Health Benefits of Tomatoes

In tracing the history of the tomato, it was first found in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. Later, in France it became known as pomme d’ amour or the “love apple” because it was believed to recover impotence and increase sperm count. In 1834, Dr. John Cook Bennett from Willoughby University, Ohio, was the first to study the tomato and found it beneficial in treating diarrhea, gall attack, indigestion and restoring liver function.

While it has long been suspected, a recent study conducted in Australia has found that tomatoes possess powerful health benefits. The study examined data from 14 other studies conducted over the last 55 years. While those studies theorized tomatoes had health benefits, it could not be proven. The Australian study simply increased the dose or amount of tomatoes given to subjects and the conclusion became clear. The reason behind these results is due to the fact that tomatoes have the highest concentration of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in other foods such as watermelon, red wine, papaya, and guava. Tomatoes also contain high concentrations of vitamin C and vitamin A, both beneficial in boosting the immune system. Even the pigment in red tomatoes contains high levels of lycopene.

Interestingly, different from other foods, cooked or processed tomatoes are best. It’s not recommended to buy sauces and pastes in the grocery store because they have too much preservative and other additives. One pint of tomato juice or sauce, or about 50 grams a day will provide protection against heart disease, says Dr. Karin Ried from The University of Adelaide and author of the study. Among the most amazing findings from the study was a drop in subject’s LDL cholesterol levels by an average of 10 percent. Systolic (the top reading) blood pressure dropped an average of 5.6. In addition to lowering the risk of heart disease, the study also indicates tomatoes may be effective in lowering the risks of many forms of cancer, slow the decline of eye function due to age, and promote healthy liver and kidney function. Some believe that adding a high level of cooked tomatoes to one’s diet could be as effective as taking statin drugs without the risks.

Caution: I’m not a medical doctor, and suggest you consult your provider before launching into any change in diet or medications. Additionally, some people do have allergic reactions to tomatoes, so be aware. 

For great tomato recipes, and lots of other great recipes, go to our website and click on Trisha’s Dishes.

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