The importance of tomatoes to a healthy diet
The health benefits of tomatoes are well known, and tomatoes are known to contain a great many important compounds that play an important role in the prevention of cancer, heart disease, cataracts and many other common health problems. Tomatoes are rich sources of many important nutrients, and more and more people are coming to realize just how important tomatoes are to a healthy diet.
Tomatoes and vitamin C
For instance, tomatoes contain as much vitamin C as many citrus fruits, with a normal sized tomato providing up to 40 percent of the recommended daily intake of this important nutrient. In addition, tomatoes contain large amounts of vitamin A, potassium and iron. And tomatoes are one of the most delicious, and most versatile of all foods. From fresh tomatoes in your salad to ketchup on your burger, tomatoes are everywhere, and this makes it quite easy to enjoy their many health benefits.
In a way, it is their rich color that makes tomatoes so valuable to a healthy diet. The substance responsible for the red coloration of tomatoes is known scientifically as lycopene. This important compound is thought to be a strong antioxidant, with the ability to neutralize the free radicals that can cause damage to cells. These free radicals are thought to play a role in cancer, and therefore tomatoes are thought to be important in the prevention of many kinds of cancer.
As a matter of fact, lycopene is thought to be twice as effective as many other kinds of antioxidants, and it has been shown to play a role in the prevention of such common cancers as prostate cancer, lung cancer and breast cancer. In addition, lycopene is thought to help to inhibit the aging process, allowing tomato eaters to remain active longer.
How to choose the best tomatoes
To get the greatest amount of benefits from tomatoes it is important to choose them carefully. The ripest and reddest tomatoes not only contain the highest amounts of lycopene, but they also are thought to contain the greatest amount of beta carotene, another vital nutrient.
Tomatoes are healthy when eaten raw, but they are also one of those rare foods whose nutritional value is actually enhanced by the cooking process. The valuable lycopene is contained in the cell wall of the tomato, and therefore cooking it in a bit of healthy oil will help to more fully release this important nutrient. In addition, cooking the tomato in a healthy oil like olive oil will help the body to better absorb the lycopene in the tomato.
While it is important to choose the richest, reddest tomatoes to enjoy their many health benefits, it is not necessary to always buy your tomatoes fresh. While fresh tomatoes are often better tasting, tomatoes are one of those fruits that ship very well, and they do not lose any of their vital nutritional value when they are shipped. Tomatoes also retain their nutritional value through the high heat processing they undergo, meaning that tomato sauce, canned tomatoes and stewed tomatoes are all valuable sources of antioxidants and other valuable nutrients.