While there is considerable debate over whether or not they are considered to be a fruit or a vegetable, tomatoes offer a delicious compliment to any dish –- from salads to main courses. However, there is considerable evidence that tomatoes can provide a variety of health benefits, too. Tomatoes contain many antioxidants, including a chemical called lycopene. There has been a lot of research investigating tomatoes and the chemicals contained in them like lycopene. From these studies, tomatoes have been shown to possess a vast array of healthy benefits, including macular degeneration and certain cancers. Studies have also proven that tomatoes may provide healthy effects on your cholesterol.
How Do The Studies Hold Up?
The studies examining the effects of tomato products on cholesterol are small and looked at raw tomatoes, or a combination of tomato paste and tomato juice. One of the chemicals in tomatoes, lycopene, has had the most research associated with it and it is thought to be a major contributor to the healthy benefits provided by tomatoes. From these studies seen in both animals and humans, it has been found that HDL cholesterol levels were increased by at least 15%. The studies examining the effects of tomatoes on LDL cholesterol and triglycerides vary –- some studies indicate a slight decrease in these lipids (by an average of 8%), whereas other studies did not detect a significant drop in LDL or triglycerides.
Another surprising finding was that the lycopene in the tomatoes –- as well as probably other antioxidants in tomatoes –- reduced the presence of oxidized LDL. When LDL becomes oxidized, it can contribute to the formation of plaque on the walls of arteries.
How Much Do I Need To Consume?
The studies that examined the effects of tomatoes and/or lycopene didn’t require too many tomatoes to achieve this effect. In fact, these studies suggest that you would need two medium sized tomatoes or a combination of 14 ounces of tomato juice and two tablespoons of ketchup to affect your cholesterol.
Tomatoes are a healthy food that contains a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. While a small number of studies suggest that tomatoes lower cholesterol levels, this should not be the only thing you rely on in your plan to lower cholesterol.
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Silaste ML, Alfthan G, Aro A et al. Tomato juice decreases LDL cholesterol levels and increases LDL resistence ot oxidation. Br J Nutr 2007;98:1251-1258.
Blum A, Merei M, Karem A et al. Effects of tomatoes on the lipid profile. Clin Invest Med 2006; 29:298-300.
Blum A, Monir M, Wirsansky I, et al. The beneficial effects of tomatoes. Eur J Intern Med 2005;16:402-404.