Tomato Ketchup Cure

by Lori Bogedin

In the 1800s, it was believed that tomatoes had such great healing powers that people bathed in stewed tomatoes and took tomato pills.  Recognizing a money opportunity when he saw one, in 1834, Dr. John Cooke Bennet added tomatoes to ketchup, which had been made of fish and mushrooms. With the addition of vitamins and antioxidants, Dr. John Cooke Bennet claimed his ketchup and tomato pills could cure indigestion, jaundice, and more, but this soon became a passing phase.

The tomato (Solanum Lycopersicum) is a fruit from the nightshade family native to South America. Despite botanically being a fruit, a United States Supreme Court ruling more than 120 years ago decreed that the tomato is a vegetable. Fruit or vegetable, there is no doubt that tomatoes are a primary dietary source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to many health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. Tomatoes are also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K.

However crazy those Victorian’s were in the day,  Dr. John Cooke Bennet seemed to be on to something because, despite a loss of vitamin C during the cooking process, Cornell food scientists assert that cooking tomatoes substantially raises the levels of beneficial compounds called phytochemicals.

In the 2002, April issue of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, Rui Hai Liu, M.D., Cornell assistant professor of food science, records, “This research demonstrates that heat processing actually enhanced the nutritional value of tomatoes by increasing the lycopene content — a phytochemical that makes tomatoes red — that can be absorbed by the body, as well as the total antioxidant activity. The research dispels the popular notion that processed tomatoes have lower nutritional value than fresh produce.”

Antioxidants protect the human body from cell and tissue damage, which occurs when harmful molecules called free radicals, released as oxygen, are metabolized by the body. Lycopene, a carotenoid responsible for the red color in tomatoes and other fruits, has long been known as a powerful antioxidant that decreases cancer and heart-disease risk.

The largest tomato on record was grown in Oklahoma in 1986, weighing in at 7lbs. 2oz., it made enough sandwiches for 21 people. Whether consumed raw, cooked, in a sauce or on a sandwich, there is no disputing the fact that tomatoes are a healthy treat. So, head on over to your local vegetable stand and get some fresh vine tomatoes while the summer sun is shining.

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