Fresh tomatoes are a revelation. When they come from your garden or a local farmer, they tend to be fresher, brighter, and have a sweeter taste than those that have been shipped to your store from long distances.
Wherever you get this fruit — and botanically speaking it is a fruit, even though the Supreme Court in 1893 ruled it a veggie — the health benefits of tomatoes cannot be underestimated.
Health Benefits of Tomatoes
Tomatoes are low in fat, high in fiber and potassium, and rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein/zeaxanthin, phytuene/phytofluene, and various polyphenols. Tomatoes also contain small amounts of B vitamins, folate, vitamin E, magnesium, manganese, and zinc. Although tomatoes are rich in all these important nutrients, it’s their lycopene content that has recently attracted the most attention from nutritionists.
Lycopene combats free-radicals and is the most efficient quencher of the free-radical singlet oxygen, a particularly harmful form of oxygen. A fascinating study was done on nuns* ranging in age from 77 to 98. The nuns with the highest blood concentrations of lycopene were the most able to care for themselves and complete everyday tasks.
No similar relationship between vitality and the presence of other antioxidants was found.
Lycopene is an important part of the antioxidant defense network in the skin, and dietary lycopene can raise the sun protection factor (SPF) of the skin. When you make tomatoes a regular part of your diet, you may help enhance your skin’s ability to handle the damaging rays of the sun. It’s like an internal sunblock…
Um, but to be clear, this DOES NOT mean you should spend all day playing in the sun without applying any external sunblock! Dr. Hugh Greenway, head of Dermatology at The Scripps Clinic and one of the SuperFoodsRx founders, reminds us always to use sunscreen!
So add a few tomatoes to your next meal or snack, and your skin and body will appreciate it. (Know someone who doesn’t love tomatoes? Try watermelon. It contains high amounts of lycopene as well.)
*THE TRUTH ABOUT NUNS
There can sometimes be a lot of variables in study results. That’s because groups of people usually live, work, play and eat in different ways. However, a lot of those variables are either eliminated or minimized because of the relatively homogeneous adult lifestyles and environments of nuns. Generally speaking, nuns are non-smokers, drink little if any alcohol, have the same marital status and reproductive history, have lived in similar housing, held similar jobs, and had similar access to preventive and medical care, and records of their lives are readily available. That makes them ideal candidates for studies.