Ok, so the expression ‘a tomato a day keeps the heart doctor away’ is a slight change to the usual saying involving the word apple, but it actually has a lot of truth, especially when it comes to heart health. Tomatoes contain a variety of nutrients essential for heart health, including lycopene, beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin C, folate, flavonoids, and vitamin E, all of which have proven health benefits and offer protection against cardiovascular disease. In fact tomatoes are now considered a ‘functional food’

It is the active component called Lycopene, which is mainly found in tomatoes, that has been studied greatly for its cardio protective benefits and it has shown some excellent results. Lycopene is a carotenoid, which is an organic pigment (red oranges and yellows) that gives the colouring to various plants, vegetables, fruit and algae etc and these pigments are high in antioxidants, which have huge health benefits. Lycopene actually has the highest antioxidant levels amongst all of the carotenoids (quite a winning  position to be in, considering there are over 700 carotenoids!).

The science shows that Lycopene has many cardiovascular beneficial effects, such as being a powerful antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory agent (reduces inflammation in the body) anti-atherogenic (prevents the fatty plaque build up in arteries), cardioprotective (protects the heart), antiplatelet effect (stops the cells called platelets that cause clotting from sticking together to form clots), improves endothelial function (endothelium lines the heart and blood vessels) and also provides blood pressure control. Phewww that was a lot of heart health benefits right there!!

Lycopene has also been shown to increase blood flow, which is an indication of improved blood vessel function. Improved blood vessel function means a healthier cardiovascular system, which then reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. Some researchers suggest that one of the reasons that cardiovascular disease is low in the Mediterranean, is because of the high consumption of tomatoes there.

If you needed more convincing, many studies have also shown a positive effect of Lycopene on cholesterol levels. Although there are a huge amount of studies done on the effect of lycopene from tomatoes on heart health, some have been inconsistent however overall science has concluded that despite some inconsistencies overall intake of lycopene significantly reduced the risk of major cardiovascular events. Therefore the general advise is that eating tomatoes regularly, has good potential for reducing the risk of heart diseases and mortality.



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