Tomatoes are low in calories and are loaded with a number of health benefits for the body and they should be a part of any kind of healthy diet. Tomato, which is actually a fruit rather than a vegetable, is a well known anti-oxidant and can be prepared in a number of different ways, e.g. raw, in salads, grilled, or as a boiled sauce.
To begin with, it is important to know that tomatoes contain a lot of vitamin C, which strengthens the body’s defense. Two-thirds of our daily needs in vitamin C, is already covered by two medium tomatoes. It also contains abundant folic acid, which is necessary for reconstruction and rehabilitation of the body cells. The scientists even argue that those who take medications, drink alcohol, eat too much meat, pregnant women and elder people, have an increased need for folic acid and as a result should consume a lot of tomatoes. This miraculous plant also contains vitamin E which is good for fertility and good for sexual life, vitamins from the vitamin B group which are good for proper metabolic function and strong nervous system, as well as chromium which is mostly good for diabetics as it helps to lower blood sugar levels. It also contains selenium, which belongs to the substances that protect against cancer, since it plays an important role in the immune system, potassium to support the heart function, magnesium which helps against the symptoms of stress and muscle cramps, and iron, copper and manganese.
Tomatoes get the bright red color from carotenoid lycopene. Carotenoids are plant pigments found in vegetables and fruits with bright red, yellow or orange color. They are also contained in some vegetables with green leaves. The darker the color the higher the content of carotenoids. The carotenoids help to clear the free radicals out of the body, strengthen the immune system and thus potentially reduce the risk of cancer. Moreover, they give us smoother skin and faster and more beautiful tan. Apart from the tomatoes, the carotenoids are found mainly in carrots, pumpkins, peaches, apricots, melons, broccoli and spinach.
To stay healthy, the World Cancer Research Fund recommends eating regular foods with “red”, e.g. tomatoes, “green”, e.g. spinach, and “yellow” color, e.g. apricots. And if you complete your diet with “white” e.g. sheep yogurt, and “black” color, e.g. whole meal bread, then you make a big step towards maintaining a healthy, fit body in good shape and a perfect skin.
The traditional Mediterranean diet, with tomatoes in almost all recipes, is associated with numerically fewer cases of chronic heart diseases. Recent scientific research has shown that people often eating tomatoes as part of their daily diet are less likely to suffer from heart attacks than those who do not include it in their diet. That’s because tomatoes contain lycopene, an anti-oxidant, which prevents the oxidation of cholesterol LDL, which is the “bad” cholesterol. Oxidized cholesterol is the initial step leading to the formation of plaque in arteries and therefore to heart attack.
Tomato against cancer
According to recent surveys, regular and adequate consumption of tomatoes, preferably organic, can potentially reduce cancer risk by up to 40%. Tomatoes mainly protects against cancer of the prostate, lung and stomach. In a survey scientists have discovered that smokers who ate more than 14 times a month tomatoes (or carrots) had significantly lower risk of lung cancer than those who ate tomatoes or other vegetables more rarely. Recent research has shown that tomato, like grapes and wine, contain flavonoids. These vital substances are superb in flushing out of the body the free radicals and are found in the outer layer of the fruit, i.e. just below the skin. Of course, when tomatoes are peeled, a significant part of these substances is lost. So you should always eat tomatoes, as well as grapes, with their skin. Beta-carotene (ß-Carotene) is one more important substances contained in tomatoes. Beta-carotene along with vitamins C and E consist the main group of substances for flushing the free radicals out of the body.
Tips for the kitchen
It is interesting to note that lycopene contained in tomatoes is available to the body only when heated and only after adding some fat in it, e.g. olive oil. Therefore, it is not the raw tomato salad that is good for the intake of this substance, but a well boiled tomato sauce. As a result in order to take all vital substances we should eat both raw and cooked food. And here, as in everything in life, balance is important.
Season tomatoes have more vital substances and smell and taste better. Smaller are usually tastier than the larger ones. But tomatoes continue to ripen in the kitchen. So you should avoid as much as possible placing them in the fridge because they lose their flavor. Because tomatoes emit ethylene they should not be placed next to the cucumbers, otherwise they will get spoiled quickly. Finally, it is advisable to wash and slice the tomatoes like all fruits and vegetables just before eating them, in order to keep their precious substances.