The hot Louisiana summers are often unbearable. But luckily for residents of South Louisiana, there is one annual crop that often makes the summer months worth while. The Creole Tomato is not only a uniquely refreshing and tasty Louisiana favorite…it can also help treat some diseases.
Creole Tomatoes are loaded with a variety of important nutrients, including antioxidants vitamin C and lycopene. Antioxidants are important parts of a healthy diet and help protect healthy cells from damage caused by free radicals, explained Dr. Beth Reames, LSU AgCenter nutritionist. Such antioxidants have been attributed to preventing cancer, heart disease and other diseases. Rich foods such as green vegetables, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and broccoli are loaded with lycopene, a powerful antioxidant.
Since 1995, Lycopene has been the focus of much attention when a six-year study of nearly 48,000 men by Harvard University found that men who ate at least 10 servings per week of foods containing tomato sauce or tomatoes were 45 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer.
The study also found that those who ate four to seven servings per week were 20 percent less likely to develop the cancer. Other research has found that lycopene also reduces the amount of oxidized low-density lipoprotein, known as bad cholesterol and therefore may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Dr. Reames says that canned tomatoes may be more nutritious than fresh because they're picked and processed in a manner that helps retain all the goodness. Scientists have also discovered that packaged, heat-processed tomato products, such as spaghetti sauce, contains more than 6 times more lycopene than the equivalent amount of fresh tomatoes.
When buying fresh tomatoes, choose those that have a deep, rich color. "This is one of the signs of a delicious tasting tomato and a substantial supply of lycopene," Reames said. Tomatoes should be well shaped and smooth skinned with no wrinkles, cracks, bruises of soft spots. Ripe tomatoes will yield to slight pressure and will have a sweet fragrance.
So the next time you pass your friendly Creole Tomato vender on the side of road...stop and buy this Louisiana favorite. It may just help save your life.