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The Health Benefits of Tomatoes

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Summer is the perfect time to enjoy the sweet and tangy flavor of tomatoes. Whether you buy them at the farmstand, the supermarket or grow your own, there are a few things you should know about tomatoes.

What's in a tomato?

Tomatoes are excellent sources of potassium and several vitamins:

folic acid
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
Vitamin E

But did you know that eating tomatoes could possibly help to burn fat?

Bioflavonoids, which are concentrated in the tomato skin, may xcounteract inflammation and allergic reactions. The main compounds are quercetin and kaempferol. A study from the University of California-Davis found the amounts of quercitin and kaempferol to be higher in organically grown tomatoes than conventionally grown tomatoes.

Inflammation-fighting tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of my favorite inflammation-fighting foods. When you reduce inflammation, you can possibly make your weight loss hormones, such as leptin, work properly, allowing you to lose weight.

Leptin plays an important role in appetite control, metabolism and weight loss. It is your body's natural weight control mechanism.

Read Increase Metabolism with the Fat Burning Hormone Leptin

Tomatoes also contain important anti-inflammatory nutrients called carotenoids and bioflavonoids.

Key tomato carotenoids are:

  • beta-carotene, an orange pigment also found in carrots and sweet potatoes, an important antioxidant that can help to protect against damage from sunlight. Your body also converts beta-carotene into vitamin A.
  • lycopene, a red pigment, with demonstrated anti-cancer effects. In Western countries, 85 percent of dietary lycopene can be attributed to the consumption of tomato-based products.
  • phytoene and phytofluene, the newest anti-cancer compounds in tomatoes.

Discover more benefits of carotenoids: Want to Look More Attractive? Eat Carrots

Studies indicate that tomato consumption is associated with a potentially reduced risk of:

  • ovarian cancer, especially in premenopausal women.
  • digestive tract cancers (mouth, throat, esophagus, pancreas, colon and rectum).
  • cardiovascular disease.
  • asthma and chronic lung disease.

Tomatoes And Prostate Cancer

American men who eat at least four servings of tomato products per week have, according to some research, a 40 percent reduction in the risk of prostate cancer. Studies of men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer found that increasing consumption of tomato products was associated with a marked decrease in cancer progression. In one study, when men with prostate cancer ate three-quarters of a cup of tomato sauce a day, cooked in various dishes, evidence of cancer regression could be detected in only three weeks for the men in the study.

One theory as to the benefit for prostate cancer is due to lycopene. Studies in animals, however, found that powdered tomatoes were more effective than pure lycopene, indicating that other tomato components, perhaps phytoene and phytofluene, are also important. Thus far, though, clinical trials of lycopene for prostate cancer have been negative, so more data will be needed.

Health Benefits of Tomatoes Boosted by Cooking

The absorption of carotenoids and flavonoids from tomatoes is greater from cooked tomatoes than fresh tomatoes, since cooking breaks down the tomato cell matrix and makes the carotenoids more available.

Addition of olive oil to diced tomatoes during cooking greatly increases the absorption of lycopene. Oil is essential for absorbing carotenoids from tomatoes in salads or salsa. There is almost no absorption of these vital nutrients from salad eaten with a non-fat dressing.

Organic Tomatoes Have More Vitamin C

Compared to conventionally grown tomatoes, organic tomatoes have a higher content of vitamin C and bioflavonoids.

Enjoying Tomatoes

Look for fresh ripe tomatoes at farmers markets in the city, a farm stand in the country or your local supermarket.

Here is a delicious summer recipe my son Jonathan Galland wrote for my book "The Fat Resistance Diet." It brings together wonderful vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers and bell pepper with fresh herbs and garlic.

Gazpacho

Fast and easy to make right in your blender, gazpacho is about freshness and big flavors. Bursting with beautiful tomato color, gazpacho features both raw and cooked tomatoes, and is rich in antioxidants including lycopene. This recipe combines a nice vegetable crunchiness with a touch of satisfying spiciness.

