How Tomatoes Can Help Fight Cancer

How Tomatoes Can Help Fight Cancer

Whether it’s a thick juicy slice of beefsteak tomato, a puree into luscious pasta sauce, spicy salsa, or as an extract in your green drink, tomatoes and tomato extract lower heart disease risks by decrease atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries of your heart, brain and legs. And if that’s not enough, here’s another good reason to love your tomato; this magical fruit (it’s not a vegetable) also decreases cancer risk.

One report reveals that lycopene -- the powerful carotenoid that gives tomatoes their fiery hue and disease-fighting prowess -- also boosts levels of an important cancer-quelching hormone called adiponectin. Like a Swiss Army Knife, lycopene does it all -- helps you maintain healthy blood sugar, burn fat, cool inflammation, it discourages cancer cell growth, and throws up roadblocks when tumors try to grow their own arteries. Adiponectin even encourages cancer cells to die.

Related: How to Get the Most out of Your Tomatoes

In the study, women who got 25 milligrams of lycopene a day from tomato products (equivalent to a half-cup of your favorite sauce) boosted levels of adiponectin by 9 percent -- reducing their breast cancer risk. Higher “A” levels are also linked to lower risk for diabetes and heart disease.

Along with boosting adiponectin, lycopene has been associated with reducing risk for prostate, lungs and stomach cancer, reducing LDL (lousy) cholesterol levels while helping to control blood pressure.

So we think this message -- EAT MORE LYCOPENE! -- is for everyone.

Here are six delicious ways to get more into your daily diet:

  1. Go Italian -- and beyond. The human body absorbs the most lycopene from cooked tomato products eaten with a smidge of healthy fat -- like the olive oil in tomato sauce. You’ll get 25 milligrams of lycopene from a half-cup of tomato puree or tomato sauce. Top off your whole-wheat pasta with tomato marinara, dunk whole-grain bread in tomato sauce, but don’t stop there. Ladle sauce over black or red beans, spaghetti squash, or your favorite veggies, too.
  2. Sip soup or juice. A cup of tomato soup or vegetable juice cocktail also delivers your lycopene quota. Choose reduced or low-sodium varieties. (Read those labels when shopping for sauce and puree!)
  3. Treat yourself to pink fruit. Enjoy a slice of juicy watermelon (13 milligrams) or half of a pink grapefruit (1.7 milligrams). 
  4. Choose red toppings. Add five chopped, sundried tomatoes (5 milligrams) to your salad topping. Upgrade your veggie burger with 2 tablespoons of chili sauce (6.7 milligrams) or catsup (5 milligrams), dunk steamed shrimp in cocktail sauce (5.9 milligrams in two tablespoons), add a big dollop of salsa to your burrito (4.8 milligrams in 3 tablespoons).
  5. Munch a tomato. A whole, fresh tomato has 5 milligrams of lycopene. That number jumps to 7.5 if you cook it for five minutes, even higher the longer it simmers.
  6. Put tomato in your green drink. Tomato extract takes the essences of the tomato and lets you add it to drinks or healthy smoothies you prepare.  Read the label to insure your getting a real tomato extract.

Related: Drink Your Greens in this Smoothie

4 More Ways to Boost Adiponectin
Remember that healthy “A” hormone, adiponectin, that is increased by lycopene?

Your body boosts available levels when you do these things:

  1. Move your muscles. Muscle cells make adiponectin when you use ’em. A brisk, daily walk plus strength-training exercises twice a week can accentuate your “A levels” significantly.
  2. Find fiber.  For optimal adiponectin levels, aim for at least 27 grams of fiber daily. (Two to three servings of whole grains plus five to seven servings of produce.) People who hit that fiber quotient have adiponectin levels 24% higher than those who get less than 17 grams of fiber a day.
  3. Nibble nuts. Crunching a small handful five days a week could boost your adiponectin levels 12 percent. See if your home town made our top 10 nuttiest cities in the U.S.
  4. Stop sugar. Sugary drinks and added sugars and syrups can reduce levels of adiponectin. Having fruit and fiber–four servings a day--can do the opposite and raise your “A” about 10 percent.

Medically reviewed in December 2018.

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