The tomato – one of the most common vegetables around the world, used in gastronomy for centuries, might, in fact, be hiding some deeper secrets. Spanish scientists are exploring claims that it could actually reduce the chance of developing cancer.
Tomatoes are known to be rich in minerals, vitamins and a great source of micronutrients, but scientists are investigating other possible health benefits. A study put together by researchers at Universitat Politècnica de València suggests that antioxidants in the plant affect digestion and help protect cells from damage.
Lycopene, the carotene which gives the fruit that bright red color, is thought to have antitumor properties. Surprisingly, it was found that when cooked, and especially if concentrated (like in sauces or ketchup) lycopene was easier absorbed by the system, compared to raw. As cooking helped preserve the compound, the probiotic effect that it had on the intestinal flora was higher.
The team also measured levels of actobacillus reuteri, a naturally occurring bacteria that promotes a healthy gut. Even though it prevented the absorption of some antioxidants, the bacterial effect was improved.
Further tests involving tomato extracts displayed some positive responses on gastric cancer, managing to slow down the ability of tumor cells to spread and develop, as well as leading to their death.
While some focused only on lycopene, Daniela Barone, a cancer specialist and co-author of the paper said that the effect “seem not related to specific components, such as lycopene, but rather suggest that tomatoes should be considered in their entirety”.
Most people are aware that using natural and organic ingredients supports wellbeing, but knowing how to best make use of them can lead to a longer and healthier life.