Eat up these juicy newfound benefits
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 tomato is very unique in the metrics of carotenoid content.”
Ripe with Wellness
In the United States, most tomatoes are grown in California—this includes one-third of our country’s fresh-market tomatoes as well as 96 percent of those processed into juice, sauce, paste, salsa, and other tomato-based products— with Florida following right behind. Tomatoes need hot weather and lots of light to thrive, and both California and Florida provide an environment conducive to the fruit’s needs—so it seems tomatoes are always in-season.
But just as too much sunlight can damage our own skin over time, so too can it hurt the tomato plant.
“While sunlight provides the tomato with its livelihood, at the same time it puts great risk on the tomato—because too much sunlight and too much heat will kill it. So it needs a different mechanism to balance out that sunlight. What these carotenoids are doing is they protect the tomato by absorbing and blocking the light waves,” says Raz. “Different carotenoids block and filter different wavelengths—different light waves that come from the sun—UVA, UVB, visible light. In that way, they provide full protection from sunlight; on one end, it allows the sunlight to come in, and on the other end, it prevents the damage that the sun is doing.”
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