Tomatoes Can Save Your Life (Well, Not Really)

My husband swears by them. At least since he heard they're good for his prostate.  I've never much liked them, even though I grew up in an Italian family and they were on the table just about every night.

We're talking, of course, about tomatoes.

A new study has found that the tomato, often referred to as a "functional food," prevents chronic disease and delivers other health benefits, due to beneficial phytochemicals such as lycopene, according to Medical News Daily.
The site notes that, only 200 years ago it was thought to be poisonous in the U.S., probably because the plant belongs to the nightshade family, of which some species are truly poisonous.
"One medium tomato (approximately 123 grams) provides 22 calories, 0 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbohydrate (including 1 gram of fiber and 3 grams of sugar) and 1 gram of protein," the Web site reports. Tomatoes are a rich source of vitamins A and C and folic acid and contain a wide array of beneficial nutrients and antioxidants, including alpha-lipoic acid, lycopene, choline, folic acid, beta-carotene and lutein.
So what does this mean for you? 
Alpha-lipoic acid helps the body to convert glucose into energy. Some evidence suggests that alpha-lipoic acid can aid in blood glucose control, improve vasodilation and protect against retinopathy in diabetic patients and may even help preserve brain and nerve tissue.
Choline is an important nutrient also found in tomatoes that helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory. Choline also helps to maintain the structure of cellular membranes, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, assists in the absorption of fat and reduces chronic inflammation.
As plant food consumption goes up, the risk of heart diseasediabetes, and cancer goes down, according to MND. "High fruit and vegetable intake is also associated with healthy skin and hair, increased energy and lower weight. Increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables significantly decreases the risk of obesity and overall mortality," it explains.
As an excellent source of the strong antioxidant vitamin C and other antioxidants, tomatoes can help combat the formation of free radicals known to cause cancer. My husband was right.  Lycopene has been linked with prostate cancer prevention in several studies. The Web site quotes John Erdman, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of the department of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois, "There's very good, strong, epidemiological support for increased consumption of tomato products and lower incidence of prostate cancer."
Among younger men, diets rich in beta-carotene may play a protective role against prostate cancer, according to studies.
Beta-carotene consumption has been shown to have an inverse association with the development of colon cancer in the Japanese population. High fiber intakes from fruits and vegetables are associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, some studies have shown that people who have diets rich in tomatoes may have a lower risk of certain types of cancer, especially cancers of the prostate, lung, and stomach. Further human-based research is needed to find out what role lycopene might play in the prevention or treatment of cancer.
So should you be eating tomatoes every day?  Much as I hate to say this, probably, yes.  Just wish they'd come up with some survey that says you should eat red velvet cake every day.


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