You Say Tomato, I Say Healthy
*[Image Goes Here]* Good nutrition is a key ingredient to a healthy lifestyle and in preventing disease. Eating 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily helps us get the vital nutrients we need. One vegetable in particular has great health benefits when included into a healthy diet – the tomato, and its popular processed products: tomato juice, sauce, paste, soup and ketchup.
The tomato contains lycopene, one of a family of food pigments called carotenoids which occur naturally in fruits and vegetables. Lycopene is what gives tomatoes their red colour and it is also a proven antioxidant. Antioxidants are a group of vitamins, minerals, and plant substances which play a key role in protecting our bodies from the damage that can cause serious illness, particularly heart disease and cancer. Once absorbed into the body, lycopene helps prevent and repair cell damage caused by free radical formation and oxidation.
The human body does not produce lycopene, but it can be obtained through the diet. Tomato products contribute about 85% of dietary lycopene. Research has shown that lycopene is more efficiently absorbed by the body if the tomatoes are processed. Therefore, raw tomatoes contain the lowest amount of lycopene, but their processed products contain quite high amounts. Try and include at least 1 serving per day of spaghetti sauce (1/2 cup), tomato paste (2 tbsp), tomato soup (1 cup), chili sauce (2 tbsp), ketchup (1 tbsp), tomato juice (1 cup) or raw tomato (1 medium) into your 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
Tomato products aren’t for you? Keep in mind the advantages of consuming tomato products outweigh that of taking lycopene supplements. Lycopene works together with other antioxidants and nutrients in the food to create their desired benefits in the body. Taking a lycopene supplement will not likely have the same health effects, so save your money for food, it tastes better anyway.
Try this recipe for a tasty lycopene treat!
TOMATO AND CITRUS COCKTAIL
3 cups tomato juice, chilled 725 mL
1-1/2 cups orange juice, chilled 250-375 mL
2 tsp worcestershire sauce 10 mL
2 tsp lemon juice 10 mL
1 tsp dried and crushed basil 5 mL
Slices of lemon or orange – optional
Mix all ingredients together. Serve in a pre-chilled stemmed glass, and garnish each glass with a slice of lemon or an orange, if desired.
Yield: 4 servings
Preparation time: 4 minutes
Adapted from information from the Heinz Institute of Nutritional Sciences.
Research continues on lycopenes and their role in preventing disease.
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