People bat around the word superfood pretty blithely these days, which is easy, because there’s no real definition. Scientists tend to use the term “functional food” (meaning: food which provides a clinically proven and documented health benefit) but it’s not quite as sexy, is it?
Anyway, I like the term superfood, but I try to reserve it for only the best cases. And today I’m going to talk about one such case. The gorgeous food known as: the tomato.
Tomatoes are packed full of antioxidants. Carotenoids, flavonoids, vitamin C, vitamin E…basically, tomatoes are off the chart when it comes to phytochemicals. In particular, though, it’s lycopene that gets the most attention. Lycopene is the compound that happens to give tomatoes their luscious red color, and it confers all sorts of health benefits. It’s also unusual in one property: it becomes even more bioavailable after cooking and processing. So you can benefit from tomato consumption even if you’re having tomato sauce or tomato paste.
The tomato has been shown to be anticancer. This is primarily due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of the nutrients in tomatoes. The evidence is strongest for prostate cancer–much research shows that regular tomato consumption can reduce a man’s risk of prostate cancer. But there are also studies showing that tomatoes can help prevent pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, and certain types of lung cancer, too.
Tomatoes are also good for your heart: they have been shown to improve cholesterol profile. They have anti-platelet activity. And it’s probably no coincidence that the tomato features heavily in the Mediterranean diet, well-known to be a heart-healthy way to go (and delish, besides).
Interestingly, there’s also some early research to indicate that tomatoes are good for our bones, specifically due to carotenoids and lycopene. Recent studies have shown that these antioxidants may be beneficial for bone density, and that poor intake correlates to low bone density and increased risk of fracture. (For more about bone health, read this.)
Another thing that’s great about tomatoes? They are just so damn easy to incorporate into your diet. Throw some fresh tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and sea salt onto toasted baguette…world’s best bruschetta.
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