Tomato is by far my most beloved fruit. Whether fresh and raw mixed with salad or cooked with herbs and spaghetti, tomatoes always taste great.
Many people who are not fans of tomatoes' taste also enjoy having them because they have anti-cancer benefits.
The anti-cancer benefits of tomatoes
Tomatoes are a good source of vitamins A, C and E, and an antioxidant called lycopene.
The powerful lycopene can help reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by reducing LDL cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. Besides, studies show that increased lycopene intake may help prevent prostate, lung, and stomach cancers.
The reducing anti-cancer benefits
According to a new study from The Ohio State University, however, some anti-cancer benefits of tomatoes, specifically those from lycopene, could disappear when they're eaten with iron-rich foods.
In the study, the researchers analyzed the blood and digestive fluid of a small group of medical students after they consumed either a tomato extract-based shake with iron or one without iron.
When participants drank the liquid meal mixed with an iron supplement, their lycopene uptake was much lower than those who drank liquid meal without iron, which means the anti-cancer benefits were wrecked.
"This could have potential implications every time a person is consuming something rich in lycopene and iron — say a Bolognese sauce, or an iron-fortified cereal with a side of tomato juice. You're probably only getting half as much lycopene from this as you would without the iron," said the study's lead author, Rachel Kopec.
Why this would happen
The researchers don't know precisely what changes the uptake of lycopene.
It is possible that iron oxidizes the lycopene. It is also possible that iron interrupts the nice mixed elements of tomatoes that are critical for cells to absorb the lycopene, for example, turning tomatoes into something like separated salad dressing — oil on top and vinegar on the bottom.
The researchers are now continuing to try to better understand lycopene's anti-cancer benefits and its interplay with iron and other compounds and nutrients.
Foods that are high in iron include:
Liver and Other Organ Meats
Next time, pay attention not to eat these foods with tomatoes.