February 22, 2014 - by Fiona Timmins
Tomatoes, one of the most popular vegetables in the world are beginning to unfold their secrets to researchers who aim to improve human health, and the latest discovery is astonishing! If you can grow a tomato plant in a pot, or in a garden then you can benefit from this amazing discovery too!
As most of us know by now, fruits and vegetables are loaded with goodness for human health, especially when grown in mineral rich soil, and free from artificial fertilisers, pesticides or weedicides.
Many of us have also heard about the special tomato compound called "lycopene". Lycopene is a member of the carotenoid family, red coloured antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables - antioxidants help our bodies fight internal damage. Lycopene has been found to prevent and assist in healing some cancers, especially prostate cancer, heart and circulation diseases, as well as helping prevent eye degeneration.
But researchers noticed that the lycopene molecule in tomatoes looked something like a straight line (called "linear") and wasn't very well absorbed in the human body, unless cooked and eaten with a little fat. Yet many of the other red and orange coloured antioxidants had a horseshoe shape (called "cis") and were absorbed far better. Was this just how lycopene was designed? Or was something else going on? Was there a botanical mystery to be solved?
At some unspecified time in the science world, researchers noticed that something like a lycopene structure was already circulating in human blood, but with a horseshoe (cis) shape. You can just imagine one of the researchers wondering if some tomatoes somewhere might contain a cis shape lycopene and if a cis shape might be better absorbed than the linear lycopene.
And this seems to be just what happened. But first, let's have a little tomato history:
All tomatoes are red, right? Well, um, no. Consider this from a botanist named Matthiolus in 1544, when tomatoes were a new discovery for Europe (there are two places credited with first domesticating wild tomatoes - South America and Mexico).
“Another species (of mandrake) has been brought to Italy in our time, flattened like the melerose (variety of apple) and segmented, green at first and when ripe of a golden color, which is eaten in the same manner as the egg plant, fried in oil with salt and pepper, like mushrooms."
The Italian name for tomato is still "pomi d'oro", the Latin equivalent "mala aurea" - both mean "golden apple". The real tomato was golden orange - not red at all.
Apparently the red tomato was bred to be more appealing to prople in Europe.
And guess what? The lycopene structure in a handful of golden orange tomato varieties today iis the horsheshoe or cis shape!
If we are interested in improving health or preventing disease, the next question is: Is the cis shaped lycopene in golden orange tomatoes better absorbed than the linear lycopene in red tomatoes? YES!
Find out more next time at Vital Force - Growing!