Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Tomato Myth

Any time I see a listing for a show about health or nutrition, I flip to it. I watch The Biggest Loser, PBS telethon presentations like Diet Free, and some episodes of Dr. Oz. I watch You Are What You Eat on BBC America, a fricking hilarious show, during which a Holistic Nutritionist switches her subjects over to a plant-based diet (usually including fish) after checking the lines on their tongue and nails, and analyzing a sample of their poo. Good times. (The only problem is that they're always talking about how many stones someone weighs, or how many stones someone lost. I can never remember: 1 stone = 14 pounds. I always have to look it up and do a quick American calculation.)

At any rate, I'm all for any media that coaxes more people towards a plant-based diet--good for the people, good for the planet. But they all seem to promote the same tomato myth.

MYTH: Cooked tomatoes are the best source of lycopene, an antioxidant shown to reduce the risks of prostate cancer and heart disease.

TRUTH: Sun-dried tomatoes are the best source of lycopene. They make available almost twice the amount of this antioxidant found in cooked tomatoes. And if you look at the total antioxidant activity, fresh tomatoes come out on top.

I'm not obsessed with individual nutrients, since I eat a widely varied diet. But not everyone we love does, so here's to sharing this information.

This makes me wonder exactly how other foods change their nutritional value on the scale from raw to sun-dried/low-temp dehydrated to cooked (beyond the destruction of enzymes). At any rate, the next time someone tells me I have to cook my tomato sauce (blended tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, water, olive oil, fresh basil, oregano, garlic, onion and dates) to get all the benefits, I'll point them to this study.

In the meantime, I'll send my meat-and-potatoes eating daddy a huge package of sun-dried tomatoes when Father's Day rolls around. Eat up, Pops!
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