Whether you eat them raw, as ketchup, paste or a sauce on your pizza, the health and anti aging benefits of tomatoes simply cannot be denied.
Tomatoes are one of nature’s superfoods.
The reasons why tomatoes should be part of your anti aging diet can be summed up in one word – lycopene.
Tomatoes contain more lycopene – one of the most powerful antioxidants known – than any other food.
Lycopene belongs to the same family of antioxidants as betacarotene but is almost twice as powerful.
It is a carotenoid pigment that naturally occurs in tomatoes and for many years has been associated with their deep red color.
Recent research has shown that tomatoes don’t have to be the traditional deep red color to contain high levels of lycopene and that some orange red tomatoes may have higher levels of this anti aging pigment.
The anti aging benefit of tomatoes is primarily focused around lycopene and the antioxidant protection it offers against common diseases associated with age.
Antioxidants like lycopene are powerful neutralizers of the free radicals that often damage human cells, causing premature aging and many forms of cancer including lung, bladder, cervix and skin.
Research on the lycopene in tomatoes and breast cancer showed that lycopene consumption was associated with a reduced risk of developing breast cancer.
Research has also focused on the role of lycopene in protecting from cancer of the prostate – a disease which primarily attacks older men.
One recent study found a link between the antioxidant properties of lycopene and bone health in post menopausal women. Women on a lycopene restricted diet – where no tomato products were eaten at all – were found to be at increased risk of osteoporosis.
Are tomatoes good for you?
After reading the section above you might think the answer to this is fairly obvious – and you would generally be right!
But tomatoes are good for you in all sorts of ways. Whilst the lycopene in tomatoes is key to their anti aging properties – the nutritional value of tomatoes is much wider than that.
Quite simply they are one of the best things you can eat.
Packed with vitamins (A, E, B group) and minerals (manganese, copper and magnesium) plus unique phytonutrients and flavonoids they perform a key role in improving heart health and protection from diseases of the vascular system in later life and from Alzheimers and dementia.
A study in Italy found that people who ate seven or more servings a week of raw tomatoes were 60 percent less likely to develop cancer of the stomach, colon, or rectum compared with people who ate two or fewer servings a week.
Tomatoes also have high levels of lutein and its companion carotenoid – zeaxanthin – important in protecting your eyes from diseases like macular degeneration and cateracts which can affect many older people.
Research has shown that lycopene provides improved levels of protection from declining vision health as we get older.
Is ketchup good for you?
Until relatively recently this would probably have been regarded as an odd question.
The assumption was that fruits and vegetables were better eaten raw wherever possible and that they lost at least some of their nutrient power when cooked.
But here’s where Lycopene appears to work differently than other antioxidants and nutrients. Tests have shown that the lycopene in tomatoes can be more readily absorbed into the body when the fruit is processed into sauce, pulped into juice, or pressed into paste and ketchup.
Lycopene in all these forms is absorbed up to four times more efficiently than from raw tomatoes. So the answer to the question is yes – ketchup is good for you and so are tinned tomatoes and any tomato paste.
Although you should bear in mind that some of the other vitamins in tomatoes may be lost or greatly reduced by cooking the lycopene content can be enhanced. So – however you eat your tomatoes – tinned, raw, pulped, in ketchup or paste – you still get your lycopene.
There certainly aren’t many foods that can claim anti aging health benefits no matter how they are processed!
One thing that does matter though – for maximum antioxidant protection – you should eat tomatoes with oils or fats. If you have tomatoes in salad then add an oil based dressing (olive oil preferably) – if you cook tomatoes add oil and for once – don’t worry too much about the cheese on your pizza.
What if I don’t like tomatoes?
If you don’t like tomatoes or ketchup you may miss out on the anti aging benefits of lycopene.
You can buy a supplement with lycopene derived from tomatoes but – at the current time – research seems to indicate that taking a lycopene supplement may not offer the same anti aging and disease prevention as plenty of whole tomato products in your diet.
True – lycopene isn’t an essential nutrient – your body can function perfectly well without it
But even so – for maximum anti aging health and the best protection from some of the worst diseases associated with aging – the benefits of ketchup should definitely not be underestimated!