By Karen Foster,
Now that genetically-modified tomatoes are fairly common, the heirloom varieties have become more appealing. Lycopene in tomatoes can reduce heart disease by almost 30 percent and the phytochemical is as powerful as many classes of drugs commonly prescribed for cardiovascular disease. If you’re not already a tomato-lover, here are 10 reasons to start loving them now.
Recent evidence just two ounces of tomato paste or a pint of juice a day could be enough to help many patient avoid dangerous statins the class of drugs commonly prescribed for these conditions which can lead to heart problems.
According to Tufts and Boston University researchers, the highest average intakes of lycopene were linked to almost a 30% reduction in the incidence of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease, respectively, according to findings published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Earlier forms of this GM crop included the transgenic tomato (FlavrSavr) which had a “deactivated” gene. This meant that the tomato plant was no longer able to produce polygalacturonase, an enzyme involved in fruit softening. The premise was that tomatoes could be left to ripen on the vine and still have a long shelf life, thus allowing them to develop their full flavour. Normally, tomatoes are picked well before they are ripe and are then ripened artificially.
These GM tomatoes, however, did not meet their expectations. Although they were approved in the US and several other countries, tomatoes with delayed ripening have disappeared from the market after peaking in 1998.
Today, tomatoes are being genetically modified to produce a peptide that mimics the actions of HDL cholesterol that biotechnology groups are promoting to supposedly reduce heart disease.
Similar gene modification techniques were devised in GM crops that led to tumors in a long-term widely publicized study on GM corn fed rats.
If you do love your tomatoes, stick do organic heirloom varieties and support your local farm as they may offer some of the best organic tomatoes. Here’s 10 reasons to love them:
1. Tomatoes are rich in a collection of phytonutrients called carotenoids. You’ve probably already heard of beta-carotene and lycopene. But there are others. And exciting research in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute shows that higher amounts of carotenoids–including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, and total carotenoids–may have a reduced risk of breast cancer.
2. According to new research in the journal Cell Biochemistry and Biophysics, scientists created diabetic conditions in animals and fed some lycopene while others were fed their typical diet free of lycopene. The biochemistry of animals fed lycopene returned to normal while the others stayed at diabetic levels. This study shows promise that lycopene (found in tomatoes) can help restore biochemical balance in diabetics.
3. New research in the journal Harvard Health Letter found that diets rich in tomatoes can help prevent stroke. The scientists chalk up the results to tomatoes’ rich lycopene content.
4. Research shows the lycopene found in tomatoes, when eaten regularly, can reduce the risk of heart disease by 29 percent. Fresh tomatoes and tomato extracts have been shown in research to lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. They have also been shown to prevent clumping in the blood (known as platelet aggregation) which is a risk factor for atherosclerosis.
5. They contain an important phytonutrient called lycopene that has been proven in studies to fight aging and have anti-cancer properties. It appears to be particularly effective against prostate and colon cancers.
6. Lycopene found in tomatoes even protects our genetic material against damage and the resulting disease.
7. Tomatoes stimulate the production of the amino acid carnitine which has been shown in research to speed the body’s fat-burning capacity by over 30 percent.
8. Excellent sources of vitamin C, tomatoes can help keep your immune system strong.
9. Lack of lycopene in a menopausal woman’s diet has been linked to osteoporosis.
10. Because tomatoes are a rich source of the phytonutrients beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, they can help improve vision and protect your eyes from degeneration.
Some people claim that tomatoes should be eaten cooked for maximum nutritional value. That’s not the full story however. While lycopene is best absorbed from cooked tomatoes, vitamin C and the enzymes found in tomatoes are best if eaten uncooked. Just adding a dash of olive oil on your raw tomatoes significantly increases the absorption of lycopene. Eating tomatoes in a variety of foods helps ensure the best nutrient absorption. Relish cooked tomatoes in soups, stews, and curries. Enjoy raw ones in salads, sandwiches, and salsas.
Research also shows that the form of lycopene found in yellow and orange tomatoes is better absorbed than from red tomatoes. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the red ones, but throw in some multi-colored heirloom tomatoes into the mix too.
Karen Foster is a holistic nutritionist, avid blogger, with five kids and an active lifestyle that keeps her in pursuit of the healthiest path towards a life of balance.