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Health, Dr. Mao, Santa Monica, Columnist, Food

Myths & Facts About Tomatoes: What You Need To Know For Better Health

Dr. Mao Shing Ni
Courtesy Photo
Dr. Mao Shing Ni

Posted Sep. 8, 2013, 9:01 am

Dr. Mao Shing Ni / Mirror Columnist

Fresh salsa, tomato bruschetta, tomato and basil salad: tasty tomatoes fresh from the farm rule this time of year – but in spite of their many health benefits, what’s in store for people with arthritis?

When the Spanish brought the tomato back to Europe from South America, it was embraced with enthusiasm in the South, but considered poisonous in the North.

It was particularly disliked in England because it was a recognized member of the often-poisonous nightshade family.

Indeed, tomato plants’ roots and leaves are poisonous, so it took some 200 years as an ornamental plant before tomatoes were generally considered not only edible, but actually quite delicious.

Good For Heart Health & Cancer Protection

Over the past several years, countless studies have demonstrated the potency of the carotenoid known as lycopene, found in tomatoes.

Lycopene has shown to be effective in reducing the risk for multiple cancers, including prostate, colorectal, breast, and pancreatic cancer.

The medical journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention published an analysis of 21 studies, which confirmed that consumption of tomatoes, especially cooked tomatoes, provided protection against prostate cancer.

The men who ate the highest amounts of raw tomatoes were found to have an 11 percent reduction in risk for prostate cancer; cooked tomato products yielded a 19 percent reduction in prostate cancer risk.

Among other functions, lycopene protects the genetic material of white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting infectious diseases.

Tomatoes are also a great source of the antioxidant vitamin C and beta-carotene.

Just one cup of fresh tomatoes will give you nearly 58 percent of the daily value for vitamin C and 22 percent of the DV for vitamin A. Their potassium content helps reduce blood pressure and risk for heart disease, while the tomato’s B6 and folate work together to decrease levels of the dangerous chemical homocysteine in the blood.

A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that women with the highest intake of lycopene-rich, tomato-based foods had a significantly reduced risk of heart disease.

Bad For Joint Pain & Acid Reflux

As members of the nightshade family, tomatoes are often discouraged in the diets of those suffering from arthritis and other inflammatory maladies.

The reason is that nightshade vegetables contain compounds that can contribute to the inflammation process, causing more swelling, joint stiffness, and pain.

There are no concrete studies about the link between nightshades and arthritis pain, so how do you know for sure if you need to cut tomatoes out?

Use your body as your laboratory. Cut out all members of the nightshade family, including eggplants, potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes.

That means no tomato sauce, no ketchup – check labels to make sure you are truly steering clear.

After about six weeks of a nightshade-free diet, you should be able to tell if eliminating tomatoes improves your arthritis. Then, add tomatoes back to your diet and see if your arthritis worsens.

Also, because of their content of citric acid and malic acid, tomatoes are thought to exacerbate heartburn, acid reflux, and GERD – so if you suffer from these maladies, you may want to try an acidic food elimination diet to find the culprit of your discomfort.

Bonus Tip: If your aching joints are spoiling your Indian summer plans, turn to Mother Nature for herbal support. My Arthritis and Joint formula promotes healthy function of joints and helps relieve the painful symptoms of arthritis.

What’s In A Tomato’s Taste?

Another “good” and “bad” topic of tomatoes is a matter of taste. Ever purchased a beautiful red tomato at the supermarket, only to find it was uninspired and tasteless in your tomato-basil salad?

Tomato enthusiasts favor the heirloom varieties sold in farmer’s markets and grown in the backyard, claiming that they taste far better and are more nutritious. Alternatively, when produced for mass markets, tomatoes are bred to be a deep red color, which unfortunately makes the taste blander. Add to that long-term refrigeration and cross-country shipping, and it becomes a sad sandwich topper.

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

Dr. Mao Shing Ni, best known as Dr. Mao is a bestselling author, doctor of Oriental Medicine, and board certified anti-aging expert. He has recently appeared on “The Ricki Lake Show,” “Dr. Oz,” and contributes to Yahoo Health and The Huffington Post. Dr. Mao practices acupuncture, nutrition, and Chinese medicine with his associates at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica, Newport Beach, and Pasadena. Dr. Mao and his brother, Dr. Daoshing Ni, founded the Tao of Wellness more than 25 years ago in addition to founding Yo San University in Marina del Rey. To make an appointment for evaluation and treatment call 310.917.2200 or you can email Dr. Mao at contact@taoofwellness.com. To subscribe to his tip-filled newsletter, visit www.taoofwellness.com.

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