh, in-season fruit. Studies have shown lycopene is not destroyed when it is cooked or processed so you can load up on lycopene by enjoying prepared tomato dishes or products, like tomato sauce and canned tomatoes or even catsup. In fact, lycopene is more easily absorbed from cooked, not raw, tomatoes.
Lycopene isn’t the whole story when it comes to the health benefits of tomatoes, however. Its effects may be even stronger when combined with other potentially health-building phytochemicals in tomatoes, the California Tomato Growers Association points out.
Tomatoes are loaded with other good-for-you nutrients, in addition to lycopene. A four-ounce serving of a tomato or tomato juice supplies about one-third of your daily RDA for vitamin C and serves up fiber, vitamin K (essential for normal blood clotting), potassium, beta carotene, and folate.
Researchers are documenting how nutrition-rich tomatoes, consumed regularly, offer a host of potential health benefits.
A tomato a day might keep heart disease at bay
Heart disease doesn’t develop overnight. It’s the result of damage inside arteries, often caused by chronic high blood pressure or a build-up of artery-clogging cholesterol plaques.
In a study of more than 400 adult men and women published in the journal Food Science & Nutrition, researchers found drinking unsalted tomato juice daily over the course of a year significantly lowered blood pressure in study volunteers with untreated high blood pressure or pre-hypertension. The tomato juice consumption also lowered LDL, known as the “bad” cholesterol, in those at risk of cardiovascular disease.
An analysis of multiple studies investigating the impact of tomatoes and lycopene on heart health found evidence linking tomatoes to improved heart health. The results, published in Atherosclerosis, showed consuming tomatoes often improves cholesterol and blood pressure and may potentially reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The research also suggests tomatoes, eaten regularly, benefits endothelial function. This is an important finding when it comes to cardiovascular health because endothelial cells, which line the inside of your heart and blood vessels, play a role in blood clotting and how your vascular system relaxes and contracts.
Eat tomatoes frequently and you may breathe easier
Poor lung function impacts breathing, of course, but it’s also associated with an increased risk of dying from all diseases, including lung cancer and heart disease, as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary diseaseAnd smoking is one of the chief causes of poor lung function.
A Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study found eating tomatoes might help protect and even repair lungs damaged by smoking. The research showed that over the course of 10 years, the natural decline in lung function was slower among former smokers who had a diet rich in tomatoes and other fruit (especially apples).
What’s more, adults who ate the most tomatoes had a slower decline in lung function that goes along with aging in all adults, including those who never smoked or who had quit cigarettes.
We can’t emphasize this enough: Tomatoes may help prevent cancer
The health benefits of tomatoes include potentially lowering the risk of two common cancers ― prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women.
A team of researchers from the Universities of Bristol, Cambridge, and Oxford studied the diets and lifestyle of 1,806 men aged between 50 and 69 with prostate cancer and compared them with 12,005 cancer-free men.
The investigators found men who ate over 10 servings a week of tomatoes had a whopping 18 percent lower risk of developing prostate cancer. The results suggest the lycopene in tomatoes protects from toxins that can cause DNA and cell damage and lead to cancer, according to the researchers.
Eating tomatoes regularly may also help women avoid breast cancer. A Rutgers University study of postmenopausal women ― who have an increased risk of breast cancer as their body mass tends to increase with age ― found eating a diet high in tomatoes had a positive effect on hormones.
Specifically, the researchers found the lycopene in tomatoes was associated with beneficial changes in adipokine hormones, which are linked to weight gain, fat regulation, and inflammation.
“This is important because obesity and inflammation are both known to be associated with increased breast cancer risk, especially among women who are postmenopausal,” said researcher Adana Llanos, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology at Rutgers. “The advantages of eating plenty of tomatoes and tomato-based products, even for a short period, were clearly evident in our findings.”
September 26, 2019
Janet O’Dell RN