In the Europe of the 1700’s “the golden apple”, so described by the herbalist, Pietro Andrea Matthiola ,about two hundred years before,was still often viewed with suspicion because it was closely related to certain plants like the poisonous nightshade vine.Happily, the much beloved fruit and now essential food survived being stigmatised for ever as the “poison apple”.Today,we know the health secret behind the shiny red skin of the large majority of the over 5,000 varieties of tomato that are grown worldwide.The truth about lycopene is now known.
Gina Crawford the well known and highly respected author of many books on cooking and eating healthily has recently written: 5 Things You Need to Know About Tomatoes and Lycopene.
Have you ever wondered where tomatoes get their lovely red colour?
The answer is lycopene, a powerful, naturally-occurring substance that does wonders for your health. Here’s what you need to know about it:
1. Lycopene is an antioxidant
This means that it fights against harmful free radicals, lowering the risk of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and macular degenerative eye diseases.
2. Your body stores lycopene in its tissues to fight cancer
When you consume enough lycopene, your body stores it in your
liver, lungs, prostate gland, colon, blood, and skin. The higher these levels of lycopene are, the lower your risk of developing cancer in the prostate, digestive tract, upper respiratory tract, and lungs.
3. Cooked tomatoes are best
Unlike many other nutrients found in fruits and veggies, the
availability of lycopene is actually increased when tomatoes
are cooked. Good sources include tomato paste, tomato
sauce, tomato juice, and of course tomatoes that you’ve
4. You should aim for 30 mg per day
Eating 30 mg of lycopene per day can lower your risk of heart
disease and stroke. One raw tomato contains only 3 mg of
lycopene, but you can get all you need from half a can of
tomato paste, two glasses of tomato juice, or four tablespoons
of ketchup.One small can of tomato paste provides 62 mg of
lycopene. Two glasses of tomato juice, four tablespoons of
ketchup per day or a bowl of tomato soup provide an ample
amount of antioxidant protection for your body.
5. Lycopene is fat-soluble
Your body will absorb far more lycopene if you consume some
fat at the same time, so add a little extra virgin olive oil to your
6. Lycopene lowers ‘bad’ cholesterol levels
In doing so, it prevents the hardening of your arteries and lowers your risk of coronary heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
NOTE: The amount of lycopene varies in tomatoes. Tomatoes
allowed to ripen on the vine contain the most lycopene. The more brilliant red a tomato is, the more lycopene it contains.
- Gina Crawford
There you have it.In summary,unlike other fruits and vegetables, where nutritional content such as vitamin C is diminished upon cooking, processing of tomatoes increases the concentration of bioavailable lycopene. Lycopene in tomato paste is four times more bioavailable than in fresh tomatoes. Thus processed tomato products such as tomato juice, soup, sauce, and ketchup contain the highest concentrations of bioavailable lycopene.
Tomatoes provide an essential ingredient in the Mediterranean Diet..Healthy,easy to grow and delicious, cooked or eaten raw in salads,it is little wonder they are one of the most popular of foods. See Mediterranean Diet for Beginners. for a quick start guide.