Are tomatoes the healthiest food on the planet? Maybe! They certainly are a "superfood" and should be part of everyone's diet. Tomatoes are delicious and deliver a powerful nutritious punch. And what's great about eating tomatoes? They're incredibly versatile, easy to find, and inexpensive. They're a staple in our diet. You can eat tomatoes raw by adding them to salads or on sandwiches, cooked, sautéed, added to soups, to make pasta sauces and more. So who doesn't like a tomato? Almost no one-- you just need to prepare it to your liking. Even if you're neutropenic, you can still eat them, if they are cooked thoroughly (as always, talk to your doctor first). There are so many nutritional benefits found in tomatoes. First, they contain lycopene. Here's what Tomato.org has to say:
Lycopene is an antioxidant that fights the free radicals that can interfere with normal cell growth and potentially lead to cancer, heart disease and premature aging. Tomatoes are one of the best sources of lycopene. Lycopene is a bright red carotenoid pigment and phytochemical and is responsible for giving tomatoes their bright red color. While not an essential nutrient for humans, lycopene is commonly found in the diet in several foods, but especially in tomatoes. When absorbed from the stomach, lycopene is then transported in the blood by various lipoproteins and accumulates in the liver, adrenal glands, and testes. Of all the carotenoids, lycopene is thought to be one of the most potent antioxidants. Lycopene is particularly able to fight singlet oxygen and peroxyl radicals, both of which are thought to be responsible for damaging DNA in a process that can lead to the formation of cancer. Due to this ability, lycopene is being researched as a potential agent for the prevention of certain types of cancers, especially prostate cancer.
Tomatoes are major anti-inflammatories. Inflammation isn't necessarily a bad thing-- it's our bodies natural response to protect an area that injured or infected and allow for healing. But chronic inflammation is not good and can lead to a whole host of health issues (including cancer). Tomatoes are high in anti-oxidants, which help minimize stress on our bodies. They help destroy free-radicals, which cause heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Tomatoes are high in folic acid and Vitamins A, C and E. They are natural immune-boosters, which help keep us healthy (or as healthy as possible), like warding off colds and flus, and helping our bodies be strong enough tolerate many of the treatments used to fight myeloma. Cooking tomatoes actually boosts their nutritional benefits, as it breaks down the tomato cell matrix and makes the carotenoids more available. So be liberal with using tomatoes in stir-fries, soups, grills, and more. Add olive oil, too, when using tomatoes as it helps increase the absorption of lycopene. Organic tomatoes have a higher content of vitamin C and bioflavonoids, so spending the extra money on organic is worth it (though if you can't find organic or can't afford it, eat tomatoes any way you can get them!). Suggested ways to eat tomatoes If you're neutropenic, you can enjoy all the benefits of tomatoes by making sure they are cooked thoroughly. Pasta sauces are generally ok regardless of where you're at in treatment. Add tomatoes to soups, but make sure you boil the soup thoroughly before eating. Broil tomatoes in the oven, or simply sautee tomatoes in olive oil and add your favorite spices (try including fresh garlic, turmeric, sea salt or cayenne pepper). As always, discuss this with your doctor prior. If you don't have dietary restrictions, add tomatoes to guacamole, in salads, on sandwiches, drizzle with olive oil, or simply eat them raw. Make your own salsa by adding onions, olive oil and spices (yum!). Another delicious recipe is making your own caprese salad. Simply combine tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil and balsamic vinegar and enjoy. You can also dress the dish up by adding pine nuts, shrimp, hummus, and artichokes, and put over spinach for an amazing salad.
about the author
Lizzy Smith was diagnosed with myeloma in 2012 at age 44. Within days, she left her job, ended her marriage, moved, and entered treatment. "To the extent I'm able, I want to prove that despite life's biggest challenges, it is possible to survive and come out stronger than ever," she says.