Copyright 2006 Frank Mangano
Have you had your lycopene today? If you ate a green salad with fresh chopped tomatoes, then you not only got a healthy dose of this powerful antioxidant, but you have also taken significant action toward lowering your blood pressure. A recent double-blind study conducted in Israel has confirmed what hearth-healthy Italians have enjoyed for centuries – tomatoes (and tomato sauce) lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.
The Israeli study was led up by Dr. Esther Paran, head of the hypertension division of Soroka Medical Center. It involved patients who were already being treated for hypertension, but were not responding well to the medications. Dr. Paran had patients take a supplement of tomato extract. The results were a significant drop in blood pressure after just four weeks.
Tomatoes are so effective at lowering blood pressure because they contain lycopene. This potent antioxidant is even the focus of some hybrid tomatoes grown by the Israeli company, Lycomato, in order to have higher concentrations of lycopene in each piece of fruit. Other antioxidants found in tomatoes make this one super-food in the prevention of heart disease. It can even help keep LDL cholesterol from oxidizing which makes it stick to the arteries and narrow the passage way causing blood pressure to increase.
Even during the peak growing season it can be difficult to consume four whole tomatoes each day, which is the recommended amount for having a positive impact on blood pressure. Here are some ways to get the benefits of tomatoes without having to eat them straight off the vine.
1. Make Chili. Using tomato puree, which is a concentrated form of tomatoes, as the base for your chili utilizes the antioxidants without the bulk of a whole tomato. Add some ultra-lean and high protein ground bison and kidney beans with minced garlic and onions, and cayenne pepper and you have a heart-healthy main course and a full day’s allowance of tomato.
2. Since using olive oil with the tomatoes enhances the curative quality, make your pasta sauce red with tomatoes, tomato paste and olive oil to sauté the garlic and onion. Tomato paste used in making sauce contains more than 10 times the nutrients of a single tomato.
3. Have a fresh salad as a side dish to either of these entrees and cut one whole tomato on top. You’ll get one-quarter of you tomato intake right there.
4. Drink tomato juice. It is better to make your own fresh juice so that you can control the sodium. Store bought juices can be high in sugar and sodium-based preservatives. If you have a juicer, you can make some incredible veggie juices to suit your own tastes by adding carrots, celery and some low-sodium seasonings.
5. Take a tomato supplement. If you just can’t stomach tomatoes, then a 200 mg supplement provides the equivalent of more than the recommended four tomatoes.
Adding tomatoes to your diet can reduce systolic blood pressure by 10 points and diastolic pressure by 4 points as was evident in the Israel study. Whatever way you slice it, tomatoes will keep strengthen your immune system and lower blood pressure.