Tomatoes Have An Important Health Benefit For Men

Doctors have been telling us for years that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables carries numerous positive health effects, from lowering blood pressure, to reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, to preventing many different kinds of cancer (per Harvard School of Public Health). Tomatoes, which are a fruit but commonly mistaken for a vegetable, are one of the most beloved fresh produce items in the USA, and also popular in a variety of processed forms, from spaghetti sauce to ketchup. Like most fruits, tomatoes are full of vitamins and antioxidants that support good health. Plus, they pack a powerful ingredient that may help men keep their prostate cancer-free and functioning optimally.

Prostate cancer is the most common and the second most deadly form of cancer in men in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute. But a 2018 review of studies done on tomato consumption and rates of prostate cancer published in the journal Prostate Cancer and Prostate Diseases found that there is a direct inverse correlation between quantity of tomato foods consumed and risk of prostate cancer. With one interesting condition. 

How tomato antioxidants help protect the prostate gland

Tomatoes are one of the top natural sources of the powerful antioxidant lycopene, which is a type of organic pigment responsible for giving the fruit its intense red color (via WebMD). According to a 2021 study published in the journal Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy, lycopene is the strongest of the various carotene antioxidants and shows potent anti-cancer properties against a variety of different types of cancer. But it is lycopene's unique ability to protect against prostate cancer that has drawn the most attention.

A 2020 study published in Biomedicine and Pharmacology showed that lycopene alone not only can inhibit the progression and proliferation of prostate cancer cells but can actually trigger apoptosis, or cell death, in existing prostate cancer cells. In the study, this effect was shown directly on cancer cell cultures in a test tube and in live human subjects. More exciting yet, the researchers also found that lycopene acts on the "signaling pathways" of cancer cells in ways that may actually prevent prostate cancer before it even develops. If ever there were a study that should get all men to eat their tomato products, this is it.

What's the best way to enjoy tomatoes for optimal health benefits?

Interestingly, higher tomato consumption is associated with lower rates of prostate cancer only when the tomatoes are cooked or in a processed form of "tomato foods," but not when tomatoes are eaten raw. Looking into the unique chemistry of tomatoes may explain why this is.

According to a 2019 study that compared the lycopene content of several different commonly eaten tomato products and food, lycopene is simply more bioavailable in cooked tomato products than in raw tomatoes (per Foods). What this means is that cooking and processing tomatoes cause lycopene to be more readily absorbed in the body, giving you a bigger dose of this powerful nutrient than you would get from eating them raw.

Also remarkable, Cornell University researchers found back in 2002 that cooking tomatoes not only increases their lycopene content but boosts their total antioxidant activity. The study was a landmark in showing that in some cases, eating cooked produce may be more healthy than eating the raw version. What this means is that men who want to give their prostate the best protection that Mother Nature has to offer should consider consuming pizza, pasta, and other dinner sauces made from cooked tomatoes on a daily or regular basis.