What better way of eating tomatoes but by picking them straight from the vine and immediately devouring them especially when they are grown without any chemical intervention. The next best is slicing them and topping them with fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil, light seasoning and eating them as a starter or snack. Anyone can grow tomatoes on a windowsill, on a balcony or in a garden and after careful nurturing you also can have that pleasure. When I bought my plants I was advised by an elderly couple who were buying a plant each to put on their windowsill. I was surprised when I ended up with a red variety and a yellow variety. But research showed me that the yellow variety is richer in antioxidants than the red. Lycopene is a carotenoid pigment that has long been associated with the deep red colour of many tomatoes. A small preliminary study on healthy men and women has shown that the lycopene from orange- and tangerine-colored tomatoes may actually be better absorbed than the lycopene from red tomatoes. This is because the lycopene in deep red tomatoes is mostly trans-lycopene, and the lycopene in orange/tangerine tomatoes is mostly tetra-cis-lycopene. In a recent study, this tetra-cis form of lycopene turned out to be more efficiently absorbed by the study participants.
I didn’t realise the antioxidant protection as being important for bone health, but according to a study carried out whereby Lycopene was withdrawn from postmenopausal women’s diet for 4 weeks and after this short period of time there were increased signs of oxidative stress in their bones and unwanted changes in their bone tissue implying that tomato lycopene (and other tomato antioxidants) may have a special role to play in preventing osteoporosis.
Intake of tomatoes has long been linked to heart health. Fresh tomatoes and tomato extracts have been shown to help lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. In addition, tomato extracts have been shown to help prevent unwanted clumping together (aggregation) of platelet cells in the blood – a factor that is especially important in lowering risk of heart problems like atherosclerosis. Dietary intake of tomatoes, consumption of tomato extracts, and supplementation with tomato phytonutrients (like lycopene) have all been shown to improve the profile of fats in our bloodstream. Specifically, tomato intake has been shown to result in decreased total cholesterol, decreased LDL cholesterol, and decreased triglyceride levels. It’s also been shown to decrease accumulation of cholesterol molecules inside of macrophage cells. (Macrophage cells are a type of white blood cell that gets called into action when oxidative stress in the bloodstream gets too high, and the activity of macrophages—including their accumulation of cholesterol—is a prerequisite for development of atherosclerosis.)
Tomatoes have repeatedly been show to provide us with anti-cancer benefits. The track record for tomatoes as a cancer-protective food should not be surprising, since there is a very large amount of research on tomato antioxidants and a more limited but still important amount of research on tomato anti-inflammatory nutrients. Risk for many cancer types starts out with chronic oxidative stress and chronic unwanted inflammation. For this reason, foods that provide us with strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support are often foods that show cancer prevention properties.
Prostate cancer is by far the best-researched type of cancer in relationship to tomato intake. The jury verdict here is clear: tomatoes can definitely help lower risk of prostate cancer in men. One key tomato nutrient that has received special focus in prostate cancer prevention is alpha-tomatine. Alpha-tomatine is a saponin phytonutrient and it’s shown the ability to alter metabolic activity in developing prostate cancer cells. It’s also been shown to trigger programmed cell death (apoptosis) in prostate cancer cells that have already been fully formed. Research on alpha-tomatine has also been conducted for non-small cell lung cancer, with similar findings. Along with prostate cancer and non-small cell lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and breast cancer are the two best-studied areas involving tomatoes and cancer risk. Research on tomatoes and breast cancer risk has largely focused on the carotenoid lycopene, and there is fairly well documented risk reduction for breast cancer in association with lycopene intake.
In multiple studies other health benefits associated when tomatoes included in the diet include reduced risk of some neurological diseases (including Alzheimer’s disease). Tomato-containing diets have also been linked in a few studies with reduced risk of obesity and age-related macular degeneration.
And it could boost the skins ability to protect itself against UV rays.
I think that covers many of the dreaded diseases we all fear so tomatoes eaten raw or cooked in many different ways are a must in our diet.
That’s why before leaving my garden to return to London I harvested the ripe tomatoes and those I didn’t dry in the sun I roasted in the oven with garlic, fresh basil, seasoning then whizzed the mixture in a food mixer, stored in the freezer to make a sauce ready for soups and sauces to welcome me on my return.