Why tomatoes?

Some of the main health benefits of tomatoes, as reported by Dr. Servan-Schreiber in his book, Anti-Cancer, page 122, are:

  • Lycopene in tomatoes leads to longer survival from prostate cancer in men and who consume tomato sauce for at least two meals a week.
  • Lycopene and other carotenoids found in tomatoes stimulate the growth of immune cells and increase their ability to attack cancer cells.
  • A study of breast cancer patients showed that those who consumed the most foods rich in carotenoids lived longer than those who consumed less (over a six year period).

Give your body the benefit of the lycopene you consume

It’s wonderful that the luscious tomato is so rich in the potent anti-cancer phytochemical lycopene. But whether YOUR BODY actually GETS the lycopene from the tomatoes in YOUR FOOD depends on how well your body absorbs the lycopene in the particular food or foods you eat.

And the absorption of lycopene depends on a number of factors:

  • “Tomatoes must be cooked in order to release their lycopene.” (Anti-Cancer, page 122)
  • “Moreover, olive oil improves their assimilation.” (Anti-Cancer, page 122)

So pasta sauce made with cooked tomatoes and olive oil gives you more lycopene that your body can absorb than a glass of gazpacho made with the same quantity of raw tomatoes and no oil.

Cooking a nice big pot of Monamifood's Roasted Tomato and Roasted Garlic Soup

Sun-dried tomatoes

What about sun-dried tomatoes? Are they absorbed as well as cooked tomatoes?

The research I can get my hands on doesn’t clearly answer this question…but I think we can draw our own conclusion from some bits and pieces of information that I could find.

First, it takes 20 pounds of fresh tomatoes to make one pound of sun-dried tomatoes!
So naturally there’s 20 times more lycopene in sun-dried tomatoes than in fresh tomatoes.

How many pounds of fresh tomatoes does it take to make one pound of cooked tomatoes? According to Colorado State University researchers:  “Approximately 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds of fresh tomatoes makes 1 quart of canned tomatoes” – which is roughly 2 pounds of canned tomatoes.

OK, then let’s make this simpler and say that 3 pounds of fresh tomatoes makes 2 pounds of canned tomatoes. So, there must be about 1 ½ times more lycopene in the canned tomatoes than in the fresh tomatoes (3 divided by 2 = 1.5).

And since canned tomatoes are flash-cooked, let’s assume that cooked tomatoes also have 1.5 times more lycopene than fresh tomatoes.

One and half times more lycopene in canned or cooked vs. raw tomatoes is good, BUT 20 times more lycopene in sun-dried vs. raw tomatoes is even better. Or said another way, sun-dried tomatoes are 13 times richer (20 divided by 1.5 = approx. 13) in lycopene than canned/cooked tomatoes. And that’s a good thing, wouldn’t you say?

Now…let’s think about this. Because there is SO MUCH MORE lycopene in sun-dried than in cooked or canned tomatoes, even IF lycopene is not as well absorbed from sun-dried as from cooked or canned tomatoes, that’s probably not an issue. After all, you start out with 13 times more lycopene in sun-dried vs. canned/cooked tomatoes!

And…sun-dried tomatoes – preserved in olive oil — are so incredibly delicious! So I happily include sun-dried tomatoes in my own anti-cancer diet.

More good information about tomatoes, tomato products, and the packages they come in, as relates to cancer from Eat to Beat Cancer.

Enjoy and be healthy,

~Leni

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