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Of course, we’ve known for a long time that tomatoes are a healthy food, but new studies indicate that tomatoes may also help prevent some diseases.

Botanically, tomatoes are a fruit, and belong to the deadly nightshade family. A native of Central America, tomatoes were cultivated both by the Aztecs and the Incas as early as 700 AD. But tomatoes didn’t become widely used by the rest of the world until the early 1800’s.

Loaded with vitamins and disease fighting phytochemicals like lycopene, tomatoes are also a good source of fiber, have no fat, sodium or cholesterol, and have a mere 35 calories per medium tomato.

Recent medical research suggests that lycopene, the component that makes tomatoes red, may prevent cancer. Lycopenes are a part of the family of pigments called cartenoids. Cartenoids are what create the colors in fruits and vegetables. Beta carotene is the orange pigment in carrots. Like with essential amino acids, these compounds are not made in the human body.

Research indicates that lycopenes are the most powerful antioxidant in the cartenoid family. Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, as well as vitamin C and A.

Both raw and cooked tomatoes seem to be effective in cancer prevention. The most evidence was shown in the research against prostrate, lung and stomach cancer, but pancreatic, colorectal, esophageal, oral, breast and cancer of the cervix may all benefit from tomato consumption.

The American Heart Association writes that cooked tomatoes release even more nutrients than the raw. It is believed that lycopene may be improved by a small amount of oil, such as olive or canola oil, so a large plate of spagetthi is one of the best foods you can eat!

Studies also show that tomatoes may help prevent heart attacks, since tomatoes are a good source of fiber. People who eat high fiber diets lower their risk of heart disease.

All recent studies on tomatoes have come to the same conclusion: eating lots of raw and cooked tomatoes are beneficial to your health. Tomatoes are not only a healthy food, they are a health food!