Tomatoes health benefits

Jan 25 by

Tomato Health Benefits

Ok, you probably realize that a tomato is quite a healthy thing to eat, but did you know that it also appears to have a positive impact on your cholesterol levels? Some of the latest research (from Australia) suggests that eating tomatoes can actually have a similar effect to taking prescription statins. For anyone who would prefer not to take medications long-term, or even at all, this offers an additional weapon in your armoury in the fight against high cholesterol.

So what exactly does this latest research say?

Well, to summarize, it says that taking a certain amount of lycopene every day has an effect similar to taking a low dose of the type of medication that is often given to anyone who has a raised cholesterol level. Lycopene is a compound in tomatoes that gives them their red coloring. It’s also an anti-oxidant, which is one of those things that most people have heard about as a “good thing”.

It seems that cooking tomatoes makes it easier for the body to take in the lycopene, compared to eating tomatoes raw. It certainly makes it easier to incorporate lycopene into your daily diet because, let’s face it, there are so many more ways to use tomatoes in your cooking than just having them raw in a salad, for example.

And where has this research come from?

Dr Karin Ried, from the University of Adelaide, Australia, has looked into 14 international studies on lycopene – those studies taking place over the last 55 years, so that’s a lot of peer-reviewed material from which to draw.

She makes the point that even tomato paste can be useful, because it contains so much of the lycopene and 50 grams a day would give some protection. Whether that’s a feasible amount to use every day depends on the kind of food you eat – you certainly wouldn’t want to eat that much tomato paste straight from the tube or jar, that’s for sure. But you could add it to things like healthy home-made pizzas, into soups, casseroles and so on. It could also be used as a slight thickening agent in some dishes.

If the idea of using tomato paste sounds awkward the good doctor tells us that 500 ml of tomato juice would offer the same kind of protection. That’s a lot of juice and most likely more than the average person would want to drink every day (it’s nearly a pint in imperial measures).

“Our study suggests that if more than 25 milligrams of lycopene is taken daily, it can reduce LDL-cholesterol by up to 10%,” Dr. Ried says.

Muscle pains and nerve damage

As we’ve already heard, that’s close to giving the kind of protection that low dosage medications can give. What the tomato juice/paste doesn’t have, however, is the kind of known side effect that you can get with some statins. Muscle pains and nerve damage are one possible side effect of some of the prescription medications, so for many people a natural alternative without the side effects is a very attractive idea.

You can actually buy lycopene as a supplement if the idea of eating tomato paste does not appeal to you. According to Dr. Ried high consumption of lycopene also offers protection against strokes and cardiovascular disease. At this stage she cannot say whether higher doses offer any extra protection.

Dr. Ried is also acclaimed for her work in the field of lowering blood pressure, in particular looking at the effects of both garlic and dark chocolate. While eating garlic is well-know for its effects on blood pressure, dark chocolate as a “medication” may be a somewhat surprising and counter-intuitive idea.

Dr. Ried recently published her research paper in the international journal Maturitas

If you’re worried about your own “heart health”, there’s a simple tool you can use online to determine what your level of risk is. You can access the tool by clicking here.

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