Hello and welcome to today’s installment of Cooking with Fey! On this breezy fall Friday we are going to exploring a fruit from the nightshade family that is commonly lumped in with vegetables, the tasty tomato.
Tomatoes are a native to South America that have health benefits to add to your diet such as: reducing free radicals in the body, battling certain cancers and assisting with the management of heart conditions or anemia.
Tomatoes are also an excellent source of:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene
- Antioxidants such as Lycopene and Zeaxanthin
Vitamin C, which is an important nutrient linked to immune system health. Having a strong immune system helps the body ward off illness or recover faster from sickness. Vitamin C is also great for the heart. In a research study published by the Harvard School of Public Health, the diets of 126,399 adults were examined over the course of many years to reveal that for every serving of fruits and vegetables a person consumed, there was a 4% reduction in their risk of developing coronary heart disease. Vitamin C also increases iron absorption in the body, so if you suffer from an iron deficiency or anemia, then tomatoes might be the answer you’ve been looking for.
Meanwhile, potassium helps the body maintain a normal blood pressure and nerve function. This means that tomatoes can help the nervous system regulate muscle movements more effectively.
While folate, which is one of the B-vitamins, is important for tissue growth and normal cell function. Further, folate is especially important for pregnant women and our active aging populations.
Vitamin K is important to the body because it is needed for the body to product a protein called prothrombin, which allows the body to support bone metabolism and form helpful blood clots (like when you get a papercut and the blood clots to stop the bleeding, not the scary kind of blood clot). Vitamin K creates healthy, strong bones by increasing their density. Denser bones are less likely to break or sustain injury.
Vitamin A is necessary for human growth and development, cell recognition, sight, proper immune system function, sexual reproduction, as well as helping the heart, lungs, and kidneys to function normally. While Vitamin A sounds like a miracle, be careful how much you take. If you ingest too much it can be harmful to the body. Most doctors recommend that adult men consume 900 mcg per day, and women take 700 mcg per day to stay within healthy levels.
And if you’ve ever seen a red or orange fruit or vegetable, chances are that it contains Beta-carotene. This antioxidant is used by the body to create Vitamin A, which as we discussed in the previous paragraph, can help the body see better, support a healthy immune system, and protect our heart, lungs and kidneys.
As you may know, tomatoes contain a fantastic source of antioxidants to fight off free radicals in the body. As you may remember from a previous blog on strawberries, antioxidants have been shown in studies to delay cognitive issues like memory less, fight some cancers and decrease your chances of developing heart disease or diabetes.
Lycopene is one such antioxidant that is found in cell membranes. This antioxidant helps maintain cell integrity when it is under assault by toxins or free radicals. Some scientific research has discovered that lycopene could be useful in lowering the risk of prostate cancer in men.
Zeaxanthin is an important antioxidant for our eyes. Researchers from Nutrition & Metabolism found that Zeaxanthin increases the optical density of several macular pigments, meaning it protects our eyes against the development of macular degeneration. Scientists from Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science made similar discoveries in their research of Zeaxanthin.
These same antioxidants also keep our skin looking young and beautiful. Science is starting to show that consuming antioxidants can help slow the onset of wrinkles, age spots or decreased elasticity in our skin.
So go ahead, grab a handful of tomatoes and enjoy the benefits this amazing food has to offer!
- Institute of Medicine. Dietary reference intakes for vitamin A, vitamin K, arsenic, boron, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, vanadium, and zinc. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2001.
- Suttie JW. Vitamin K. In: Coates PM, Betz JM, Blackman MR, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. 2nd ed. London and New York: Informa Healthcare; 2010:851-60.