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Tomato - Information as a power Food

Information as a power Food

Tomato as power food

A gardener's favorite for years, the tomato is hogging the spotlight as a nutrition star as well.

With 35 calories, a medium tomato provides 50 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C and 20 percent of vitamin A, says Jennifer paul, a registered dietitian at St. Luke Hospital East in Fort Thomas.

More importantly, tomatoes are great sources of the antioxidant lycopene - the carotenoid that gives tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelons and guava their red tones. Research has shown lycopene from tomatoes could help reduce the risk of several diseases.

Antioxidants like lycopene - and its cousin beta carotene, also found in tomatoes - help prevent oxidative cell damage, which could explain their disease-fighting role.

Among lycopene's benefits:

One study showed men who ate 10 or more servings of tomato products weekly had lower rates of prostate cancer.

Use of lycopene by pregnant women appeared to reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia (dangerously high blood pressure) and inadequate growth of the fetus in another study.

Other studies suggest lycopene might be helpful in treating male infertility and preventing heart disease and exercise-induced asthma.

Cooking sometimes destroys nutrients in fruits and vegetables, but not lycopene. In fact, research shows lycopene is more usable in processed, cooked tomato products like ketchup and spaghetti sauce, paul says.

SHE'S A MAJOR BABE who watches what she eats, so you invite her to your place for dinner. It's "nothing fancy": grilled salmon and tomatoes, a three-bean salad, and berries topped with chopped nuts. As she sips her iced tea, you mention that the menu was designed to be health-enhancing so the two of you can enjoy long, robust lives. You don't add "together," but she smiles at the implication. "Tell me more," she purrs, placing a juicy strawberry between her pursed lips.

What a time to go blank on the details of preventive nutrition! Fortunately, MEN'S FITNESS is here to save your day, your night and, oh yeah, maybe your life, with our exclusive longevity guide.

SEX HELpERS: TOMATOES ON TOp

We can't say it enough: Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which helps prevent prostate cancer (the treatment of which is a major cause of impotence). Harvard researchers discovered the power of lycopene in a six-year study of 48,000 men. Compared to those who remained cancer-free, the subjects who developed cancer had a low intake of tomato products. The Harvard scientists confirmed that association in a follow-up investigation published last year.

What's surprising about lycopene is that tomato products provide more of it than the fresh vegetable. "Cooking enhances lycopene absorption," says Susan Moores, R.D., a Minneapolis nutritionist and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "I'm all for tomatoes in salads, but if you want lycopene, go with tomato sauce or juice."

Supplements are now available, but they're considered the lesser choice. "Nutrients work best in food," says Leslie Bonci, R.D., director of sports nutrition at the University of pittsburgh Medical Center. "Lycopene is just one of dozens of nutrients in the vitamin A family found in tomatoes. You're much better off eating tomato foods than taking supplements with isolated lycopene."

All tomato foods, however, are not created equal. Those headlines declaring that pizza and ketchup prevent cancer are "a stretch," says Jeff Hampl, ph.D., R.D., an assistant professor of nutrition at Arizona State University in Mesa. "pizza is loaded with cheese and fatty meats that increase the risk of prostate cancer, and would probably negate any benefit of the tomato sauce. As for ketchup, most people put it on things like hamburgers and french fries, which are full of saturated fat, so again that little bit probably doesn't do much good."

LYCOpENE IN TOMATO pRODUCTS Tomato sauce (1/2 cup) 23 mg Tomato juice (6 oz.) 18 mg Tomato soup (8 oz.) 12 mg Canned tomatoes (1/2 cup) 11 mg Tomato paste (2 tbsp) 10 mg Ketchup (2 tbsp) 6 mg Fresh tomato (1 medium) 4 mg Salsa (2 tbsp) 3 mg

INFLAMMATION FIGHTERS: DRILliNG FOR OliVE OIL

Vegetable oils, which contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, are high in calories, so don't douse your foods in them. "But when used modestly," Bonci says, "vegetable fats, notably olive oil, offer many health benefits."

* Olive oil lessens the risk of heart disease. This became apparent during studies of the Mediterranean diet, which is high in olive oil but low in saturated fat. Testing a group of men in their 20s, Danish researchers found that those who consumed olive oil were significantly less likely to form blood clots that trigger heart attack.

* In addition, olive oil helps reduce blood pressure, another risk factor for heart disease and stroke. In an Italian study, people taking hypertension medication were able to lower their dosages when they increased their consumption of olive oil.

