Did you know… there’s over 1000 different varieties of tomatoes!
Tomatoes are superb antioxidants because as well as being high in vitamin C (you can check out why that's so important here), they contain a compound called lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant which is partially responsible for the red and pink colours of fruit and veg such as watermelon, apricots and pink grapefruits. But it is particularly abundant in tomatoes.
With its antioxidant properties, lycopene can help reduce the damage to our cells from the sun's UV rays, thereby supporting its elasticity, hydration and texture. It can also help to lower levels of LDL cholesterol (aka the ‘bad’ cholesterol). It’s this cholesterol that builds up in our arteries and so lower levels of this will decrease the risk of developing coronary heart disease
But lycopene is most well-known for its links with prostate health. It’s understandable why, prostate tissue contains a large proportion of the body’s lycopene stores. However, the scientific jury is still out on exactly how effective lycopene is for the prevention of an enlarged prostate, or prostate cancer.
There’s a bit of a conundrum though. Tomatoes that have been cooked have higher lycopene levels than fresh tomatoes. Although cooking can lower vitamin C levels.
We like to have a mixture in our house. There’s always a bowl of tomatoes for the kids to pick at and then they are a regular feature in our cooked dinners too.
But the amount that we absorb is also affected by what we eat alongside the tomatoes. Lycopene is better absorbed in the presence of fat so eating fat alongside your tomatoes will increase the amount of lycopene that you can absorb.
You could try
drizzling them with extra virgin olive oil
baking them with a fillet of salmon
including them in a salad with some avocado and crushed walnuts
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