You know that rhyme every kid learns: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Make that a tomato a day — it may be even better at keeping health problems away. Although tomatoes have gotten a bit of rotten press lately, as their role in reducing the risk of prostate cancer has hit the “lack of evidence” skids, there’s still abundant reason to overindulge. Tomatoes are stellar sources of vitamins A and C, folate, potassium, fiber, and all kinds of protective antioxidants. And organic tomatoes are even better — when they’re grown without chemicals, tomatoes contain much higher amounts of flavonoids, which have antioxidant, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. Here: 5 healthy reasons to add tomatoes to breakfast omelets, lunch sandwiches, and dinner sauces and salads.
1. Lower your blood pressure. Try snacking on cherry tomatoes while driving the carpool or prepping for your Toastmasters speech. These fruits (yes, tomatoes are fruits, not veggies) may keep your blood pressure in check. In just 8 weeks, people with mild hypertension who got a daily “dose” of tomatoes saw their systolic blood pressure (the top number) drop a whopping 10 points on average and their diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by 4 points.
2. Avoid colds and flu. When men who are deficient in carotenoids (like lycopene and beta-carotene) drink tomato juice regularly, they bump up their bodies’ ability to fend off bacteria and viruses. However, the immunity-boosting effects take a while to kick in. So if you start upping your T-juice intake today, you may stay a step ahead of sore throats and colds tomorrow.
3. Save your skin. Who knew this thin-skinned fruit would make a terrific natural sunscreen? But people who include lycopene-rich tomato paste in their diets for at least 10 weeks get much less intense sunburns when they’re exposed to UV light — another reason to enjoy all those tomato-sauced dishes that are staples of Mediterranean diets.
4. Control cholesterol. A tomato a day may keep artery and heart problems at bay. Four weeks of daily tomato munching can increase good HDL cholesterol by 15 percent while lowering bad, artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.
5. Fight aging. Tomatoes are rich in two spectacular anti-aging, free-radical squelchers: lycopene and beta-carotene. In some cells, these antioxidants reduce free radical damage to DNA by 42 percent. Both youth-protecting nutrients are enhanced when tomatoes are heated and/or eaten with a little fat, like olive oil. These two yummy recipes fit the bill: Grilled Pizza with Pesto, Tomatoes and Feta and Fresh Pomodoro Pasta, White Beans & Olives (both are from Eating Well).
All of these tomato-triggered benefits can reduce your RealAge — how old you are physically, not according to the calendar. But blood pressure is a particular biggie. Keep it low (115/76 or less) and you can make your RealAge as much as 12 years younger!
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