Nutrition and Health Benefits from Tomatoes

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Nutrition and health benefits from tomatoes
by Dan Gerhardt · All Zones · Food Nutrition · 1 Comments · March 15, 2011 · 2,135 views

Tomatoes, the heart of the garden

The tomato belongs to the Nightshade family. Oh well, you can pick your friends, and you can pick your tomatoes, but you can't pick your family. Nightshade, it sounds like the name of some shadowy, crime-fighting superhero and conjures up images of an arch-enemy with poisonous and hypnotizing powers, the deadly but beautiful Belladonna (and her sidekick, Wolf Bane). Have no fear, though, because tomatoes might share the family name with these two legendary plants, but none of their poisonous properties.

On the contrary, tomatoes are superstars in the food arena. But still, this bleeding beauty is shrouded in mystery and controversy. Is it a vegetable or a fruit? A bird or a plane? An aphrodisiac or a complete turn-off? Either way, love them or hate them, don't expect to come out unscathed when you mess with the Nightshade. It is common knowledge that tomatoes have boundary issues and tend to unexpectedly show up just about everywhere uninvited. It is wise to avoid sandwiches with mayonnaise, just as a precaution. On a lighter note, the tomato is at the heart of all good gardens, taking the heat and busting at the seems; silently pulsating it's transluscent and transformative juices underneath that illustriously-thin, leathery-soft skin.

Tomatoes in History

Europeans were highly suspicious of this bright, shiny fruit because of it's membership in the deadly nightshade family (the leaves and stems are actually poisonous). A French botanist coined the Latin botanical name, Lycopersicon esculentum, to the tomato, which means "wolfpeach." The botanist mistook the tomato for the wolfpeach referred to by Galen in his third century writings, in which poisoned treats used to destroy wolves. The tomato is native to western South America and Central America. In 1519, Cortez discovered tomatoes growing in Montezuma's gardens and brought seeds back to Europe where they were planted as ornamental curiosities, but not eaten. The French referred to the tomato as pommes d'amour, or love apples, because they were suspected of containing stimulating aphrodisiacal properties.

Nutritional & Health Benefits From Tomatoes

The beauty of a fresh, shiny, red tomato is more than skin deep. Tomatoes are a reliable source of vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, potassium, and iron. One medium-sized tomato meets about half of our daily requirement for Vitamin C.

Tomatoes get their red color from a carotenoid compound called lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants protect your body from the damaging effects of compounds present in the body called free radicals, which can lead to cancer, heart disease, and other age-related diseases. The scientific literature provides a mountain of evidence that eating tomatoes and tomato-based products can provide powerful protection against many kinds of cancer. The data is strongest for cancers of the prostate gland, lung, and stomach, but also extends to other kinds.

There are also indications that tomatoes may play a role in the prevention of heart disease, high cholesterol, and fatty deposits in the arteries. Cooking tomatoes rather than eating them raw has been shown to more than double the effectiveness of the lycopene. Cooking tomatoes releases the fat-soluble lycopenes from the fruit. A small amount of added oil, such as that in pizza or tomato sauce, intensifies the protective effect. Organic ketchup delivers three times as much of the cancer-fighting carotenoid, lycopene, as non-organic brands. Additionally, the two main components of tomatoes, coumaric acid and chlorogenic acid, help to neutralize nitrosamines which are produced in the body and are the main carcinogens found in cigarette smoke. The following is a list of the potential health benefits from the regular consumption of tomatos and tomato products:

* Protect against cancer

* Reduce cholesterol

* Protect the heart

* Reduce harmful effects of cigarette smoke

* Improve Vision

* Promote healthy digestion

* Stabilize blood sugar

* Prevent skin damage

* Maintain healthy teeth and bones

* Prevent urinary tract infections and gallstones
Dan Gerhardt

Meet The Author

Dan Gerhardt - Aside from being a life-long gardener, Dr. Dan Gerhardt is a chiropractor and nutritionist.

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Nutrition, Health, Benefits, Tomatoes, Fruit · Gardenality Genius · Zone 8A · 10° to 15° F
Another great article...after avoiding them for so many years, makes me want to start eating tomatoes again! Keep up the good work:-)

9 years ago ·
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