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Tomatoes and Your Heart

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In addition to being cancer-protective, there’s ample evidence that tomatoes also play a role in reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease. The antioxidant function of lycopene, combined with the other powerful antioxidants in tomatoes such as vitamin C and beta-carotene, work in the body to neutralize free radicals that could otherwise damage cells and cell membranes. This preservation of cells and their membranes reduces the potential for inflammation and thereby the progression and severity of atherosclerosis. In one study, German scientists compared the lycopene levels in the tissues of men who had suffered heart attacks with those of men who had not. The men who had suffered attacks had lower lycopene levels than those who hadn’t. Interestingly, the men with the lowest levels of lycopene were twice as likely to suffer a heart attack as those with the highest levels.

In another large European study that compared carotenoid levels among patients from ten different countries, lycopene was found to be the most protective against heart attack.

Tomatoes are also a good source of potassium, niacin, vitamin B6, and folate—a great heart-healthy combination of nutrients. Potassium-rich foods play a positive role in cardiovascular health, being especially effective in helping to achieve optimal blood pressure. Niacin is commonly used to lower elevated blood cholesterol levels. The combination of vitamin B6 and folate effectively reduces levels of homocysteine in the blood. Elevated levels of homocysteine are associated with a higher risk of heart disease.

 
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