Specialists have long recommended the consumption of large amounts of fruit and vegetables as part of a healthy diet, because they are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals.
Recent studies suggest that an ordinary tomato has some additional advantage – a high content of a compound called lycopene, which reduces the risk of many types of chronic diseases, such as heart disease or certain types of cancer of the lung, breast, ovarian, intestinal or prostate cancer.
Lycopene belongs to the family of pigments called carotenoids, and it is to him that red fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, watermelon or red grapefruit, owe their color.
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Did you know that … tomato consists of 85% water? It also provides an excellent source of vitamins A, C and E, potassium and fiber.
Of them all, tomatoes contain the most lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants are internal guards who protect cells from the action of free radicals – highly reactive oxidized molecules that destroy cell membranes and attack DNA. The damaging effects of free radicals are often considered to be the element causing heart disease, cancer and accelerated aging process.
The research shows that with the increase in the level of lycopene in the body, the level of oxidized compounds decreases. Unlike other fruits and vegetables, whose nutritional value decreases during cooking, the level of lycopene in tomatoes increases due to cooking, especially when a small amount of oil is added. In tomato, lycopene is attached to the membranes and hard to release.
During cooking, these bonds of the lycopene with the membranes are weakened and this is why boiled and processed tomatoes (eg in the form of juice, sauce or paste) have more lycopene than fresh tomatoes. This process of chemical conversion during cooking facilitates the absorption of the lycopene by the body. Many experts say that this is a partial explanation of the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which usually contains large amounts of fruits and vegetables, especially tomatoes.
Read also: Mediterranean diet
Tomato comes from Central and South America. The Spaniards brought him to Europe in the 16th century, and from there gradually gained popularity throughout the Eastern Mediterranean region. Tomatoes are abundant throughout Europe at this time of year, so you should use and increase the intake of this natural, healthy food!