Can Tomato Paste Improve Heart Function?

By Michael A. Smith, MD

I used to think that tomato paste was just a lazy chef’s alternative to peeling and using real tomatoes. But after watching the Food Network for several years now, I’ve come to realize that tomato paste is made from real tomatoes and actually adds flavor and texture to sauces. And just in case you’re wondering, I do not cook but love watching people cook. Go figure.

So back to the tomato paste. It turns out that this stuff is actually really good for you, particularly for your heart. A new study confirms that this antioxidant-rich tomato concoction can improve the function of your blood-vessels, helping to keep them free from disease.

Let’s look at the study, which hails from the home of the very healthy Mediterranean diet: Greece.

Tomato Paste Improves Blood Vessel Dilation

Flow-mediated dilation (FMD) is a measurement of health for your blood vessels. Improving FMD through nutrients or drugs is a step in the right direction for a healthier cardiovascular system. Specifically, when FMD improves, it usually means the cells lining the blood vessels, called endothelial cells, are also healthier. Well, guess what? Tomato paste improves FMD.

Now most of us are familiar with lycopene. It’s a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes, and it has been shown to improve prostate health. Well, this new research demonstrates that lycopene improves FMD as well. And that’s a good thing for your heart and blood vessels.

A daily 70 gram portion of tomato paste containing 33.3 mg of lycopene, consumed for a 14-day period, was associated with a 3.3% improvement in FMD. On the flip side, subjects receiving a placebo actually had a decline in FMD by 0.5%. A 3.3% improvement may seem small, but when it comes to FMD, this is a significant finding.1

The authors concluded, “The antioxidant properties of carotenoids, mainly lycopene, are central to their beneficial properties. … Carotenoids prevent the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol.” And “as hypothesized, tomato paste exerted a beneficial effect on the endothelium as demonstrated by the rise in FMD.”

To be fair, tomato paste provides other nutrients besides lycopene — nutrients like vitamins C and E, and rutin — all of which are probably playing a role.

But this is what’s interesting: The authors claim that tomato paste has more lycopene than unprocessed tomatoes. However, the other nutrients mentioned above are found in the same amounts between unprocessed and processed tomatoes.

This led the authors to further hypothesize that it’s the lycopene providing the FMD benefit.

Recipe: Healthy Sloppy Joes

This is adapted straight from the Food Network’s famous Rachael Ray.2 We made it healthy by increasing the tomato paste content, swapping the beef with ground chicken or turkey, adding sweetness with dried fruit crystals instead of brown sugar, and using whole-grain rolls as the buns.

By the way, if you really want to use red meat, at least use grass-fed beef which has a higher omega-3 content than grain-fed beef.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground chicken or turkey
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit crystals
  • 2 teaspoons protein seasoning blend
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 crusty whole-grain rolls, split, toasted, and lightly buttered
Directions:

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add oil and meat to the pan. Spread the meat around the pan and begin to break it up.
  2. Combine dried fruit crystals and seasoning. Add to the skillet and combine.
  3. When the meat has browned, add onion and red peppers to the skillet.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and cook onions, peppers, red wine vinegar with meat for 5 minutes.
  5. Add tomato sauce and paste to pan. Stir to combine.
  6. Reduce heat to simmer and cook Sloppy Joe mixture 5 minutes longer.
  7. Using a large spoon or ice cream scoop, pile sloppy meat onto toasted, buttered bun bottoms and cover with bun tops. Serve with your favorite sides or sliced tomatoes seasoned with salt and pepper, and dill pickles. Have plenty of napkins on hand!
Give it a try and let us know what you think!

References:

  1. Xaplanteris P, et al. Tomato paste supplementation improves endothelial dynamics and reduces plasma total oxidative status in healthy subjects.” Nutrition Research. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2012.03.011.
  2. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/super-sloppy-joes-recipe/index.html

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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Please give details on Protein Seasoning Blend and Dried Fruit Crystals....

Life Extension said...

The dried fruit crystals are sold at whole food type stores. They add sweetness without impacting post-meal sugar spikes like regular sugar and they are safer than artificial sweeteners. The protein seasoning blend usually consists of salt, black pepper, dried peppers and spices and that mix well into the ground protein.

Jim said...

Good article. I was wondering whether you think the lycopene and other nutrients in tomato ketchup is more important than the sugar content. Been looking for a low sugar version but they're hard to find.

gluten free pies said...

Your sauce will never be better than its ingredients. Selecting the right tomatoes for the job is, without question, a make-it or break-it decision.

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