Generally speaking, the less cooked a vegetable (or in this case, a berry), the better. Raw is almost always preferable to cooked for retaining nutritional value. When it comes to the tomato, however, the cholesterol-fighting antioxidant lycopene, is more readily absorbed by the body after the heating process.
Statins are a class of drug (e.g., Lipitor) that is prescribed to manage LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. They work by blocking the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase—which is produced by the liver—thereby preventing the natural creation of this type of cholesterol. LDL has been labelled “bad” because it is known to contribute to heart disease.
The thing about this is: why would the body normally create something that will kill us, necessitating the creation of a manufactured chemical to prevent it? It’s all about balance.
A healthful lifestyle that includes eating organic fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats and strictly limited (or no) processed foods combined with regular exercise and positive social interaction keeps everything working right—without pharmaceuticals.
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Works Just As Well as Pharmaceutical Drugs
That being said, a new study shows that lycopene in tomatoes works as well (and since it is sourced from a whole food, better!) than statins in regulating LDL, resulting in lower risk of stroke.
Other studies show lycopene reduces the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, inflammation, eye disease, and male infertility as well—clear arteries allow proper blood flow to all parts of the body.
Lycopene is a carotenoid—the pigment that makes a food yellow, red, or orange—and can be found in other fruits and vegetables like watermelon, papaya, guava, and pink grapefruit.
The body doesn’t convert lycopene to vitamin A as it does with other carotenoids like beta-caroteine. While lycopene is recommended for everyone—and especially for people at risk for stroke and heart disease—a supplement isn’t the best source, says researcher and Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health Dr. Edward Giovannucci:
“Supplements may give you a purified form of lycopene, but you’re not sure you’re getting what you get from food. You may be getting the wrong form of lycopene in a supplement. There are also a lot of compounds in food that aren’t lycopene but that are similar, and some of those molecules may be part of what makes lycopene so beneficial.”
In addition to its effects on cholesterol, lycopene has qualities that protect your skin from ultraviolet rays from the sun.
Another Great Source of Lycopene.
Watermelon is also a great source of lycopene—yet another reason to love this summer fruit.
A source of vitamins A, B6, C, and thiamine, and fat-free, you can get the same bioavailable lycopene from this scrumptious raw fruit as you do from cooked tomatoes.
If you buy cooked tomatoes, make sure they come in a glass jar rather than a metal can; the acid in the tomatoes can cause the metal to leach. Keep in mind that processed foods, even the organic ones, will have other ingredients like salt and sugar.
Top lycopene-containing foods
|Food||Micrograms of Lycopene|
|½ cup canned tomato puree||27,192|
|1 cup canned tomato juice||21,960|
|1 wedge of raw watermelon||12,962|
|½ cup ready-to-serve marinara sauce||6,686|
|1 tablespoon canned tomato paste||3,140|
|1 tablespoon catsup||2,506|
|½ pink or red grapefruit||1,745|
|1 tablespoon salsa||1,682|
|One sun-dried tomato||918|
|One slice of raw tomato||515|
|One cherry tomato||437|