Health Benefits and
Nutritional Values of
Tomatoes (Lycopersicum esculentum)        2009
Currently, tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables eaten by
Americans. Tomatoes are members of the fruit family, but they are served and
prepared as a vegetable. This is why most people consider them a vegetable
and not a fruit. Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C and a good
source of vitamin A.

Weisburger JH. from American Health Foundation [jweisbur@ahf.org]
suggested that individuals in the Mediterranean area present with a lower risk
of several important chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease and a
number of types of cancer associated with nutritional traditions, such as breast,
colon, and prostate cancer. Vegetables and fruits in general and  cooked
tomatoes, together with olive oil, appear to be the nutritional traditions that
account for this lower risk. [3] Furthermore, Ellinger S (email
ellinger@uni-bonn.de) and co-workers at University of Bonn, Germany, pointed
out that a single serving of tomatoes or tomato products ingested daily may
contribute to protect from DNA damage. As DNA damage seems to be involved
in the pathogenesis of prostate cancer, the regular ingestion of tomatoes or
tomato products might prevent the disease. [1]

Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis M [msapuntz@uic.edu] and co-workers from University
of Illinois at Chicago conducted a small intervention trial among patients
diagnosed with prostate adenocarcinoma. Tomato sauce pasta was
consumed daily for 3 weeks before their scheduled prostatectomy, and
biomarkers of tomato intake, prostate cancer progression and oxidative DNA
damage were followed in blood and the available prostate tissue. The whole
food intervention was so well accepted by the subjects that the blood lycopene
doubled and the prostate lycopene concentration tripled during this short
period. They found that the oxidative DNA damage in leukocytes and prostate
tissues was significantly diminished, the latter mainly in the tumor cell nuclei,
possibly due to the antioxidant properties of lycopene. They also noted the the
decrease in blood prostate-specific antigen. They believed that these promising
results may reside in lycopene effects on the genes governing the androgen
stimulation of prostate growth, cytokines and on the enzymes producing
reactive oxygen species. [2]

Cohen LA. American Health Foundation [Leonard_cohen@nymc.edu] noticed
that pure lycopene was absorbed less efficiently than the lycopene-rich tomato
carotenoid oleoresin and blood levels of lycopene in rats fed a grain-based diet
were consistently lower than those in rats fed lycopene in a casein-based diet.
The latter suggests that the matrix in which lycopene is incorporated is an
important determinant of lycopene uptake. [4]

The serving size of tomato is 1/2 cup or 90 g. One serving of tomato contains 20
calories, 0 g of total fat, 0 g of sodium, 10 mg  of sodium,  4 g of total
carbohydrate, 1 g of dietary fiber, 3 g of sugars, 10% of Vitamin A (daily value),
40% of Vitamin C.

There are thousands of tomato varieties. The most widely available varieties
are classified in three groups: cherry, plum, and slicing tomatoes. A new sweet
variety like the cherry tomato is the grape tomato, really wonderful to eat alone
or in a salad.

Cold temperatures damage tomatoes, so never buy tomatoes that are stored in
a cold area. Choose plump tomatoes with smooth skins that are free from
bruises, cracks, or blemishes. Depending on the variety, ripe tomatoes should
be completely red or reddish-orange.

Store tomatoes at room temperature (above 55 degrees) until they have fully
ripened. This will allow them to ripen properly and develop good flavor and
aroma. Try to store tomatoes out of direct sunlight, because sunlight will cause
them to ripen unevenly. If you must store them for a longer period of time, place
them in the refrigerator. Serve them at room temperature. Chopped tomatoes
can be frozen for use in sauces or other cooked dishes.

Reference:

[1] Ellinger S, Ellinger J, Stehle P. Tomatoes, tomato products and lycopene in
the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer: do we have the evidence from
intervention studies? Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2006 Nov;9(6):722-7. [2]
Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis M, Bowen PE. Role of lycopene and tomato products in
prostate health. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2005 May 30;1740(2):202-5. Epub 2005
Mar 13. [3] Weisburger JH. Lycopene and tomato products in health promotion.
Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2002 Nov;227(10):924-7. [4] Cohen LA. A review of
animal model studies of tomato carotenoids, lycopene, and cancer
chemoprevention. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2002 Nov;227(10):864-8.
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