Why tinned tomatoes are good for cardiovascular health –Experts


Amarachi Okeh

Food experts say even though fresh tomatoes are always preferred by Nigerians because of their health benefits, consuming canned tomatoes could also be quite beneficial for cardiovascular health.

According to the experts, canned tomatoes are rich in lycopene which is a strong antioxidant found in food with red colours, noting that lycopene helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and other health conditions.

While noting that there are more quantities of lycopene in canned tomatoes than fresh tomatoes, the experts say it was important for people to know that even though fresh tomatoes are good, there are exceptions to the general assumption that canned food products are not very healthy.

The experts, however, noted that while canned tomatoes provide antioxidants needed by the body, other nutrients like vitamins and phytonutrients that are equally beneficial to human health could be reduced or lost during the canning process.

Canning is a form of cooking through the application of heat to food in an enclosure. Cooking tomatoes break the tomato matrix and cause more absorption by the body tissues.

The food scientists, Dr. Funmi Oladunmoye and Prof. Christine Ikpeme in separate interviews with PUNCH HealthWise, stated that moderate consumption of canned tomatoes has plenty of health benefits especially as it contains more lycopene than fresh tomatoes.

According to webmd.com – a medical news site, lycopene is a naturally occurring chemical that gives fruits and vegetables a red colour. It is one of a number of pigments called carotenoids.

The site also stated that processing raw tomatoes using heat (in the making of tomato juice, tomato paste, or ketchup, for example) actually changes the lycopene in the raw product into a form that is easier for the body to use.

According to Dr. Oladunmoye, “lycopene found in tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit, due to its antioxidant properties has been associated with many health benefits like promoting good oral health, bone health, and healthy blood pressure.

“It has also been linked to the prevention and treatment of oxidative stress, lowering the risk of cardiovascular and heart diseases, cataracts, and certain types of cancer and macular degeneration.

Oladunjoye who is the deputy director of the Food Technology Department, Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi, also noted that lycopene is more present in canned tomatoes than fresh tomatoes.

This, she said, is due to the slow cooking process that breaks down the plant cells that otherwise trap the lycopene, thus facilitating its release from the natural tight bound it has with the tomato’s cell structure.

Oladunmoye, who is also the head of the Food Product Development Division at FIIRO, noted that “lycopene in this cooked form is more readily available and absorbable in the human body.

“For this reason, lycopene content present in canned tomatoes could be found higher than that of raw fresh tomatoes.”

She, however, warned that daily consumption of canned tomatoes could deprive the body of other nutritious components found in tomatoes that were destroyed by the thermal application of canning temperature.

She also noted that the leaking of certain harmful chemicals from the cans into the canned tomatoes is responsible for causing certain ailments in humans and exposing consumers to serious disease conditions.

Also speaking with PUNCH HealthWise, Ikpeme, who is a professor of food science in the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Calabar, said, lycopene contains powerful antioxidants that prevent cancer.

Speaking, she said, “These antioxidants help to prevent cancer and other degenerative health conditions because they attack the free radicals that can damage other normal body tissues.”

She, however, noted that heat-sensitive nutrients like vitamins are lost during the canning process.

Ikpeme, who is a food safety expert, added that “when canned tomatoes are consumed moderately, people can curtail the huge losses and wastage experienced due to the high perishable nature of fresh tomatoes whose moisture level is above 90 per cent.”

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