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Tomato Time

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Link to lung health

Jersey, Grape, Big Boy or Beef Steak… whichever you prefer, tomatoes are officially in season. Known to be a versatile culinary staple and a great addition to salads, sandwiches and stews, they’re also an excellent source of nutrition. Tomatoes are rich in vitamins C and A, nutrients recognized to support a healthy immune system, good vision and more recently lung health.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health hypothesized that when antioxidants are part of the diet they may contribute to preserving lung function in former smokers. The study, published in European Respiratory Journal, specifically linked tomatoes, apples and bananas to lung health, suggesting that they play a role in slowing lung function decline.

The 680 participants, with an average age of 43, answered a food frequency questionnaire and completed lung function tests at the start of the study and repeated them ten years later. In this case lung function was measured via spirometry, a common test used to assess how well your lungs work by measuring how much air you inhale in six seconds (FVC), how much you exhale and how quickly you exhale in one second (FEV1). 

Diet analysis showed that the average fruit and vegetable intake of participants was 400g, or about 4 pieces per day. Apple and banana intake specifically correlated with slower decline in FVC, while tomato (considered a vegetable in this study) had an even stronger correlation, especially in ex-smokers. The same benefits were not seen in current smokers, or those who never smoked. Researchers think that tomatoes benefits may come from lycopene- an antioxidant whose many potential benefits include lower risk of osteoporosis, lower risk of prostate cancer, and even sunburn protection.

While there are countless reasons to increase fruits and veggies in your diet, this study suggests that if you or someone you love had a habit of smoking you may benefit from an extra serving of tomato to keep your lungs working at their best. Tomatoes can complement almost any meal. You can slice a few on top of low fat cottage cheese and toast for a quick breakfast, dice and add to salads or tacos or even roast them whole for a quick side dish. If salads are more your speed, try our Plantain and Tomato Salad or our summer favorite Watermelon, Tomato and Greens Salad to enjoy a different take on tomatoes.

Published July 1, 2018

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