By Chelsea Fisher
Not too many centuries ago, tomatoes were thought to be poison. Thank goodness that dark age is over, as we now know that tomatoes have abundant amounts of lycopene, an antioxidant that imbues them with their glowing hue, and may be an extremely powerful agent in preventing and minimizing the risk of cancer as well as other chronic diseases. In face, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) list tomatoes on their list of ‘Foods That Fight Cancer‘ due to it containing the antioxidant lycopene.
According to the AICR, lycopene prevents DNA damage and also can collect in prostate tissues, which some studies have posited may be the reason lycopene has such potential in the fight against prostate cancer.
Many animal studies have shown that whole tomato powder was found to decrease prostate cancer risk to an even greater degree due to the additional carotenoids in the powder (AICR). In addition, the combination of tomatoes and broccoli fight off prostate tumor growth more so than regular tomatoes. Further, synergistic effects of certain foods with tomatoes increase lycopene levels in the blood, which are beneficial towards fighting prostate cancer.
According to the AICR, lab studies also have shown that tomato components can stop breast, lung, and endometrial cancer cell advancement.
Unlike many other fruits and vegetables that lose some of their nutritional benefits in the cooking process, tomatoes do quite the opposite. According to the American Cancer Society, processed forms of tomatoes like sauces, paste, and even ketchup (corn syrup free please), make it easier for our bodies to absorb the nutrients found in this dandy staple. These processed tomatoes also allow for greater amounts of lycopene to enter the blood, which provide greater protection against prostate cancer (AICR). On top of that, tomatoes also provide vitamin A, C, and folate, all of which have been linked to cancer prevention and good health.
To really increase the absorption of lycopene, it’s important to serve it with a source of fat. Lycopene is fat soluble, and will pass straight through the intestine without fat, so having it with nuts, a full-fat dressing, cheese or other fat source is important to really get the full health benefits.
If you can, buy tomatoes at your local farmers market when they are in season. You’ll be surprised how much better they taste. Avoid the bland grocery store tomato and choose vine grown, cherry, or plum tomatoes with the vine still attached.
A great tomato should be heavy for it’s size and have a firm, satiny skin. Always store your tomatoes on the counter. Only put them in the fridge if they are very ripe. When tomatoes are out of season, make your sauce or soup with a great organic canned variety like Muir Glen.
Tomatoes are delicious as a simple appetizer sliced and topped with fresh mozzarella and basil with a little salt and pepper to taste. Though jars of marinara and pasta sauce are readily available at the store, sauces are really fast and simple to make on your own. Homemade sauces are free of preservatives, and you’ll have control over the seasoning and amount of olive oil. Simply sauté garlic and diced yellow onions in a little olive oil until tender, add tomato paste, diced tomatoes, canned or fresh, some parsley, oregano, and salt to taste and you’ll have a tasty and fresh homemade sauce. For a seriously delicious soup use fresh or canned tomatoes, barley, and garlic in our Provencal Tomato Soup. If this isn’t enough, we have a whole menu of tomato recipes to tempt your tastebuds, and help you get those cancer-preventing nutrients. Dig in!