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Tomato Nutrition Facts
The tomato not only thrills the taste buds and brightens the dinner table, it also helps fight disease.
A review of 72 different studies showed consistently that the more tomatoes and tomato products people eat, the lower their risks of many different kinds of cancer. The secret may lie in lycopene, the chemical that makes tomatoes red, said Dr. Edward Giovannucci, Harvard School of Public Health, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Among the studies he reviewed, 57 showed that the more tomatoes one ate, the lower the risk of cancer. “The evidence for benefit was strongest for cancers of the prostate, lung, and stomach,” he reported.
Processed tomatoes (e.g. canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, ketchup) contain even more lycopene because cooking breaks down cell walls, releasing and concentrating carotenoids. Eating tomatoes with a small amount of fat enables lycopene to be better absorbed.
In one study, 10 healthy women ate a diet containing two ounces of tomato puree each day for three weeks, either preceded by or followed by a tomato-free diet for three weeks. The researchers measured blood levels of lycopene and evaluated oxidative damage to cells before and after each phase. They found that cell damage dropped by 33% to 42% after consuming the tomato diet.
The tomato is also an excellent source of vitamin C (one medium tomato provides 40% of the RDA) and a good source of vitamin A (20% of the RDA).
On the minus side, as a nightshade relative, tomatoes contain glycoalkaloids, which some people believe contribute to arthritis symptoms. Research, however, has not backed this up.
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