(Guest post by Karen Foster)
While eating an apple a day could keep the undertaker away, a cooked tomato may be the biggest source of a powerful antioxidant to prevent disease.
Eating tomatoes can help reduce the risk of cancer, osteoporosis  and cardiovascular disease. Not only that, but cooked tomatoes are actually better for you than raw ones.
U.S researchers found the juicy vegetable is the biggest source of powerful antioxidant dietary lycopene, and unlike other fruit and vegetables it has greater potency after it is cooked.
Lycopene is the red pigment in tomatoes and several fruits. According to the UT scientists, it is a potent carotenoid — a group of naturally occurring pigments essential for plant growth — with a high ability to quench singlet oxygen.
Due to this ability to decrease oxidative stress, lycopene has been associated with a decreased risk of chronic diseases. Lycopene in tomatoes can reduce heart disease by almost 30 percent  and the phytochemical is as powerful as many classes of drugs commonly prescribed for cardiovascular disease.
They could be an ‘effective alternative’ to dangerous statins, the class of drugs commonly prescribed for these conditions which can lead to heart problems, according to a study .
The researchers claims that to date, no intervention studies have been published demonstrating the effect of the antioxidant lycopene on bone, and that the aim of the study thus was to determine whether lycopene would act as an antioxidant to decrease oxidative stress parameters that result in decreased bone turnover markers.
Scientists at the National Centre of Food and Safety in Illinois said the nutrient contains protective mechanisms that help prevent inflammation and blood clots.
A strong link has already been established between the wonder veg and a lower risk of certain diseases such as prostate cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis.
Dr Britt Burton-Freeman and and Dr Kristin Reimers, who carried out the review, said: ‘Leveraging emerging science about tomatoes and tomato products may be one simple and effective strategy to help individuals increase vegetable intake, leading to improved overall eating patterns, and ultimately, better health.
‘Research underscores the relationship between consuming tomatoes and reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and other conditions.’
‘The evidence also suggests that consumption of tomatoes should be recommended because of the nutritional benefits and because it may be a simple and effective strategy for increasing overall intake.’
Tomatoes grown by organic methods contain more phenolic compounds than those grown using commercial standards , say researchers.
The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry recently reported that fruit flies given an apple extract live ten percent longer. The fruit flies also found it easier to walk, climb and move about as they aged.
Research shows that just two apples a day could help protect women against heart disease lowering blood fat levels by almost 25 percent , a claim unattainable by cardiovascular prescription medications.
Apple extract also cuts levels of various biochemicals found in older fruit flies and linked to age-related deterioration.
The researchers, from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, believe that the antioxidants in the extract mopped up free radicals — dangerous chemicals blamed for a host of ills, including aging.
A spokesman for the American Chemical Society said: ‘The results, obtained with fruit flies — stand-ins for humans in hundreds of research projects each year — bolster similar findings on apple antioxidants in other animal tests.’
“It was unlikely that the lifespan-prolonging activity of AP (apple polyphenols) in the fruit flies was associated with any changes in food intake as the gustatory assay found no difference in average body weight and stomach redness index between the control and AP fruit flies,” wrote the researchers.
They also found that polyphenols not only prolonged the average lifespan of fruit flies but also helped to preserve their ability to walk and climb.
Canadian scientists have found that the fruit is more effective than other “superfoods” including green tea and blueberries as a source of antioxidants and chemical compounds called flavonoids that combat potentially life-threatening conditions .
Scientists also found that apples significantly lowered blood fat levels in postmenopausal women, the group most at risk of heart attacks and strokes .
Chen and colleagues note that the results support those from other studies. They highlighted one study, by Sesso et al published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in which women who often ate apples had a 13-22 per cent decrease in the risk of heart disease.
In another study, researchers who quizzed thousands of women about their diets found that those who regularly ate apples were 20 per cent less likely to suffer heart attacks and strokes.
Just make sure to buy organically produced apples!
Karen Foster is a holistic nutritionist, avid blogger, with five kids and an active lifestyle that keeps her in pursuit of the healthiest path towards a life of balance.