Native to Central America, the pomodoro , as the Italians call it, is a fruit (and not a vegetable from a botanical point of view) like no other. In salads, soups or even stuffed, it is a fruit that can be eaten in all forms, and regardless of the season.
Its high water (94 g / 100 g) and fiber (1.2 g / 100 g) content makes it easy to reduce the caloric density of a meal. A few slices or cubes here and there also bring volume, so a faster feeling of satiety, without loading the final caloric addition (0.21 kcal / g, or half as much as grated carrot or tangerine) .
Even more precious: its incredible richness in antioxidant compounds, in particular lycopene (3 mg / 100 g), one of the most powerful carotenoids in the plant world. This pigment, which gives the tomato its pretty red color, is said to be a centerpiece of the famous Cretan diet, the benefits of which are recognized on the cardiovascular system.
A fruit rich in antioxidant lycophene
In addition to the virtues of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lycopene as such seems to have an unequaled specific protective effect. A Finnish study, published in October 2012 in the journal Neurology , proved the existence of a link between the level of lycopene in the blood and the risk of cerebrovascular accident (stroke). More than 1,030 men aged 46 to 65 were followed for twelve years. Of the 259 participants with the highest concentration of lycopene , eleven suffered a stroke, while among the 258 subjects with the lowest level, 25 suffered the same fate. That is + 125%!
This is probably the reason why high doses of lycopene are also associated with a lesser decline in cognitive functions with age, as shown by Claudine Berr, research director at the National Institute of Health and Montpellier medical research (Inserm). However, 85% of the lycopene that we ingest comes from tomatoes and their derivatives: sauce, juice, soup, ketchup … The remaining 15% come from our consumption of beets, watermelons, apricots and grapefruit. Hence the inestimable interest of this star of the summer.
A number of scientific works have also shown that lycopene also has a real anticancer power. In particular, it would prevent the proliferation of tumor cells in the stomach, pancreas and colon. And, in men, it is also believed to reduce the incidence of prostate cancer by 20% to 35%. This disease is also much less common in countries that consume large tomatoes, such as Italy, Spain or Mexico. By reducing the inflammation generated by excess abdominal fat, lycopene also appears to be able to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Preserve your solar capital
The lycopene also helps to protect the aggression of ultraviolet rays. Unfortunately, our skin cells are incapable of doing so. But you can make up for it by gorging yourself with “golden apples” at least four weeks before going on vacation. According to Dr. Wilhelm Stahl, from Heinrich-Heine University in Düsseldorf, swallowing 16 mg of lycopene (either 35 g of dried tomatoes or 50 g of tomato paste) every day would reduce the intensity of sunburn by 40%. .
This protection is certainly modest, and “should especially not replace sunscreens, believes Dr. Stahl, but it has the advantage of protecting all the cells of the body, and not only those on the surface of the skin.” As the level of carotenoids drops by half during each exposure, it is better to continue your tomato cure all summer in order to recharge your reserves daily and avoid wasting your solar capital.
Rather raw or rather cooked?
So much not to deprive yourself during the summer months. Especially with its low calorie content, it is a formidable ally to keep the figure. Prefer Provençal tomatoes , tomatoes stuffed with vegetables or rice with tomatoes, “insofar as lycopene is more available to the body after cooking”, indicates dietician Angélique Houlbert . This is because the heat destroys the walls of plant cells and releases the lycopene trapped inside. This is why sauce or tomato paste provide more than fresh tomatoes. But to be able to fully benefit from its virtues, it must still be absorbed.
Like all carotenoids, lycopene is liposoluble, that is to say that it needs fatty substances to pass the barrier of the intestine and to be transported to the various organs. So, do not forget the little drizzle of olive, rapeseed or linseed oil, first cold pressing if possible. To vary the pleasures, you can also sprinkle a few pinches of crushed almonds on your tomato specialties or slip in a few thin slices of avocado.
Tomatoes can be used in a thousand and one ways. However, not all associations are happy. A few foods seem to interfere with the absorption of lycopene . This is particularly the case with crab, shrimp, trout, salmon and chanterelles, all of which contain canthaxanthin , an orange pigment that can compete with it.
Also check the list of additives present in the processed industrial dishes that you buy: some also contain them, hidden under the code E161g, such as Strasbourg sausages.
How to choose a tomato?
Prefer local tomatoes grown in the open field. Picked normally when ripe, they are much richer in beneficial nutrients than those from distant regions, whose flesh is often harder, less colored and tastier. Store them in a cool place in the shade, in the crisper of the refrigerator, to preserve as many vitamins as possible.
It suffices for tomatoes to hang around for two days in the open air and in the light for half of their initial vitamin C content (19 mg / 100 g) to be already degraded. For a better health effect, the ideal is to choose them organic. A Spanish study, published in July 2012 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry , in fact proved that organic tomatoes are better provided with antioxidants, inasmuch as, more than non-organic tomatoes, they are obliged to activate their natural defense system.