Did you know that tomatoes are packed with lycopene, a disease-fighting antioxidant? This antioxidant is what makes tomatoes red and it is one of the main reasons why you should try and include tomatoes in your diet every day. But you don’t have to eat them fresh – it’s actually better if you eat them cooked as the content of lycopene increases with cooking.
Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that can help improve your health in several different ways. Here is how:
1. It has proven cancer-fighting abilities
Studies have shown that lycopene can inhibit the growth of cancer cells in various types of cancer such as lung, prostate, breast, stomach, and colon.
What’s more, as a powerful antioxidant, lycopene can fight free radicals in the body which creates oxidative stress and is linked to both cancer and cardiovascular disease.
2. It can protect your skin from harmful sun radiation
If you are often exposed to the sunlight you should really make an effort to eat cooked tomatoes every day as this will make your skin more resilient to harmful sun radiation.
There was a study in 2001 that revealed that tomatoes can lessen UV-induced sunburn. In this study, 9 volunteers ate 40 g of tomato paste every day over a period of 10 weeks. At the end of the study, they were tested to see how much their skin could burn when exposed to the UV light. It was discovered that the effect of UV light was reduced by 40%, concluding that it’s possible to achieve some protection against harmful UV radiation just by consuming certain types of foods.
3. It may be beneficial for your heart
There are still more studies needed to confirm the benefits of lycopene when it comes to cardiovascular health, however, some studies have already shown positive results:
- A study by Sesso et al. (2003) found that when women consumed more tomato-based products, their risk of cardiovascular disease was decreased.
- Some studies have shown that lycopene may reduce the formation of ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) in the body.
How to include tomatoes in your diet
To reap all the health benefits of lycopene, try eating tomatoes every day. Here are some suggestions on how you can incorporate them into your diet:
- Always add some tomato puree or passata to your dishes, such as sauces, stews, and soups.
- Eat ketchup as part of your meal when appropriate, just make sure you buy ketchup with no added sugar or even better make your own at home
- Use plenty of chopped tomatoes in your homemade pasta sauce
- Make healthy curries and dhals which call for chopped tomatoes
- Make tomato soup!
- When buying ready-made meals, pick those that have tomatoes as one of the main ingredients
Other benefits of eating tomatoes daily
The reason why tomatoes are so good for you is not only because of their high lycopene content. When eaten raw, they are a good source of vitamin C too.
What’s more, they also contain potassium, vitamin K and folate (B9).
Potassium helps to regulate blood pressure while vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting and bone health. Folate, on the other hand, is one of the most important vitamins in pregnancy since it helps to prevent certain birth defects.
To reap all the benefits of tomatoes, we recommend you eat a combination of raw and cooked tomatoes every day. Eat them raw in salads and sandwiches and cooked in sauces, stews, soups, curries, and dahls.
Can tomatoes be bad for you?
As with anything, you should be careful not to consume too many tomatoes and tomato dishes every day as this may give you gastrointestinal issues due to their high acidity content.
Be careful if you suffer from acid reflux as tomatoes could make your condition worse.
Also, take care if you suffer from IBS since tomatoes are well known to be a trigger food for many IBS sufferers.