The vegetable that invigorates your heart

When scientists took a look at what elements of a healthy diet improve your heart and arteries, they found one particular vegetable that helps widen blood vessels and ease cardiovascular difficulties.

The heart-healthy vegetable is the tomato. The antioxidant pigment lycopene, which gives tomatoes their red color, is a powerful nutrient that offers extra benefits when it is pureed in ketchup and consumed with olive oil.

According to researcher Joseph Cheriyan, who is with the University of Cambridge in England: “There’s a wealth of research that suggests that the Mediterranean diet — which includes lycopene found in tomatoes and other fruit as a component — is good for our cardiovascular health.”

When the researchers tested lycopene on people with heart disease who were taking statin drugs, they found that lycopene helped blood vessels widen 53 percent more. It is believed that the widening lowers the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

“We’ve shown quite clearly that lycopene improves the function of blood vessels in cardiovascular disease patients,” says Cheriyan. “It reinforces the need for a healthy diet in people at risk from heart disease and stroke. A daily ‘tomato pill’ is not a substitute for other treatments, but may provide added benefits when taken alongside other medication. However, we cannot answer if this may reduce heart disease — this would need much larger trials to investigate outcomes more carefully.”

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Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.