The tomato is a fruit that acts like a vegetable and is packed with nutrients and health benefits.  It is versatile and can be eaten raw or cooked, offering even more nutritional value when cooked because of the higher concentration of lycopene, a potent antioxidant carotenoid.  Besides lycopene, tomatoes are high in vitamin C, vitamin A, Potassium, vitamin K, and folate.  The benefits of eating tomatoes include:

Heart Health

The lycopene in tomatoes, which is what makes them red, also helps control blood pressure, prevent atherosclerosis, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides while raising HDL (good) cholesterol.  Their potassium also works to control blood pressure by balancing sodium levels.

Cancer Protection

Studies have shown that lycopene helps prevent prostate, ovarian, lung, and stomach cancers.  The vitamins C, A, and E in tomatoes are also effective in fighting free radicals in the blood which can lead to cancer.

Good for your Eyes

Tomatoes contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin which, along with lycopene, help protect your eyes against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts, as well as improving your night vision.  Note:  if you eat tomatoes along with healthy fats like avocado or olive oil, you body’s absorption of the powerful antioxidants is increased by two to fifteen times.

Managing Diabetes

Tomatoes reduce the oxidative stress, inflammation, atherosclerosis, and tissue damage that are caused by diabetes, and which increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Protecting your Skin

Lycopene reduces damage to the skin from the sun’s UV rays.

Digestive Health

Tomatoes offer both fluid and fiber to help keep you regular and prevent constipation.

Enjoy tomatoes in salads, pizza or pasta sauces, stuffed, roasted, stewed, marinated or added to countless dishes.  Remember that when they are cooked you have a higher concentration of lycopene, and the antioxidants are absorbed better when the tomatoes are eaten with healthy fats.  Plus, you can tell your kids (or the kid in you) that they’re not even vegetables because they’re actually fruits!

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