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Tomato - The Great Nutrient

Pizza lovers rejoice! There's finally scientific support for downing that slice - or two! It's all in the sauce. Research shows that ripe juicy tomatoes are some of the most powerful disease fighters to hit food in years.

The reason for the excitement is lycopene, the pigment that gives tomatoes their vibrant color, Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant. A member of a family of pigments called carotenoids (like its cousin beta carotene in carrots), the lesser-known lycopene seems to have the greatest potential of any free-radical fighter in its class.

Americans get 80% of their lycopene from tomato products, which are the richest sources of this nutrient. While lycopene is present in watermelon, pink grapefruit, apricots and papaya, the amounts are comparatively small. Interestingly, a year-long study at the University of Toronto found that the best dietary bet for lycopene lies in cooked tomato products. The form of lycopene found in tomatoes is converted by the temperature changes involved in processing tomatoes into juice, sauces and paste. The chemical conversion allows the body to absorb the lycopene more easily. Since lycopene is a fat-soluble compound, it is readily absorbed when cooked with fat, such as the cheese in pizza, or the olive oil in tomato sauce. While food sources are preferred, supplements are a viable option.

Researchers recommend consuming at least 10mg of lycopene per day - the amount in a glass of tomato juice, a small can of tomato sauce, or a 10-mg capsule. The suggested upper limit is around 40 mg per day due to controversies surrounding high intakes of beta carotene. There have been no negative side effects connected with lycopene supplementation, however.

So, tomato products (with all their lycopene) should be part of a diet since we do not synthesize it and have to depend on dietary or supplemental sources. So the next time you enjoy a slice of pizza, containing tomato sauce, you can say, "this is good for me!"

Rick Gusler is a certified personal trainer and diet nutritionist who serves his clients through Gusler Body Sculpting Fitness Center in central Denver. To schedule a free consultation, or to learn more about the Gusler method of body sculpting, spin yoga, or Rick's Boot Camp, please contact him at 303.860.7131 or online at

Gusler Body Sculpting Fitness Center, LLC
459 Acoma Street · Denver, Colorado 80204 · 303-860-7131
Hours: Monday-Friday: 6am-8pm · Saturday: Closed · Sunday: Closed