If you haven’t jumped on the tomato-eating bandwagon yet, it’s time to get on board: This powerful little fruit has the ability to do so much more than simply flavor a savory sauce or add bulk to a salad. If you commonly make your meals sans tomatoes, you may want to retrain your taste buds to favor the tomato—so you can reap all of its juicy benefits.
Within the tomato, there is a natural complex of molecules called carotenoids. This class of naturally occurring pigments (there are more than 600 of them!) is what gives red, yellow, and orange fruits and veggies their rich color. The two most commonly associated with the tomato are lycopene and beta-carotene; the two lesser-known carotenoids also found abundantly in the fruit are phytoene and phytofluene.
So, what is unique about these four molecules?
“The way they coexist in the tomato is very synergistic,” explains Golan Raz, vice president of the health and nutrition division at Lycored, a leader in the research and development of carotenoid-based products. “They play like a team.”
Raz notes that while certain carotenoids are found in many other fruits and vegetables—sometimes in a much higher potency compared with the tomato—this combination of carotenoids is unique to the tomato.
“The most common example is beta-carotene in carrots,” he says. “But the carrot doesn’t have this complex of four carotenoids. So, the