A delicious Gazpacho soup is a great way to harvest the value of tomatoes!

The tomato is another wonderful gift of the Mayans. This gift from Central America has seized the attention of millions of health seekers for its incredible phyto-chemical properties.

The tomato is the fruit of the plant Lycopersicon esculentum, it’s scientific name. Botanically speaking, tomato is not only a fruit, but also a berry since it is formed from a single ovary. Originally, tomato was named after the food family to which it belongs – the Solanaceae, sometimes called “solanoid” or “nightshade” family which also includes chili peppers, potato, eggplant. The botanical name Solanum lycopersicum for tomatoes has now largely been replaced by the name Lycopersicon esculentum.

Lycopene, a flavonoid antioxidant, is a unique phytochemical present in the tomatoes.Did you know that tomatoes do not have to be a deep red color to be an outstanding source of lycopene? Lycopene is a carotenoid pigment that has long been associated with the deep red color of many tomatoes. A small preliminary study on healthy men and women has shown that the lycopene from orange- and tangerine-colored tomatoes may actually be better absorbed than the lycopene from red tomatoes. That’s because the lycopene in deep red tomatoes is mostly trans-lycopene, and the lycopene in orange/tangerine tomatoes is mostly tetra-cis-lycopene. In a recent study, this tetra-cis form of lycopene turned out to be more efficiently absorbed by the study participants. While more research is needed in this area, we’re encouraged to find that tomatoes may not have to be deep red in order for us to get great lycopene-related benefits.

Together with carotenoids, lycopene may help protect cells and other structures in the human body from harmful oxygen-free radicals. Studies have shown thatlycopene protects the skin from ultra-violet (UV) rays and thus offers some defence against skin cancer.

Bone Health

Tomatoes are widely known for their outstanding antioxidant content, including, of course, their oftentimes-rich concentration of lycopene. Researchers have recently found an important connection between lycopene, its antioxidant properties, and bone health.

A study was designed in which tomato and other dietary sources of lycopene were removed from the diets of postmenopausal women for a period of 4 weeks, to see what effect lycopene restriction would have on bone health. At the end of 4 weeks, women in the study started to show increased signs of oxidative stress in their bones and unwanted changes in their bone tissue.

Heart Health

Intake of tomatoes has long been linked to heart health. No body system has a greater need for antioxidant protection than the cardiovascular system. The heart and bloodstream are responsible for taking oxygen breathed in through the lungs and circulating it around throughout the body. In order to keep this oxygen in check, antioxidant nutrients are needed in an ample supply. Fresh tomatoes and tomato extracts have been shown to help lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. In addition, tomato extracts have been shown to help prevent unwanted clumping together (aggregation) of platelet cells in the blood – a factor that is especially important in lowering risk of heart problems like atherosclerosis. In a recent South American study of 26 vegetables, tomatoes and green beans came out best in their anti-aggregation properties.

The second line of research linking tomatoes with heart health involves regulation of fats in the blood. Dietary intake of tomatoes, consumption of tomato extracts, and supplementation with tomato phytonutrients (like lycopene) have all been shown to improve the profile of fats in our bloodstream. Specifically, tomato intake has been shown to result in decreased total cholesterol, decreased LDL cholesterol, and decreased triglyceride levels. It’s also been shown to decrease accumulation of cholesterol molecules inside of macrophage cells.

Two little-known phytonutrients—one called esculeoside A and the other called 9-oxo-octadecadienoic acid—are currently under active investigation by researchers as tomato phytonutrients especially important in blood fat regulation.

Anti-Cancer Benefits

While not well researched for all cancer types, tomatoes have repeatedly been show to provide us with anti-cancer benefits. The track record for tomatoes as a cancer-protective food should not be surprising, since there is a very large amount of research on tomato antioxidants and a more limited but still important amount of research on tomato anti-inflammatory nutrients. Risk for many cancer types starts out with chronic oxidative stress and chronic unwanted inflammation. For this reason, foods that provide us with strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support are often foods that show cancer prevention properties.

Prostate cancer is by far the best-researched type of cancer in relationship to tomato intake. The jury verdict here is clear: tomatoes can definitely help lower risk of prostate cancer in men. One key tomato nutrient that has received special focus in prostate cancer prevention is alpha-tomatine. Alpha-tomatine is a saponin phytonutrient and its shown the ability to alter metabolic activity in developing prostate cancer cells. It’s also been shown to trigger programmed cell death (apoptosis) in prostate cancer cells that have already been fully formed. Research on alpha-tomatine has also been conducted for non-small cell lung cancer, with similar findings.

Along with prostate cancer and non-small cell lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and breast cancer are the two best-studied areas involving tomatoes and cancer risk. Research on tomatoes and breast cancer risk has largely focused on the carotenoid lycopene, and there is fairly well documented risk reduction for breast cancer in association with lycopene intake.

Other Health Benefits

Diets that include tomatoes have been linked with reduced risk of some neurological diseases (including Alzheimer’s disease) in multiple studies. Tomato-containing diets have also been linked in a few studies with reduced risk of obesity. Zea-xanthin is another flavonoid compound present abundantly in tomatoes. Zea-xanthin helps protect eyes from “age-related macular related macular disease” (ARMD) by filtering harmful ultra-violet rays.

Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum), raw,
Nutrition value per 100 g.
(Source: USDA National Nutrient database)
Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 18 Kcal 1%
Carbohydrates 3.9 g 3%
Protein 0.9 g 1.6%
Total Fat 0.2 g 0.7%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 1.2 g 3%
Vitamins    
Folates 15 µg 4%
Niacin 0.594 mg 4%
Pyridoxine 0.080 mg 6%
Thiamin 0.037 mg 3%
Vitamin A 833 IU 28%
Vitamin C 13 mg 21.5%
Vitamin E 0.54 mg 4%
Vitamin K 7.9 µg 6.5%
Electrolytes    
Sodium 5 mg >1%
Potassium 237 mg 5%
Minerals    
Calcium 10 mg 1%
Iron 0.3 mg 4%
Magnesium 11 mg 3%
Manganese 0.15 mg 6.5%
Phosphorus 24 mg 3%
Zinc 0.17 mg 1.5%
Phyto-nutrients    
Carotene-ß 449 µg
Carotene-α 101 µg
Lutein-zeaxanthin 123 µg
Lycopene 2573 µg

Gazpacho a cool treat on a hot day!

Ingredients:

3 large ripe tomatoes chopped

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

½ cup green pepper chopped

1 ½ cups Tomato or V 8 juice

½ cup red onion chopped

½ – 1 small jalapeno

1 medium garlic clove

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

½ of lemon juiced

½ tsp sea salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper

Place the chopped tomatoes, cucumber and green pepper into a large mixing bowl. Put the rest of ingredients (tomato juice, red onion, jalapeno, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice salt and pepper) into blender and add half of the mixing bowl contents, puree for 15 seconds and return to mixing bowl contents, stir to combine. Cover and chill for 2 hours or overnight. Makes 8-10 servings.  Top with homemade croutons.

Homemade croutons

4 slices of wholegrain bread buttered on both sides with Ghee

Cut bread into 1 inch cubes and pan fry on medium heat to crispy on outside.

Garnish soup with croutons.

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