The Power Of A Tomato

The tomato is the world’s most popular fruit. And yes, it is a fruit, not a vegetable. More than 60 million tons of tomatoes are produced per year, 16 million tons more than the second most popular fruit, the banana. Apples are the third most popular (36 million tons), then oranges (34 million tons) and watermelons (22 million tons).  Explorers returning from the new world introduced the tomato to Europe, where it was first mentioned in 1556. The French called it “the apple of love,” and the Germans called it “the apple of paradise.” Tomatoes are rich in vitamins A and C and fiber, and are cholesterol free. An average size tomato (148 gram, or 5 oz) boasts only 35 calories.

Furthermore, new medical research suggests that the consumption of lycopene – the stuff that makes tomatoes red – may prevent cancer. Lycopene is part of the family of pigments called carotenoids, which are natural compounds that create the colors of fruits and vegetables. For example, beta carotene is the orange pigment in carrots. As with essential amino acids, carotenoids are not produced by the human body. Lycopene is the most powerful antioxidant in the carotenoid family and, with vitamins C and E, protects us from the free radicals that degrade many parts of our body.

The tomato is a cousin of the eggplant, red pepper, ground cherry, potato, and the highly toxic belladonna, also known as the nightshade or solanaccae. There are more than 10,000 varieties of tomatoes.  Tomatoes are used in many food products, including, of course, tomato sauce (ketchup), pasta and pizza.  Cooked tomatoes have higher concentrations of lycopene.  Don’t store ripe tomatoes in the fridge as old temperatures lessen the flavor.

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