Heirloom, beefsteak, Roma, grape, cherry, vine-ripened, organic…tomatoes in all their glory, filling up the produce aisle, growing in abundance in your backyard. Often mistaken as a vegetable, a tomato is actually a fruit.
No matter which type of tomato you prefer, when eaten regularly they provide a wealth of healthful benefits. The primary healthy component in tomatoes is an anti-oxidant known as lycopene. While lycopene can be found in other food sources, it is most plentiful in the glorious tomato.
Lycopene has been proven to ward off heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and many types of cancer. Studies have even shown that lycopene has the power to halt the growth and spread of some cancers dead in their tracks. That is pretty amazing!
Another fascinating thing about tomatoes is that heating or cooking them does not deplete or diminish the lycopene properties, it actually makes them more potent. This is good news for kids or people who do not eat salads or raw foods. Canned tomatoes, tomato sauces and juices, and even ketchup, are excellent sources of lycopene (be mindful of the salt and sugar content in these products). I personally love a nice tomato cut up in my salads and with pasta.
Here’s a quick and easy recipe using fresh tomatoes:
Slice grape or cherry tomatoes in half Spread out on a baking pan and drizzle liberally with extra-virgin olive oil Season with sea salt, cracked black pepper and dried basil Roast in a 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes. Serve tomatoes over whole-wheat penne pasta Garnish with chopped fresh basil and Parmesan cheese
While it is beneficial to consume lycopene on a regular basis, the American Cancer Society does not advocate eating large amounts of only one food to obtain optimum health benefits. They instead recommend a balanced diet that consists of at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, whole grains and limited consumption of processed foods, red meat and alcohol along with a healthy lifestyle that includes daily exercise.