British supermarket giant Tesco has launched a British-grown tomato that offers double the lycopene content of normal tomatoes. This is part of a growing trend in the functional food category, as companies look to add antioxidants and other food componenets to processed foods and even produce.
Tomatoes are a valuable source of nutrients, including beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, and the carotenoid lycopene, a potent antioxidant that gives the fruit its characteristic red colour. Recent studies have linked tomatoes and their extracts to reducing the risk of several diseases, such as prostate cancer, as well as lowering inflammation that may cause hypertension and heart disease.
The new Tesco Healthy Living Tomato on the Vine variety are said to contain 36 per cent more lycopene than the standard tomato variety. The tomato was bred in Holland from different types of tomatoes with high lycopene levels.
As more studies find that fruit and vegetables have disease-fighting properties, interest in multiplying these health-protective properties increases among manufacturers and growers. www.tesco.com
So which other produce varieties are earning their superhero stripes?
Raspberries, which possess about 50 per cent higher antioxidant activity than strawberries, may also see sales rise as they become recognized as a Super Fruit. Storage and processing of raspberries into jams does not remove antioxidant compounds. And raspberries also beat out kiwis and tomatoes (garden-variety, that is) in terms of antioxidant activity: a new study, published in the journal BioFactors (Vol. 23, pp. 197-205), reported that raspberries contain three times more antioxidant activity than kiwis, and ten times the antioxidant activity of tomatoes.
Vitamin C makes up about 20 per cent of the total antioxidant capacity, anthocyanins, account for a further 25 per cent. But the biggest contribution to antioxidant capacity is from a family of compounds almost exclusive to the raspberry: ellagitannins, which are reported to have anti-cancer activity. Freezing and storing of the raspberries were found to not significantly affect the antioxidant activity of the berries, although the concentration of vitamin C was halved by the freezing process.
Only last year, sales of blueberries in the UK rocketed on the back of positive newspaper and magazine articles that heralded the humble blueberry as a SuperFood on the basis of compounds that could lower cholesterol levels.
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