This month in honor of American Heart Month, every day we’re calling out the top foods for your heart!
Tomatoes are red and look like a heart for a reason - they are a powerhouse food for your heart! Tomatoes are a good source of potassium, which is effective in helping to achieve optimal blood pressure, and niacin, a B vitamin, which is commonly used to lower elevated cholesterol. As well as B6 and folate, the combination helps reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood; elevated levels of which, are associated with a higher risk of heart disease.
Tomatoes are also rich in antioxidants including lycopene, vitamin C and beta-carotene, which all work in the body to neutralize free radicals that can be damaging to cell membranes, leading to inflammation which opens the gate for heart and vessel issues.
Let’s talk more about lycopene. Lycopene is a bright red carotene that gives tomatoes their color, it’s also found in watermelon and some other red fruits and vegetables. For most Americans, tomatoes account for more than two-thirds of their lycopene consumption. Cooked tomatoes are the most potent source, as the lycopene gets concentrated in tomatoes during cooking. Canned tomatoes are a great choice, but be sure to look for a brand that steam peels versus using chemicals to peel the tomatoes before canning.
Lycopene has been the star of many studies because of its fantastic antioxidant potential. Here’s what some studies have found:
Oxidized LDL is one of the major issues regarding cholesterol. When it becomes oxidized, LDL leads to cholesterol accumulation that forms plaques in our arteries. In studies of both healthy and type 2 diabetics, consumption of tomatoes or tomato products decreased levels of oxidized LDL.
Tomato consumption also has a modest lowering effect on blood pressure, which can be seen as soon as two months after frequent consumption.
A Finnish study found that consumption of tomatoes was associated with a significantly lower risk (65%!) of stroke in men, compared to those with a lower consumption.
For these reasons and more, tomatoes are good for your heart!