We’ve been talking a lot about tomatoes for their immune boosting benefits lately, but this is only one of the many health boosting effects tomatoes can offer. Tomatoes have also been shown to be antiangiogenic, which means they stop the unwanted growth of new blood vessels, for example in cancer.

More than thirty studies have shown the protective effect of tomato consumption on prostate cancer. A research study called the Harvard Health Professionals Follow-Up Study examined 46,719 men for lycopene intake and found that consuming 2-3 cups of tomato sauce per week is associated with a 30% decreased risk of prostate cancer. In the men who did develop prostate cancer, those who ate more tomato sauce, had less angiogenic and less aggressive cancers.

The immune benefits from tomatoes are because of their high vitamin C content. Typically we think of citrus fruits like oranges, limes, and lemons for vitamin C, but cherry tomatoes pack quite a punch as well. Another compound tomatoes contain is called lycopene, which is highest in San Marzano tomatoes, tangerine tomatoes, and red-black skinned tomatoes.

Lycopene is the compound responsible for tomatoes’ antiangiogenic effects. In an uncooked tomato, lycopene is found in a specific form called “cis-lycopene”. This form is harder for the body to absorb, so you get less lycopene from raw tomatoes. The best way to eat tomatoes is to cook them first in olive oil. When you heat tomatoes up from cooking, the “cis-lycopene” turns into “trans-lycopene” which is much easier for your body to absorb. Lycopene is fat soluble, so combining with olive oil boosts absorption even more.

Here’s a quick summary of the facts:

Tomato health benefits: Immune function and anti-angiogenic

Nutrients: Vitamin C and lycopene

Varietals to choose: San Marzano, tangerine tomato, or red-black skinned for lycopene. Cherry tomatoes for vitamin C.

How to prepare: Cooked with olive oil or as a sauce for best lycopene absorption

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