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Those gorgeous red salad 'fruits' are more nutritious than you thought

Tomatoes Yes fruits! Tomatoes are actually classified as a fruit not a vegetable, but that doesn't make them any less delicious and with summer in full swing it's definitely Tomato time. Tomatoes, once thought to be poisonous, are now being praised for their lycopene antioxidant content. Lycopene is so amazing that it has even been made into a ‘tomato’ pill used to help prevent heart disease and fight cancer.

Health benefits of tomatoes

  • Supports heart health
  • Cancer preventative
  • Boosts overall health

What is lycopene and why is it so good for you?

Lycopene is the antioxidant that is responsible for the red colour in vegetables and fruit. Research from a recent study showed that those who consumed a 7-milligram lycopene pill had improved blood flow through arteries. Why is this important? When blood vessels narrow it decreases blood flow and puts stress on the blood vessels and the heart. This can cause strokes and heart attacks. The good news is that you don’t need a pill to take advantage of lycopene’s benefits you can simply eat tomatoes.
  • Heart disease. Lycopene is an even more powerful carotenoid antioxidant than beta-carotene, vitamins A and E for preventing strokes. A study analysed 1,000 men between the ages of 40-50 for more than 12 years; it showed that the men who had high levels of lycopene in their blood were 55% less risk of having a stroke. Another study in 2014 found that lycopene lowered the risk of stroke by 19%. Both tomatoes and tomato products were used.
  • Cancer.According to studies, this antioxidant has a protective effect that lowers your risk of developing cancer, especially prostate, ovarian, brain and breast cancer. When lycopene was tested on liver cancer cells it lowered the reproduction of new cells by 20%

TomatoesHow many tomatoes should you eat?

All tomato products contain some lycopene but the best way to get enough is by eating organic cooked tomato sauce. Tomatoes that were cooked at 88 degrees C for thirty minutes had 164% more lycopene than raw tomatoes. They also had over 60% increase of other beneficial antioxidants. The study used a measure of 7mg, however, a half-cup serving of spaghetti sauce has 28mg and one medium sized raw tomato has 3.7mg. Another healthy choice would be tomato juice that has 25mg per cup. To avoid exposure to the chemical BPA that is leached from canned tomatoes always choose fresh cooked or tomatoes processed in glass containers. 'Ask a naturopath' for more ways to increase your intake of health promoting antioxidants.