When it comes to growing tomatoes, few states can compete with New Jersey. Jersey tomatoes are one of the best parts of summer in the Garden State. They’re sweet and juicy, and they’re packed with tons of vitamins and minerals, including beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C and potassium.
But could the health benefits of tomatoes go beyond the individual nutrients that we get from them? Science says yes. Let’s look at five incredible healing properties of tomatoes.
Prevent blood clots
Scientists have found that tomatoes have the same effect that aspirin has: inhibiting platelet activation. Essentially, tomatoes prevent our platelets from clotting and forming blockages in our blood vessels, which can lead to a heart attack. Amazingly, tomatoes manage to prevent these bad types of blood clots while allowing the good kind—the kind that stops you from bleeding when you get a cut.
In order to get this benefit from tomatoes, you can eat them cooked or raw, but do not throw away the seeds. The anti-platelet activation components of tomatoes are concentrated in the yellow fluid around the seeds.
High cholesterol is the main risk factor for heart disease, and eating tomatoes may be able to remedy it. This meta analysis found that a daily dose of the antioxidant lycopene can effectively reduce cholesterol. Because tomatoes are rich in lycopene, it makes sense that this study found eating more tomatoes and tomato products is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
Prevent Parkinson’s disease
Medical researchers have suspected for years that nicotine can protect against Parkinson’s disease. Although smokers have higher rates of heart disease, cancer and other lung diseases, they have significantly lower rates of Parkinson’s disease, compared to non-smokers.
Obviously, you shouldn’t take up smoking to prevent Parkinson’s. Rather, you should eat healthy foods that contain natural nicotine, namely: nightshade vegetables. A 2013 study found that the more nightshade vegetables a person eats, the less likely they are to get Parkinson’s disease. So, if you want to prevent Parkinson’s, eat tomatoes and bell peppers, which have the highest nicotine content of all the nightshade plants.
Two different studies (this one and this one) have found that eating tomato paste protects your skin from sun damage. It appears as though the antioxidant lycopene, which is abundant in tomatoes, can act as a natural sunscreen from the inside-out.
This doesn’t mean that eating tomatoes is a substitute for using sunblock. But eating lots of tomatoes could give you supplemental protection.
Correlational studies have found that consuming more tomatoes and tomato products is associated with a lower risk of many types of cancer, including prostate, lung, stomach and pancreatic cancer. Researchers believe that the lycopene in tomatoes has a protective effect against cancer.
More research is needed to say with certainty that tomatoes can actively fight cancer. But there is certainly no harm in eating more tomatoes to stay healthy. At the very least, you’ll get more vitamins and minerals in your diet.