Food of the Week : Tomato
You say tom-a-to, I say tom-at-o… well actually Lycopersicon esculentum. If we get even more specific, we’re talking about the fruit, nay, the berry of this plant. Red, yellow or green, and one of hundreds of variety, each very unique in their flavour and nutrient profile.
It all starts with their colour. Tomatoes are a very rich source of lycopene, a carotid pigment very strongly associated with anti-oxidant benefits. The humble tommy is loaded to the gunnels with phytonutrients (antioxidant super powers) and very high in vitamin C, beta-carotene, with plenty of manganese and vitamin E, tomatoes pack a powerful punch protecting cells against oxidative damaged.
One of lycopene’s top skills is reducing lipid peroxidation. This is when fats in cell membranes, or even in our blood (wizzing around the body) are damaged by oxygen. A little damage is repairable, a lot is bad news leading to inflammation and a hit to our immune system. Long term, it can lead to blood vessel blockages, a precursor to heart attacks.
Vitamin C is vital for the health of collagen in our skin. As a super rich source, tomatoes are great for fighting the effects of sun, chemicals, pollution and ageing.
Tomatoes are awesome for heart health. Phytonutrients in the blood do a sterling job of regulating the fat levels in our blood. Regularly feasting on these fruits will lower total blood cholesterol levels and more specifically the “bad” LDL cholesterol. In addition tomatoes can lower the risk of dangerous and potentially deadly clotting diseases such as atherosclerosis by inhibiting the clumping together of platelets in the blood. The potassium present also aids in reducing blood pressure.
Folic acid is not only important for healthy babies, it also inhibits the synthesis of homocsyteine in the body, which is not only good news for the heart, but also our mood. This mutant amino acid can play havoc with blood supply and therefore certain nutrients reaching the brain. Worst of all, it can interfere with our “good-mood hormones” including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, killing mood, affecting sleep and appetite as well.
We don’t often associate tomatoes with bone health, but because of it’s rich antioxidant profile, tomatoes are kings of bone health, helping fight oxidative stress impacted onto our skeleton.
It is no surprise that because of its antioxidant skills, the tiny tomato is a cancer fighting king. Most cancers form from chronic oxidative stress in our cells and the associated inflammation. In particular the phytonutrient alpha-tomatine has shown in scientific studies to not only directly inhibit prostrate and lung cancer cell growth, but also initiate cell death in full formed cancer cells. Truly amazing 🙂
Choline is an important nutrient present in tomatoes, which can improve our sleep, the structure of our cells, muscle movement and memory, and neuromuscular functions.
With the combination of a high water content and good source of fibre, tomatoes are great for bowel function and constipation.
Tomatoes are also an excellent source of biotin, vitamin K, fibre, vitamin B6, niacin, vitamin E, and phosphorus with smaller quantities of many other micronutrients too.
Cooking tomatoes makes the lycopene more readily accessible, and more bio-available for absorption. It does destroy some of the vitamin C (up to 30%) but increases levels of lycopene by up to 170%.
Try making your own tomato sauce for pasta, pizza and stews for max taste and nutrition, with least chemicals. Fry off onions and garlic and add fresh and/or tinned chopped tomatoes (with only tomatoes as the ingredient… no salt or sugar!), rosemary and simmer for 15 mins.
Add to salads, sandwiches or enjoy with fresh buffalo mozzarella, basil and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil 🙂