Lycopene, a red carotenoid pigment found in tomatoes, can help reduce your risk of stroke, according to new research out of Finland. Scientists found that people with higher concentrations of lycopene in their blood have a lower incidence of strokes, particularly strokes related to blood clots. For the best results, however, consumers are cautioned against getting their lycopene from canned or processed tomatoes, and instead opt for fresh or dried. It’s also important to note that organic tomatoes have been shown to contain more nutrients and antioxidants than conventional tomatoes – this may very well be the case with lycopene.
Cut Stroke Risk by Eating Tomatoes
Medical News Today reports the study looked at 1,031 Finnish men between the ages of 46 and 65, and followed them for a 12 year period. Of the study group, 67 men suffered a stroke. Among those with the lowest concentrations of lycopene in their blood, 25 had a stroke. Of those with the highest concentrations, only 11 suffered a stroke.
The link was even more pronounced when scientists focused solely on strokes caused by clots. Then, those with the highest blood lycopene levels had a 59% lower risk than the others.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), strokes kill around 130,000 people in the United States each and every year. It accounts for about one in every 18 deaths in this country. And like heart disease, most of these deaths are preventable.
You prevent a stroke much in the same ways you prevent a heart attack—through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. This latest study suggests that adding more tomatoes to your diet could further reduce your chances of death by stroke. On a side note, it would also be wise to avoid soda, aspirin, antidepressants, and unfiltered water to lessen your stroke risk.
Lycopene doesn’t just effect your stroke risk, other research has found it to have an effect on your cancer risk as well. A University of Chicago study found that it was particularly useful in preventing prostate cancer.
But, not all tomatoes are created equal. Do not buy canned tomatoes unless they are packaged in glass jars. Cans, to this day, are lined with BPA (a cancer-causing compound), and the acidic nature of tomatoes means that more of the BPA from the can will eventually end up in your body. So, always opt for fresh if you can. Local and homegrown are obviously the best choices. But, sundried tomatoes are another yummy alternative.