Health benefits of Tomatoes
Since summer is tomato season, I thought of writing a post about this beautiful fruit.
Whether fresh, roasted, stewed, or canned, tomatoes are an essential ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine and therefore in the Mediterranean diet. Many Mediterranean recipes use tomato sauce, tomato paste, or fresh tomatoes. Studies have linked the Mediterranean diet to lower death rates from heart disease and cancer.
I will not talk about the health benefits of adding tomatoes to your diet, as you can find much of this information by googling on the internet. I’ll cover three essential aspects, namely:
- How can you increase your body’s absorption of lycopene from tomatoes?
- Cooked tomatoes versus raw tomatoes
- Is tomato-cucumber a good combination for digestion?
Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant with many health benefits. One cup (240 ml ) of tomato juice provides about 20 mg of lycopene, while a serving of raw tomatoes contains between 4 mg and 10 mg of lycopene. Parsley and basil contain lycopene, too.
What is lycopene?
Lycopene is a phytonutrient that gives fruits and vegetables their red color and is fat-soluble. Adding olive oil or other fats such as feta cheese or avocado will help the body absorb lycopene.
What is lycopene good for?
Studies suggest that this powerful antioxidant may have anti-cancer effects and may protect against sunburn.
As I told you before, I am a traditional medicine girl because of my upbringing in my family. When I got my skin burned as a child due to too much sun exposure, my mother would crush up a whole tomato and spread it on the affected area. It was a refreshing sensation and relieved the redness and pain.
In addition, lycopene may help lower blood pressure, regulate cholesterol levels, and improve symptoms in people with enlarged prostates.
As a powerful antioxidant, lycopene also has anti-inflammatory properties.
However, I can say that an adequate intake of antioxidants from various natural sources will protect your overall health.
Cooked tomato versus raw tomato
Wow, this is an exciting topic to talk about. I bet your mother or grandmother told you that fresh vegetables contain many minerals and vitamins, so they are better than cooked veggies. It’s not the end of the world for you when I tell you that it’s the other way around with tomatoes.
As I told you earlier, tomatoes are rich in lycopene. Years ago, I came across a study by Cornell University that found that our bodies absorb more lycopene when we eat cooked tomatoes than raw tomatoes. The longer the tomatoes are cooked, the more lycopene is released, but not for more than 15 minutes. It seems that cooked tomatoes provide four times more lycopene than raw tomatoes.
Is tomato-cucumber a good combination for your digestion?
Especially in summer, when eating lunch, a nutritious salad has to complement the meal. When you talk about salad, the first combination that comes to mind is the simple combination of tomato and cucumber. Am I right? Tomatoes and cucumbers have been my two favorite ingredients in almost every summer salad for years. It’s a delicious combination that adds flavor and freshness to any boring salad on a hot summer day. Both are packed with nutrients but is this combo also healthy for your digestion?
I did not know until four years ago that this combination could negatively affect digestive health.
It appears that the combination of cucumber and tomato can cause gas, bloating, and acid reflux which in some cases may aggravate underlying health problems. In addition, cucumber interferes with the absorption of vitamin C.
Therefore, it is better to avoid this combination as both are digested in entirely different ways. If you consume tomato and cucumber separately, you can enjoy their benefits.
It’s easy to break this old habit. Instead of cucumber, take a nice red pepper, add onions, tomatoes, some olives, some feta cheese, or the one you like best, basil, and olive oil. Season to your taste, and I bet you will enjoy every bite, and your digestive system will thank you.
- Cooking tomatoes has a nutritional advantage over eating raw tomatoes. Our body absorbs more lycopene when we eat cooked tomatoes.
- It seems that cooked tomatoes contain four times more lycopene than raw tomatoes. If you eat raw tomatoes, use some olive oil, fat such as feta cheese or avocado to boost lycopene absorption.
- A very healthy combination with high lycopene content is tomato sauce: basil, olive oil, and garlic make a beautiful spaghetti sauce.
- Tomato juice from the supermarket is not as healthy as you might think because of its high sodium content and hidden sugar content. You already know that too much salt can be responsible for high blood pressure. Pay attention to the ingredient list on the package to make the right choice. You can also make your tomato juice from whole tomatoes.
- The tomato-cucumber combination can cause gas, bloating, and acid reflux. Therefore, it is better to eat them separately to reap the health benefits and ease digestion.
If you like tomatoes and are not allergic to them or have medical conditions that prevent you from eating them, then you can use this excellent fruit in your diet in various healthy combinations.
Whenever you can, opt for organic tomatoes to reduce exposure to pesticides and herbicides. I am fortunate to have a large garden so I can grow my tomatoes. Fresh, ripe tomatoes harvested straight from the garden usually taste the best.
If you have the time, space, or access to a community garden, try growing your tomatoes. Even a tiny balcony can do the trick. It’s worth the effort.
Until next time, choose and enjoy digestion-friendly salads and make the most of your tomatoes and summer days. Looking forward to answering your comments, you can leave below!
No content on this blog should ever be used to substitute for medical advice from your practitioner or other qualified doctors.