It is always gratifying to learn that something we love to eat is actually good for us. Tomatoes are one of the basic foods of Western cuisine and we love them in all shapes and forms. With juicy tomatoes, it is easy to cover our basic requirements for vegetables even if you do not like vegetables in general. Scientists now discovered that tomatoes are also great for our brains, reducing our risk of stroke.
Lycopene and brain
A group of Finnish scientists from the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio tested the lycopene level in the blood of about 1,000 men between 46 to 65, and followed them for ten years. They found that men with consistently high levels of lycopene had 55 percents less likelihood of suffering from stroke than those with low lycopene level. While it is very probable that there are other factors that played a role in such significant findings, the effect of lycopene was significant enough to merit further study.
In fact, any diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is great for general health and particularly for preventing stroke, but adding an extra dose of tomatoes cannot hurt.
Lycopene is the element that makes tomatoes and other vegetables have such a vivid color. It is a powerful antioxidant, and acts like a sponge scooping up free radicals. Free radicals are damaging to all types of cells, but they are particularly dangerous for blood vessels, in which they boost formation of fatty deposits, which can form blockages. Such blockages in blood vessels in brain cause stroke. Lycopene also protect the skin from damaging ultraviolet rays and protects eyes from macular disease.
What else is in tomatoes?
It is usually said ‘an apple a day keeps doctor away’, but it could just as easily be said for tomatoes. Low calorie and low in sodium, tomatoes are very rich in vitamins A, C, B-complex (folates, niacin, thiamin and riboflavin). They are also full of essential minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium and manganese.
Lycopene is not the only antioxidant in tomatoes. They also contain flavonoid anti-oxidants alpha and beta-carotenes, lutein and xanthins.
Interestingly, to get the most of tomatoes, you should cook them. It is one of the few vegetables that is more useful cooked than fresh. So, enjoy your pasta and pizza sauce, tomato soup, lasagna and anything else you can think of, as long as it is red and full of tomatoes. Try making your own tomato sauce to avoid having all those preservatives usually found in canned varieties.