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The Tomato

Tomato, whose scientific name is Lycopersicum escalentum, is one of the most complete and wonderful fruit that exists on earth because of its many features: great taste, high nutritional content, as well as an endless list of therapeutic properties, which allows it to intervene in the treatment and prevention of many diseases. It is eaten fresh or preserved, finding in the market all kinds of products made from this fruit.

Tomato is one of the most widespread crops, being Extremadura, and especially Las Vegas del Guadiana, one of the largest growing areas in the world.

The Mediterranean diet, due to its greatest diversity, is perhaps the diet that provides the highest intake of antioxidants, thanks to the great content in fruits and vegetables, and tomatoes have to do with it very much, since it provides an optimal combination of antioxidants, such as phenolic and ascorbic acid (vitamin C), vitamin E and carotenoids. It is also rich in other health-related components, such as folic acid (or vitamin B9), flavonoids, potassium, protein and dietetic fiber, which contributes to reducing the action of cholesterol on blood and a smooth laxative effect .

 

TOMATO: SOURCE OF B-CAROTENE AND LICOPONEO

Both, humans and animals are unable to synthesize carotenoids, so it must be taken through he diet. Carotenoids are the natural colourings of fruits and vegetables, which give these their typical colour. Thus, the red of tomatoes is due to the presence of the carotenoid lycopene, being tomatoes the main source of this antioxidant compound, assuming up to 90% of total carotenoids in this fruit.

There is a table below showing the content of the different carotenoid in tomatoes.

µg/100gr α-caroteno β-caroteno β-criptoxanteno Luteína Licopeno
TOMATO 112 393 - 130 3025

 

Lycopene is considered an antioxidant with a high biological activity in human organism, since it is able to work on and expel free radicals generated by oxidative stress, which, in the long run, may foment different diseases as we will see later.

Tomato also contains, in a high percentage, another carotenoid with important biological functions, the  B-carotene ( also known as A provitamin for its ability to become vitamin A), which once in the body, it is transformed enzymatically in retinal in the intestinal mucosa, and then it is converted in RETINOL (VITAMIN A). Retinol or Vitamin A is essential for a correct vision and can prevent eye from ocular complaints, such as  xerophthalmia (dryness of the cornea of ​​the eye), and other related to aging, such as cataracts or macular degeneration.

The main physiological function of carotenoids is their antioxidant capacity. Due to the oxidative stress that occurs in our cells, it  originates many free radicals which can generate, in a long-term, degenerative processes, such as certain cancers and tumors, cardiovascular or inflammatory diseases, diabetes, eye complaints, depression of the immune system and the aging process itself. The implication of carotenoids in the reduction of oxidative stress is fundamental, and therefore, these compounds are considered as anticancerous, encouraging the communication between cells of a particular tissue, and immunoactivators, promoting the immune system.

Lycopene, unlike B-carotene, has got a  provitamin A activity, but it shows an antioxidant capacity, twice higher than the B-carotene one, that is the reason why its presence in the diet is of great interest.

It is important to say that processed products, as a great number of  scientific studies show, have a higher content of lycopene, besides being more bioavailable for human organism.

What does it mean to be more "bioavailable"? It means that our body is able to absorb more lycopene from a tomato that has already been processed than  if we eat it fresh.  The changes during the process of canning, increase the release of lycopene from tomato cells by promoting the dissociation of protein complexes and the breaking of  the cell walls. Hence, the importance of consumption of canned tomatoes.

 

BENEFITS OF TOMATO

We show a list of the benefits of tomatoes.

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