If you have a garden, your tomatoes are probably living their best life right about now as they tend to ripen toward the end of summer. This is your friendly reminder not to let any of that fruit-disguised-as-a-veggie go to waste this year. This is because tomatoes are an often-overlooked nutritional powerhouse. “Tomatoes are one of those foods that everyone takes for granted,” says Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S., author of 15 books, including his latest, Smart Fat: Eat More Fat, Lose More Weight, Get Healthy Now! “But everyone eats them—even those who claim to hate fruits and vegetables.”
Tomatoes may improve your heart health.
In terms of the nutrients in tomatoes, “number one with a bullet is lycopene, a natural antioxidant that gives tomatoes their nice red color,” says Bowden. Research shows that lycopene affects the cardiovascular system in a number of ways. Among them, it helps control blood pressure; prevent atherosclerosis; lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while promoting the synthesis of dysfunction HDL particles.
Tomatoes may lower your cancer risk.
“Lycopene got a lot of attention in the famous ‘pizza study’ of 2002,” says Bowden. “Researchers found that men who ate pizza twice or more a week reduced their risk for prostate cancer by 23%, a fact that did not go unnoticed in dormitories everywhere. The scientists believe the effect came from the lycopene in the tomato sauce.” Since then, other research has emerged that shows there may be a link between tomato consumption and a lower risk of ovarian, gastric, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.