Drs. Oz & Roizen: Anyway you eat them, tomatoes help combat cancer

February 16, 2014 

Whether it’s a thick, juicy slice of a hearty beefsteak tomato, a puree in luscious pasta sauce, or spicy salsa or an extract in your green drink, tomatoes and tomato extract decrease atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries of your heart, brain and legs.

And if that’s not enough, here’s another good reason to love your tomato: This magical fruit (it’s not a vegetable) also decreases cancer risk.

A new report reveals that lycopene — the powerful carotenoid that gives this fruit its fiery hue and disease-fighting prowess — also boosts levels of an important cancer-quelching hormone called adiponectin. Like a Swiss army knife, it does it all: helps you maintain healthy blood sugar, burn fat, cool inflammation, discourages cancer cell growth and throws up roadblocks when tumors try to grow their own arteries. Adiponectin even encourages cancer cells to die.

In a new study, women who got 25 milligrams of lycopene a day from tomato products (equivalent to a half-cup of your favorite sauce) boosted levels of adiponectin by 9 percent, reducing their breast cancer risk. Higher “A” levels also are linked to lower risk for diabetes and heart disease.

Along with boosting adiponectin, lycopene has been associated with reducing risk for prostate, lung and stomach cancer, reducing LDL (lousy) cholesterol levels while helping to control blood pressure. So we think this message — eat more lycopene! — is for everyone. Here are five delicious ways to get more into your daily diet:

- Go Italian — and beyond. The human body absorbs the most lycopene from cooked tomato products eaten with a smidge of good fat, like the olive oil in tomato sauce. You’ll get 25 milligrams of lycopene from a half-cup of tomato puree or tomato sauce. Top off your whole-wheat pasta with tomato marinara, or dunk whole-grain bread in tomato sauce, but don’t stop there. Ladle sauce over black or red beans, spaghetti squash or your favorite veggies, too.

- Sip soup or juice. A cup of tomato soup or vegetable juice cocktail also delivers your quota. Choose reduced- or low-sodium varieties. (Read those labels when shopping for sauce and puree!)

- Treat yourself to pink fruit. Enjoy a slice of juicy watermelon (13 milligrams) or half of a pink grapefruit (1.7 milligrams).

- Choose red toppings. Add five chopped, sun-dried tomatoes (5 milligrams) to your salad. Upgrade your veggie burger with 2 tablespoons of chili sauce (6.7 milligrams) or ketchup (5 milligrams). Dunk steamed shrimp in cocktail sauce (5.9 milligrams in two tablespoons). Add a big dollop of salsa to your burrito (4.8 milligrams in 3 tablespoons).

- Munch a tomato. A whole, fresh tomato has 5 milligrams of lycopene. That number jumps to 7.5 if you cook it for five minutes, even higher the longer it simmers.

Put it in your green drink. Tomato extract takes the essences of the tomato and lets you add it to drinks or healthy smoothies you prepare. Read the label to ensure you’re getting a real tomato extract.


- Move your muscles. Muscle cells make adiponectin when you use them.

- Find fiber. For optimal adiponectin levels, aim for at least 27 grams of fiber daily.

- Nibble nuts.

- Subtract sugar.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.

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