I was in Busia, Kenya where I attended the burial of my mother-in-law last week when I saw one of my sisters-in-law eating raw tomatoes at every given opportunity.
I called her aside and asked her what it was with the tomatoes.
I am a breast cancer survivor you know that, she told me; so I was advised to be eating lots raw tomatoes. This is because raw foods comprise a number of important nutrients and are believed to accord a number of nutritional benefits to their users.
In fact, tomatoes are said to diminish the risk of a number of fatal ailments, like cancer and heart attack, she said.
Starting with the basics, tomatoes contain large amounts of vitamin C, providing 40 percent of the daily value (DV).
They also contain 15 percent DV of vitamin A, 8 percent DV of potassium, and 7 percent of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of iron for women and 10 percent RDA for men.
The red pigment contained in tomatoes is called lycopene. This compound appears to act as an antioxidant, neutralizing free radicals that can damage cells in the body.
Only recently, studies have revealed that lycopene may have twice the punch of another well-known antioxidant betacarotene.
Studies conducted by Harvard researchers have discovered that men who consumed 10 servings of tomatoes a week, or the equivalent to 10 slices of pizza, can cut the risk of developing prostate cancer by a formidable 45 percent.
However, its benefits are not limited to the prostate. Italian researchers have found that those who consume more that 7 servings of raw tomatoes lower the risk of developing rectal colon or stomach cancers by 60 percent.
Israeli researchers have found that lycopene is a powerful inhibitor of lung, breast, and endometrial cancer cells. Research has also indicated that the lycopene in tomatoes can help older people stay active longer.
New research is beginning to indicate that tomatoes may be used to help prevent lung cancer.
Two powerful compounds found in tomatoes-coumaric acid and chlorogenic acid-are thought to block the effects of nitrosamines.
These are compounds that not only are formed naturally in the body, but also are the strongest carcinogen in tobacco smoke. By blocking the effects of these nitrosamines, the chances of lung cancer are reduced significantly.
When choosing your tomatoes, be sure to pick those with the most brilliant shades of red. These indicate the highest amounts of betacarotene and lycopene. Though raw tomatoes are great for you, cooking them releases even more of the benefits.
Lycopene is located in the cell wall of the tomato, so by cooking in a bit of oil, this healing compound is more fully released. In addition cooking the tomato in olive oil allows your body to absorb the lycopene better.
I have never been a fun of tomatoes, but after my sister in law confirmed to me that part of her cancer treatment was to eat raw tomatoes, I decided that I will close my eyes and eat at least one raw tomato every single day, after all this is the cheapest medicine that can be found even in the remotest part of this world.