Most people assume that a tomato is a fruit and some others regard it as a vegetable. But above all, experts say that tomatoes are definitely foods that contain a myriad of health benefits for the body, reports SADE OGUNTOLA.
TOMATOES are widely available, people of all ages and cultures like them, they are cost-effective, and are available in many forms. Tomatoes and tomato products are one of the most familiar vegetables in the many people’s diet. They are heaven on a burger and superstars in a sauce and a plate of rice served in the northern Nigeria is not complete when it is not garnished with slices of tomatoes and onion.
Most people tend to assume that tomatoe is more for making stews and soups to enjoy a bowl of boiled rice, amala, tuwo or fufu, but these fruits are definitely foods that contain a myriad of health benefits for the body because of its essential nutrients.
One serving of raw tomatoes (about 150 grammes) contains vitamins A, C, K, folate, and potassium. Tomatoes are naturally low in sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories. Tomatoes also contain thiamine, niacin, vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper as well as natural oxidants such as lycopene. All are needed to support a healthy body.
In addition, a portion of tomato provides two grammes of fibre, which is seven per cent of the recommended daily fibre intake. Tomatoes also have relatively high water content.
More than that, there are a few more benefits of tomatoes for health that many individuals need to be aware of and maximise: Here are a few: Protects from stroke
Researchers in a report published in the journal, Neurology, has linked lycopene levels in the blood to stroke protection. Lycopene is what gives tomatoes its red colour. They made this connection after following more than a thousand middle-aged men for 12 years.
Men with the greatest amounts of lycopene in their blood had a 55 per cent lower chance of having any kind of stroke. The lycopene connection was even stronger (59 per cent) when it came to protecting against strokes due to blood clots (the most common type).
The researchers suggested taken lycopene-rich meals, in addition to its ability to attack free radicals, may also reduce inflammation and cholesterol, improve immune function, and prevent blood from clotting. All of these may help reduce ischemic strokes, which are caused by clot-caused blockages in blood flow to the brain.
Supports beauty skin Eating cooked tomato products such as tomato ketchups and pastes can help prevent sunburn and premature wrinkles. They also act as an anti-aging agent and lend a glow to one’s skin if consumed regularly or rubbed on the face on a regular basis.
Researchers in a study found that volunteers who ate helpings of ordinary tomato paste over a 12-week period developed skin that was less likely to burn in the sun.
The researchers at the University of Manchester found that the test subjects were 33 per cent more protected against sunlight than another group who were not given tomato paste.
The effect of eating tomatoes was equivalent to slapping on a factor 1.3 sunscreen. Changes were also seen within the skin of the volunteers that counteract the appearance of ageing.
Scientists think an antioxidant, lycopene, which gives tomatoes their colour, can neutralise harmful molecules produced in skin exposed to the sun’s ultra-violet rays.
Damage inflicted by the free radical molecules on skin structures and DNA can lead to premature ageing and skin cancer. Skin levels of procollagen, which helps the skin stay supple and youthful, were also boosted by the tomato diet.
Fights cancer Eating tomato products has been linked to reduced risks of colorectal, gastric, lung, prostate, and pancreas cancer. The anti-cancer properties in tomatoes seem to be related to their antioxidant levels, particularly from their lycopene, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and phenols.
But many doctors believe that tomato products, and lycopene, do not affect all prostate cancers equally, but may instead help to slow the growth only of aggressive and late-stage prostate tumours. There is some evidence that it is at the later stages of prostate cancer where lycopene might be most relevant.
But the first study to reveal tomatoes’ anti-cancer properties, conducted in 1989, had found that men who consumed one or more weekly servings of tomato sauce reduced their risk of prostate cancer by as much as 60 per cent.
Another large 12-year study of more than 47,000 men by Harvard researchers in 2002 found similar effects. Since then, however, other studies have failed to show the same benefits.
Supports healthy hearts Scientists have observed that among people with high levels of lycopene in their bloodstream, there is a tendency for lower rates of cardiovascular disease such. In a 2003 study, researchers reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that lycopene concentrations in the blood may play a protective role in the early stages of atherosclerosis, a disease characterized by narrowing of the arteries that can disrupt blood flow to the heart or brain.
Also, in 1997 Israeli researchers found that a tomato-rich diet increased “good” HDL-cholesterol levels significantly by 15.2 per cent in their report published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
In addition, daily intake of tomato products, like tomato sauce and tomato juice, may reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol levels by 13 per cent, according to 2007 Finnish study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Currently, millions of people take small doses of aspirin daily to improve blood flow. However, this can have unwelcome side effects such as bleeding in the stomach and the creation of ulcers. But cooked tomatoes are an alternative for aspirin.
Supports good blood pressure control Tomato products are the second highest vegetable dietary contributor of potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure. High blood pressure or hypertension is one of the leading risk factors for heart attack and stroke.
A low potassium diet can cause high blood pressure. A potassium-rich diet blunts the effects of eating salt on blood pressure. Because potassium and sodium work in opposition to one another, pushing up potassium intake can help flush sodium from the body in order to decrease blood pressure.
Battles bad cholesterol Chemicals found in cooked tomatoes could be effective as statins, the class of drugs commonly prescribed for fighting cholesterol. Scientists suggested that if more than 25 milligrammes of lycopene is taken daily, it can reduce “bad” cholesterol by up to 10 per cent. The effect was comparable to small doses of statins which are used to treat individuals with high cholesterol or blood pressure.
The secret of tomatoes battling against high cholesterol levels or high blood pressure is in the compound lycopene which gives ripe tomatoes their bright red colour. This powerful anti-oxidant is essential for good health as it helps lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Experts in Australia analysed the results of 14 international studies into the benefits of lycopene over the past 55 years. They concluded in the journal Maturitas that it could provide a natural defence to raised levels of so-called ‘bad cholesterol’ – or low-density lipoprotein – in the blood. The effect was comparable to small doses of statins which are used to treat individuals with high cholesterol or blood pressure.
Boosts bone health Eating tomatoes boosts bone health. A review article in American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine showed a link between eating tomatoes and a lowered risk of osteoporosis, the brittle bone disease that affects many individuals, and can lead to bone fractures, disability, and deformity.
Promotes healthier sleep The next time, you experience difficulty in sleeping, reach for a juicy ripe tomato. Tomatoes are literally part of a dream diet: The healthiest sleepers consume more lycopene, compared to people who skimp on slumber or snooze too much, according to a new research study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, which was published in the journal Appetite.
In addition, its high level of vitamin C also has been found helpful in ensuring healthy sleep. Interestingly, the same study showed that those with the healthiest sleep patterns (an average of seven to eight hours a night) also had higher levels of vitamin C in their diets.
Helps relieve back pain, arthritis Tomatoes are believed to relieve pain experienced in diseases that involve inflammation such as arthritis or back pain. This is because tomatoes are rich in bioflavonoids and carotenoids known as anti-inflammatory agents.