Tomatoes are very good prebiotics. Prebiotics are foods that can help increase the number or activity of good bacteria in your gut.
Tomatoes are also a very strong anti inflammatory fruit that contains a powerful antioxidant called lycopene, which actually perform more than just one protective task in the body. One study in Finland showed that lycopene helps play a role in cardiovascular health in men. It may help prevent atherosclerosis and may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease.1,2,4
Lycopene has been shown to help fight and protect against cancer tumors since it can help reduce inflammation and prevent DNA from becoming damaged. Lycopene as well as the other carotenoids in tomatoes also act as a natural sunblock from the inside out, which means they also have the potential to protect against DNA damage, sun spots, skin dryness and wrinkles.3,4
Note: Cooked tomatoes have more of the cancer fighting properties than regular tomatoes. Heating up tomatoes changes the chemical structure of lycopene and makes it easier for your body to absorb and use. Eat 2-3 servings (1 serving = ½ cup) of tomatoes per week to get the most of the health benefits from it. Any food products derived from tomatoes like salsa or pasta sauce also contain lycopene.4 Please watch out though for tomato based products that also contain high amounts of sugar and or sodium.
Those who regularly eat tomatoes have lower risks of lung, prostate and stomach cancers. Many of the common cancers can potentially be reduced through eating tomatoes regularly. One study showed that green tomatoes may help kill cervical cancer cells thanks to a compound called tomatine, which is found in both green and red tomatoes but more so in green tomatoes. Tomatine, however, is toxic in large quantities so do not over-consume green tomatoes.3,4,6,7
Studies are beginning to show that risks for breast, colon, gastric, prostate, and liver cancers can also be reduced through regularly eating tomatoes. The tomatoes with the highest levels of lycopene are Heirloom tomatoes as well as most organic tomatoes. Of all the varieties of tomatoes out there, the San Marzano tomato seems to contain more cancer fighters than any other variety of tomato.6
- Rissanen T, Voutilainen S, Nyyssönen K, Salonen J. Lycopene, atherosclerosis, and coronary heart disease. Experimental Biology And Medicine (Maywood, N.J.). November 2002;227(10):900-907.
- Shukla S, Gupta S, Ojha S, Sharma S. Cardiovascular friendly natural products: a promising approach in the management of CVD. Natural Product Research. May 2010;24(9):873-898.
- Wertz K. Lycopene effects contributing to prostate health. Nutrition And Cancer. November 2009;61(6):775-783.
- The Dr. Oz Show
- Levin C, Lee S, et al. Tomatine-containing green tomato extracts inhibit growth of human breast, colon, liver, and stomach cancer cells. Journal Of Agricultural And Food Chemistry. July 8, 2009;57(13):5727-5733.
- Fishman D, et al. Lycopene interferes with cell cycle progression and insulin-like growth factor I signaling in mammary cancer cells. Nutrition And Cancer. 2000;36(1):101-111.