What would life be without home-grown tomatoes? Not much.

What would life be without home-grown tomatoes? Not much.

“Home-grown tomatoes, home-grown tomatoes, what would life be without home-grown tomatoes? Only two things that money can’t buy, that’s true love and home-grown tomatoes…”

I hummed this favorite John Denver song to myself throughout the spring when I planted my seeds indoors, tenderly transplanted those little plants into my garden in May after the danger of frost had passed, and now I can barely contain my salivary glands when I think about those huge, juicy, flavor-packed tomatoes I’m harvesting every day.

I love tomatoes and I love all the good things they do for me and my family.

That’s because they are the most potent source of lycopene, one of the one most potent disease fighting compounds known to science.

This carotenoid that gives tomatoes their red color, can lower the risk of some of the most deadly cancers—including breast and prostate, protect your heart, protect your eyes and even help preserve your memory if you just consume a serving a day.

Here’s how:

Protect your heart: Lycopene offers all-round protection for your heart. German researchers found that people with high levels of lycopene cut their risk of a heart attack by 50%. That’s probably because lycopene helps lower dangerous LDL cholesterol and has even been shown to lower blood pressure. Other research shows lycopene also helps prevent clotting. There’s even some research that suggests lycopene helps strengthen blood vessels, offering protection against heart attack and strokes.

Prevent cancer: Those juicy tomatoes can protect you against some of the most dreaded cancers. A growing body of evidence shows lycopene protects against a variety of hormonally-related types of cancer, including prostate and breast.

A landmark Harvard study of 48,000 men showed men who ate the most tomato products were the least likely to develop prostate cancer and another Harvard study of nearly 40,000 women showed lycopene has the same type of protective effect against breast cancer. A smaller Harvard study suggests lycopene also protects against ovarian cancer.

Lycopene has even been implicated in helping prevent lung cancer in smokers, perhaps because its powerful antioxidant effect somehow neutralizes the carcinogenic effects of cigarette smoke.

Preserve memory: Researchers at the University of Kentucky, following a group of Catholic nuns who got the same diets and the same medical care, found that elderly women who got at least 30 milligrams of lycopene in their daily diets were 3.6 times more able to care for themselves physically and retained their memories longer than those who didn’t get their daily spaghetti sauce or drink their tomato juice.

Protect skin: Tomato sauce is a sunblock you can sink your teeth into! German research shows that eating just 1.3 ounces a day reduced sun-induced skin damage by 40%.

Experts say lycopene will not only help protect you against skin cancers, it will help you preserve youthful firmness and wrinkles that add years to your face. Yet, the experts also say it’s wise to use additional protection against the sun’s harmful rays.

Improve eyesight: Preliminary studies suggest that lycopene, as a powerful carotenoid may actually cut in half the rate of macular degeneration, the major cause of blindness in people over 65.

Lycopene will also work to prevent cataracts and vision problems because it is fat soluble and it is able to get to those areas like the eyes that are most vulnerable to oxidative damage.

All this adds up to a delicious prescription: Eat ‘em raw, eat ‘em in salsa, spaghetti sauce, tomato juice, even on pizza – eat your tomatoes every day and stay strong and healthy!

If you’re not a huge fan of tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit are also modest sources of lycopene.

If you can’t eat tomatoes for some reason, lycopene supplements are easily available. The experts recommend 30 to 35 mg. per day.

For years, nutritionists have told people to eat as many fresh and raw vegetables as possible, but cooked tomato products are a great way to go too. Cooking tomato products like spaghetti sauce and tomato juice actually makes the lycopene 2.5 times more easily absorbed.

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