* If you substitute olive oil for other fats, you'll double your reward. "You not only get the benefits of olive oil itself," Bonci explains, "but you consume less butter, which contains saturated fat, and less margarine, which contains trans fatty acids that are as bad for health as saturated fat."

* Olive oil offers an extra benefit to the active man. "The saturated fat in meats spurs inflammation, which can aggravate sprains and tendinitis," Hampl says. "The monounsaturated fat in olive oil is anti-inflammatory. When olive oil is a regular part of your diet, inflammation may be less of a problem."

HEART SAVERS: GO FISHING

Scientists were surprised to discover that the Inuit have a low rate of heart disease--even though their diet is very high in fat. The catch is that most of that fat is fish oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids. "Omega-3s are anticoagulant," Bonci notes. "They help prevent heart attacks and strokes."

As even one portion of fish per month helps protect your heart, your risk of heart attack decreases as fish consumption increases. In one 30-year study, men who ate fish frequently had 38 percent less risk of dying from heart attack than those who passed on anything piscine. Another three-decade investigation found that men who ate fish regularly had half the risk of contracting prostate cancer compared to nonpartakers. Other studies show that fish helps prevent eczema, ulcerative colitis, and even manic depression. "That makes sense," Bonci explains, "because compounds in fish oil are also components of the neurotransmitters that affect mood."

The American Heart Association recommends eating seven grams of fish oil a week, the amount found in nine ounces of salmon. Other fish also contain significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. If you're worried about mercury contamination, you can reduce your risk by eating farm-raised fish, says Moores.

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS IN FISH (pER FOUR-OUNCE SERVING) pacific herring 2.4 grams Atlantic herring 2.3 pacific mackerel 2.1 Atlantic salmon 2.1 Sablefish 2.0 Canned salmon 1.9 Whitefish 1.9 pacific oysters 1.6 Atlantic mackerel 1.4 Coho salmon 1.2 Trout 1.1 Eastern oysters 1.0 Swordfish 0.9 Canned tuna 0.8 Canned sardines 0.7 Flounder or sole 0.6 Shrimp 0.5 Snapper 0.4

LONGEVITY ALliES: pLUM CRAZY

Which foods are best for health A mountain of research shows that fruits and vegetables are the richest sources of antioxidant nutrients, notably vitamins A, C and E and the mineral selenium. Antioxidants help prevent oxidative cell damage, which is the underlying cause of heart disease, stroke, many cancers and other degenerative conditions such as cataracts.
Which are the best of the best Brace yourself: prunes. "Now they're called 'dried plums,'" Bonci explains. "prunes' were too closely associated with the elderly and constipation." Whatever you call them, those wrinkly purple things have double the amount of antioxidants as the next food on the list, which is raisins (or should that be dried grapes).

prunes and raisins rate so high because they contain less water, so they're more concentrated nutritionally. But it doesn't matter how you get your dark-colored fruits, says Moores: "Fresh, frozen, canned or dried, they're all loaded with antioxidants. I wouldn't go overboard on things like blue-berry pie because it contains so much sugar and fat. But for breakfast, sprinkle some raisins on your cereal. And it's hard to think of a better snack than raisins, dried plums, or any of the dark-colored fruits."

Incidentally, the antioxidant content of red grapes helps explain why red wine reduces risk of heart disease better than white wine, beer or liquor.

ANTIOXIDANT CONTENT OF SELECTED FOODS The figures indicate "oxygen radical absorption capacity" units, the number of harmful molecules causing oxidative damage that can be rendered harmless by 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of each food, according to the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center in Boston. prunes 5,770 ORAC units Raisins 2,830 Blueberries 2,400 Blackberries 2,036 Kale 1,770 Strawberries 1,540 Spinach 1,260 Raspberries 1,220 Brussels sprouts 980 plums 949 Alfalfa sprouts 930 Broccoli tops 890 Beets 840 Oranges 750 Red grapes 739 Red bell peppers 710 Cherries 670 Onion 450 Corn 400 Eggplant 390

CHolESTERol FIGHTERS: HEALTH NUTS

A generation ago, nuts were considered sinfully high in fat and calories. Today, they've become a health food. "Nuts are high in fat," Hampl acknowledges, "but it's mono- and polyunsaturated fat that's good for the heart."

* Nuts reduce cholesterol and help prevent heart-rhythm abnormalities. Harvard researchers followed 21,000 men for an average of 17 years. Compared to those who rarely ate nuts, men who consumed nuts twice a week or more had 30 percent less risk of death from heart disease.

* Nuts are also a tasty source of protein, vitamin E, zinc, B vitamins and magnesium.

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