August's Most Popular Harvest

July 28, 2011

tomatoes Mid-summer marks the beginning of the vine-ripened tomato harvest. Tomatoes are a year-round addition to menus, thanks to shipping  from different locations around the world, but for true tomato-lovers, there's nothing like a fresh, just-picked tomato from a local farm or garden. The good news is that in addition to being a culinary delight, tomatoes help fight disease. Their bright red color indicates that they are a rich source of lycopene, one of the most powerful antioxidents available through nutritional sources. In fact, tomatoes are so popular that Americans gain 25% of their lycopene intake from them! Researchers have found that high lycopene consumption almost always indicates tomato consumption in the American diet. No wonder there has been an amazing amount of research on tomatoes and our diets. Just a sampling:
  • In an analysis of 21 studies, researchers found that men who eat the greatest amount of raw tomatoes show an 11% decrease of risk for prostate cancer, while those who ate the most cooked tomatoes showed a 19% reduction in prostate cancer risk. Several smaller studies also show that eating tomatoes slows development of existing prostate cancer. Some studies indicate that tomatoes' protective effects against prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease are also come from the the presence of other phytonutrients found to be naturally present in tomatoes.
  • Animal research from Japan, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, suggests that a tomato-rich diet is an effective way to prevent heart attack and stroke.
  • Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that women who consume the most tomato products - including sauces -  have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Almost 40,000 middle-aged and older women completed food-frequency questionnaires over a seven year period. All participants were free of cardiovascular disease at the beginning of the study. Taking into consideration factors such as age, smoking, family history and other health factors, the researchers found that women who consumed seven to ten servings of tomato-based foods per week had a 32% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease than women who ate less than 1.5 servings each week.
  • In another study, 10 healthy women ate a diet containing two ounces of tomato puree each day for three weeks,  followed by a tomato-free diet for three weeks. Researchers measured blood levels of lycopene and evaluated oxidation damage to cells before and after each phase. Cell damage dropped by 33% to 42% after consuming the tomato diet!
  • A Tufts University study published an article in the Journal of Nutrition which showed that daily consumption of gazpacho significantly increased blood levels of vitamin C and decreased biomarkers. This study focused on gazpacho's effect on vitamin C levels, oxidation stress and inflammation in 12 healthy subjects. Within just 7 days, blood levels of vitamin C had increased 26% in the men and 25% in the women and remained elevated throughout the study. Great news for gazpacho lovers!
Tomatoes are a delicious addition to any menu, and they are loaded with vital nutrients that support a heart-healthy and cancer-preventing diet. For the biggest nutritional punch, eat them fresh out of the garden!

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