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Fresh Tomato Salsa

Tomatoes are members of the Solanaceae, or nightshade, family, which also includes bell peppers, eggplant, and potatoes. Tomatoes can be red, yellow, orange, green, or brown in color, and actually, there are thousands of different varieties that differ in color, size, and shape. In the botanical sense, tomatoes are a fruit, but they don't have the sweetness of typical fruits and are therefore commonly considered to be a vegetable.

One of the reasons tomatoes are so good for us is their high levels of the carotenoid lycopene. Lycopene is extremely protective against many cancers, including prostate, breast, colon, lung, and skin cancers, and also helps to lower the risk of heart disease, cataracts, and macular degeneration. This carotenoid helps to prevent these cancers and diseases due to its strong antioxidant capabilities; lycopene neutralizes free radicals very efficiently before they can do damage to our cells. Lycopene levels are highest in red tomatoes, especially when ripe. An important thing to note is lycopene is best absorbed when eaten in conjunction with oil, such as avocado or olive oil, because carotenoids are fat-soluble nutrients.

Tomatoes also contain other powerful disease fighting nutrients; three antioxidants called zeta-carotene, phytoene, and phytofluene which work together to help prevent disease and cancer. Furthermore, tomatoes provide phenolic acids that are particularly good at protecting against lung cancer.

Tomatoes also have coumaric acid and chlorogenic acid to block nitrosamines, which are cancer-causing compounds naturally formed in the body and are also the strongest carcinogenic (cancer-causing) part of tobacco smoke. Tomatoes are also high in vitamin C, a strong antioxidant, which is another way tomatoes are helpful for preventing and fighting cancer and disease.

Another important nutrient of tomatoes is salicylate. Salicylates have an anticoagulant effect in the blood, which helps to prevent cardiovascular problems such as heart attack and stroke.

Tomatoes are low in calories but have a lot of nutrition, especially when they are fully ripe. For example, red tomatoes have almost four times the amount of beta carotene as green tomatoes. Tomatoes are a great source of vitamins A, B6, C, and K, potassium, carotenes (especially lycopene), biotin, pantothenic acid, niacin, folic acid, and fiber.

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