The Doctor Is In: Tomatoes

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(KPLR) – Eating lots of tomatoes any way you can is a great thing. This fruit that acts like a vegetable is loaded with health properties.

Dr. Sonny Saggar talked with Melanie Moon about the almighty tomato.

You can also connect with Dr. Saggar, the Medical Director at St. Louis Urgent Cares, and ask him any questions you like via:

Sonny Saggar MD


1. So what’s so great about tomatoes?

Tomatoes contain all four major carotenoids: alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene. These carotenoids may have individual benefits, but also have synergy as a group (that is, they interact to provide health benefits).

2. Is it true that tomatoes are even more powerful when eaten with other superfoods?
Absolutely. When eaten with broccoli for example, tomatoes have a synergy that may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. One study showed that prostate tumors grew much more slowly in rats that were fed both tomato and broccoli powder than in rats given lycopene as a supplement or fed just the broccoli or tomato powder alone.

3. Any other bad things that tomatoes can prevent?
A diet rich in tomato-based products may help reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer, according to a study from The University of Montreal. The researchers found that lycopene (provided mainly by tomatoes) was linked to a 31% reduction in pancreatic cancer risk between men with the highest and lowest intakes of this carotenoid.

4. So it’s the antioxidants that prevent the cancer?
That’s what the researchers think. Tomatoes contain all three high-powered antioxidants: beta-carotene (which has vitamin A activity in the body), vitamin E, and vitamin C. A U.S. Department of Agriculture report, What We Eat in America, noted that a third or us get too little vitamin C and almost half get too little vitamin A.

5. What else are tomatoes good for?
Tomatoes are rich in potassium, a mineral most of us don't get enough of. A cup of tomato juice contains 534 milligrams of potassium, and 1/2 cup of tomato sauce has 454 milligrams.

Tomatoes are a big part of the famously healthy Mediterranean diet. Many Mediterranean dishes and recipes call for tomatoes or tomato paste or sauce. Some recent studies, including one from People who most closely follow the Mediterranean diet have lower death rates from heart disease and cancer. Researchers who followed more than 39,000 women for seven years, found that consumption of oil- and tomato-based products -- particularly tomato and pizza sauce -- was associated with cardiovascular benefits.

6. What is it in tomatoes that prevents heart disease?
The lycopene in tomatoes (and other foods) is considered a big deal in preventing heart disease and stroke.

Consumption of tomato products prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol. Oxidized cholesterol is considered the primary initial step leading to the formation of plaque in the arteries and consequently to heart attacks.

St. Louis Urgent Cares has 4 locations in St. Louis:

  • Downtown Urgent Care
  • Eureka Urgent Care
  • Creve Coeur Urgent Care
  • North City Urgent Care

You can also connect with Dr. Saggar, the Medical Director at St. Louis Urgent Cares, and ask him any questions you like via:

Sonny Saggar MD

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