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Should You Eat a Tomato Rainbow?

These days, it’s not unusual to see a tomato in any number of colours – from dark purple to forest green. This got us wondering: is there is a nutritional difference between red tomatoes and their multi-coloured relatives?

 

Turns out, the answer is yes!  But it’s a lot more complicated than that.

 

When you think of tomatoes and nutrition, the first thing you think is probably lycopene. Not. Who the hell knows what that sciency-sounding word is?! Well, let us tell you. Lycopene is the pigment in tomatoes  that makes them red.  It also has antioxidant properties, meaning that it helps stop oxidization from happening in your body.  Oxidization is the process by which free radicals are created, and free radicals can start a chain reaction that can damage your cells and genetic material.  Studies have shown that lycopene intake can help prevent stomach, lung, and prostate cancer, as well as reducing the risk of a host of other cancers.  Lycopene may also help reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing LDL (or bad) cholesterol, and lowering blood pressure.  Research has even shown that lycopene consumption is linked to bone health. So, it’s kind of a superhero.

 

As lycopene is the red pigment in tomatoes, it would be reasonable to assume that the redder the tomato, the better.  However, studies have shown this is not necessarily the case!  While the red tomato does have more lycopene, new research is showing that the lycopene in yellow and orange tomatoes is actually more easily absorbed by the body.

tomato

 

The differences don’t end there, either.

 

While red tomatoes have more fibre and vitamin C, yellow tomatoes have double the amount of iron and zinc of their rosy counterparts.  Yellow tomatoes also pack more vitamin B and folate, which helps your red blood cells.

 

Darker varieties of tomatoes, such Indigo Rose or Sunblack (did we just discover Gwen Stefani’s next child’s name??), may have higher levels of antioxidants than red or yellow tomatoes.  They get their colour from increased levels of  anthocyanins.  Anthocyanins are red, purple and blue pigments that help protect the tomato from the sun’s UV rays, and have strong antioxidant properties.  They have been shown to have many beneficial health impacts, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and enhanced cognitive function.

 

Let’s not forget green tomatoes either – they are higher in vitamin K and calcium than ripe red or yellow tomatoes!

 

Looks like when it comes to tomatoes, it pays to taste the rainbow.

 

Selected Sources:

http://eatyourselfwell.com/the-surprising-health-benefits-of-green-tomatoes/

http://www.prevention.com/content/which-healthier-red-tomatoes-vs-yellow-tomatoes

http://www.pcrm.org/health/cancer-resources/diet-cancer/nutrition/how-lycopene-helps-protect-against-cancer

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=44

http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/030314p20.shtml

 

Disclaimer: The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and is not to be perceived as providing medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information provided should complement, not replace, the advice and relationship of your healthcare provider.

 

 

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