Tomatoes are a constant in our diet, whether you relish them fresh on burgers, in tomato soup along with the grilled cheese, or on pasta. More than that, tomatoes are a rich source of the antioxidant lycopene, which lends vine-ripened tomatoes—the real thing—such vibrant red color.
Antioxidants attack free radicals, those rascally atoms that bang about in the body and actually destroy the integrity of healthy cells. And so are implicated in the onset of heart disease and cancer. A diet rich in lycopene (and its cousins vitamin A and beta-carotene, vitamins C, E, and zinc) protects against this deadly battering.
Weirdly, it’s a Guy Thing
As an aside to men and the women who care about them, the body produces zip lycopene by itself. But a large percentage of the lycopene men consume comes to rest in the prostate gland. A sensitive subject, yes. But listen to this: About 10 servings a week—a serving equals one-half cup of spaghetti sauce, a medium tomato, one slice of pizza—reduces the rate of prostate cancer by a whopping 45%. Lycopene then goes on to quiet a cancer process already underway. Studies are showing reduced risk in colon, rectal and breast cancer as well. That’s a lot of grief averted by a simple salad.
The Rx: eat more tomatoes. Eat tomatoes raw with a little pepper, in salsa, ketchup (watch the fries), and cooked tomato products. And surprise, a little fat alongside seems to help the body absorb lycopene.
Think of it as the pizza prescription.