In 2003, two friends in Melbourne, Australia were having a beer when they began talking about fashions and fads that have faded with time. The conversation got around to moustaches and they decided to bring back the facial hair in the month of November. Inspired by a friend’s mom who was raising funds for breast cancer research, they decided growing a mustache for prostate cancer awareness would be a unique way to capture public attention. Hence, Movember was born.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the U.S. according to the National Institute of Cancer. Since prostate cancer cells grow very slowly there are efforts to reduce growth through chemoprevention, that is compounds in foods or drugs that can slow the growth. One of the most promising is a naturally occurring red pigment of the carotenoid family called lycopene (lye-co-peen). In plants, lycopene protects their cells from light-induced stress. Apricots, guava, and watermelon contain the compound, but they can’t beat the lycopene content in tomatoes and tomato-based products like canned tomatoes in all forms, including tomato sauce, paste, and marinara sauces. Which brings me to my favorite t-shirt, the one that gets a double take every time I wear it my exercise class.
Lycopene is a lipophilic, meaning it has an affinity for fat (lipids) so eating tomatoes with some fat will increase absorption. Maybe that is why a drizzle of olive oil over fresh tomatoes tastes so good. But, another way to increase lycopene absorption is through heat treatment, as in the canning process. Cooking makes lycopene about two and half times more available to the body. While there is no recommended dietary intake (RDA) for lycopene, studies show about 10-20 milligrams/day is a good bet. One cup of tomato sauce has 46 milligrams, while tomato catsup has only 2 mg per tablespoon.
Research presented at the 2016 American Institute for Cancer Research Conference “based on a systematic review of 66 population-based studies conducted over a period of more than 20 years to identify trends that indicated a relationship between tomato and lycopene consumption and prostate cancer incidence found that men who consumed higher amounts of lycopene had an 11 percent reduced risk of prostate cancer compared to those who consumed the least; highest amounts of circulating blood lycopene was also linked to a 17 percent lower risk. There was a 1 percent decrease in prostate cancer risk for each additional 1 milligram of lycopene consumed per day. An average tomato has about 3 milligrams of lycopene.”
While the research is promising for slowing prostate cancer cells, it is far from conclusive, so please don’t turn to lycopene supplements, but do eat plenty of tomato-based products for not only their lycopene, but for the vitamins A and C, folate, and potassium.
For those of you who say, “I never eat processed foods,” think again when it comes to canned tomatoes. According to Alec Wasson, “chief tomato evangelist” with the Tomato Products Wellness Council, “canned tomatoes are harvested in the field and immediately whisked to a nearby processing plant, where they are sealed within 3-6 hours, capturing the flavor and nutrition of tomatoes at their peak. And since about 85% of the lycopene in our diets comes from tomatoes, canned products are easy, affordable, and versatile.”
So, as November is upon us and prostate cancer awareness is a theme for the month, enjoy eating canned tomatoes in every form this month, and the other 11 months, too. For more information on all things tomatoes and tasty recipes check out Tomato Wellness. And, for those of you who ask where you can get a cool “Legalize Marinara” shirt, click here.
And, 100% of all t shirt sales goes directly to Movember Foundation.
P.S. You might know that botanically tomato is a fruit, but in 1893 the U.S. Supreme Court declared tomato a vegetable (it went to the court based on a tariff dispute!)
For more on foods that fight cancer and other chronic diseases check out Food & Fitness After 50, available at Amazon or other booksellers.
Disclosure: I have no affiliation with the Tomato Wellness Council or any of the products shown here. I simply love tomatoes!
Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.