1 1⁄2 Pounds Ripe Tomatoes
1 Cucumber
1 Yellow or Red Bell Pepper
1 Red or Sweet Onion
2 Cloves Garlic
1 1/2 Cup Tomato Juice or Vegetable Juice
Juice of 1 Lime
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1⁄2 Cup Fresh Parsley
1⁄4 Teaspoon Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Give the tomatoes, cucumber, pepper and onion a rough chop and toss into the blender. Add diced garlic and onion and chopped parsley, and blend until chunky. Pour half out into a bowl. With half the vegetable mixture remaining in the blender, add the vegetable juice, lemon juice and olive oil into the blender and blend again until smooth. Combine both mixtures together and season with salt and black pepper. Serve hot or cold depending on the season.

I hope you enjoy the healthy pleasure of tomatoes now and throughout the year.

Now I'd like to hear from you:

Do you enjoy tomatoes or tomato sauce?

Where do you shop for them?

How do you usually eat them?

Please let me know your thoughts by posting a comment below.

Best Health,

Leo Galland, M.D.

Important: Share the Health with your friends and family by forwarding this article to them, and sharing on Facebook.

Leo Galland, M.D. is a board-certified internist, author and internationally recognized leader in integrated medicine. Dr. Galland is the founder of Pill Advised, a web application for learning about medications, supplements and food. Sign up for FREE to discover how your medications and vitamins interact. Watch his videos on YouTube and join the Pill Advised Facebook page.

References and Further Reading

J Natl Cancer Inst. 1999 Feb 17;91(4):317-31. Full Text: "Tomatoes, tomato-based products, lycopene, and cancer: review of the epidemiologic literature." Giovannucci E. Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.

J Med Food. 2010 Dec;13(6):1443-50. Epub 2010 Sep 27. "Antimutagenic effects of lycopene and tomato purée." Polívková Z, Šmerák P, Demová H, Houška M. Department of General Biology and Genetics, 3rd Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic.

Curr Med Chem. 2010;17(23):2547-63. "Tomato lycopene and inflammatory cascade: basic interactions and clinical implications." Palozza P, Parrone N, Catalano A, Simone R.Institute of General Pathology, Catholic University, School of Medicine, Lgo F. Vito, 1 00168 Rome, Italy.

Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2002 Nov;227(10):920-3. Full Text: "Overview of mechanisms of action of lycopene." Heber D, Lu QY. University of California Center for Human Nutrition, 900 Veteran Avenue, Room 1-2-213, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1742, USA.

J Agric Food Chem. 2000 Jul;48(7):2663-9. "Occurrence of flavonols in tomatoes and tomato-based products." Stewart AJ, Bozonnet S, Mullen W, Jenkins GI, Lean ME, Crozier A. Division of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland, U.K.

J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Jul 25;55(15):6154-9. Epub 2007 Jun 23. "Ten-year comparison of the influence of organic and conventional crop management practices on the content of flavonoids in tomatoes." Mitchell AE, Hong YJ, Koh E, Barrett DM, Bryant DE, Denison RF, Kaffka S. Department of Food Science and Technology and Department of Plant Sciences, One Shields Avenue, University of California-Davis, Davis, California 95616, USA.

Mediators Inflamm. 2010; 2010: 289645. Published online 2010 July 14. doi: 10.1155/2010/289645. Full Text: "Chronic Inflammation in Obesity and the Metabolic Syndrome" Rosário Monteiro* and Isabel Azevedo Department of Biochemistry (U38-FCT), Faculty of Medicine, University of Porto, Al. Prof. Hernâni Monteiro, 4200-319 Porto, Portugal

Full Text: "Diet and Inflammation" Leo Galland, MD, Nutr Clin Pract December 7, 2010 vol. 25 no. 6 634-640

Power Healing: Use the New Integrated Medicine to Cure Yourself. Leo Galland, 384 pages, Random House, (June 1, 1998)

Recipe by Jonathan Galland from The Fat Resistance Diet © 2005 Leo Galland, M.D., Reprinted by permission of the author.

Superimmunity for Kids : What to Feed Your Children to Keep Them Healthy Now, and Prevent Disease in Their Future, Leo Galland with Dian Dincin Buchman, Dell (August 1, 1989)

This information is provided for general educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute (i) medical advice or counseling, (ii) the practice of medicine or the provision of health care diagnosis or treatment, (iii) or the creation of a physician--patient relationship. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your doctor promptly.

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