Tomatoes do a body good, and many people realize that. What they might not realize is just how healthy these plump red globes really are. Today, tomatoes are the most consumed member of the fruit and vegetable group. Though it is botanically a fruit, almost everyone considers the tomato to be a vegetable, including the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Antioxidant qualities benefit the body
Because they are a significant source of lycopene, a diet high in tomatoes has been shown to reduce the risk of strokes. Lycopene is a phytochemical known for its benefits to the body. Found in red vegetables and fruits, the human body is unable to produce it on its own so the compound must be obtained from plant sources. While scientists cannot pinpoint the exact way the body uses phytochemicals, such as lycopene, it is believed that these antioxidants neutralize the free radicals that are present in the body.
Finnish study shows link
In a study published recently in the medical journal Neurology, researchers discovered a strong link between a diet rich in tomato products and a reduction in the incidence of strokes. In this study, a group of 1,000 Finnish men between the ages of 45 and 65, were followed for about a dozen years.
While 65 of those men studied had a strokes during the time period in question, researchers were particularly interested in those men whose levels of lycopene were the lowest. Of those 258 men, 25 were victims of a stroke. In comparison, only 11 of the 259 men with the highest levels of the phytochemical had a stroke. Indeed, those men in the group with the highest consumption of lycopenes showed a 59% decrease in their risk of stroke when compared to those men in the bottom group.
Increased fruit and vegetable intake correlates to better health
These results dovetail with the research that states eating at least five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables is crucial for good health. While the traditional advice has been focused on fresh fruits and vegetables, tomatoes seem to be somewhat of an exception to this rule. It appears that the heat that is required in order to both process and cooking tomato products that are canned adds to the body’s ability to use the lycopene.
Other benefits of tomatoes noted
Currently, studies surrounding the benefits of tomatoes have focused primarily on their antioxidant qualities. Researchers have noted, however, the possibility that a diet rich in tomato products could also protect against heart disease, skin damage brought on by exposure to the sun, osteoporosis and cancer. More research into the promising benefits of a diet rich in tomatoes promises to yield interesting results.