December 13th, 2017
One More Thing to Love About Tomatoes – Lycopene
Brandywine, Sungold, Thai Pink Egg: there are hundreds of tomato varieties in the world, each with a distinctive flavor to go with its whimsical name. The versatile fruit is an essential ingredient in countless dishes around the globe, from spicy Mexican salsas to Italian marinara sauce. Luckily, tomatoes are also an essential part of a healthy diet – thanks in no small part to a phytonutrient called lycopene.
Like the anthocyanin in raspberries, lycopene is a pigment that does far more than just give foods their colour. It’s a powerful antioxidant, helping prevent cell damage by eliminating harmful free radicals. Those properties give lycopene an impressive portfolio of nutritional benefits, helping prevent osteoporosis, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and a wide range of cancers. Studies suggest that eating two servings of cooked tomato products per week can cut men’s prostate cancer risk by 23 percent.
One medium-sized tomato contains 4mg of lycopene – more than any other fruit or vegetable. Organic heirloom varieties may contain even more. That’s reason enough to add a slice or two to your next sandwich. A half-cup of tomato purée will give you 25 mg. That’s more than twice the daily recommended intake, which sits at 10mg.
Unlike many nutrients, lycopene actually becomes more easily digestible after it’s been cooked. Simmering your tomatoes for half an hour will boost their content of bioavailable lycopene by 164 percent – a great incentive to whip up a batch of homemade tomato sauce for your favorite pasta or try your hand at cooking Spanish Baked Eggs.
For gardeners, there are few pleasures greater than the sight of a vine tomato ripening to perfection in the sun. But even if you purchase yours at the market instead, adding a tomato to your next meal will do as much for your health as it will for your taste buds.