Monday, July 9, 2007

Phytochemicals "phyt" cancer!

It was worth it to wait to make my tabouli recipe until the summer's first locally grown organic tomatoes became available. Oh my, yes, yes, yes - the taste was delicious and I had an immediate flash-back to last summer! I had a second big scoop, and although not sweet, it was like having dessert - yum, yum, soooo good.

Recent research has shown that over a 10 year growing period, organically grown tomatoes had an increasingly higher content of health-promoting phytochemicals than tomatoes conventionally grown under the same weather conditions. In fact, the ten-year mean levels of two phytochemicals called quercetin and kaempferol in organic tomatoes [115.5 and 63.3 mg g-1 of dry matter] were 79 and 97% higher than those in conventional tomatoes (64.6 and 32.06 mg g-1 of DM), respectively.

Why is this important? Phytochemicals are molecules produced by plants in order to protect themselves from disease, insects, or other stresses. So it makes sense that there would be higher levels in organically grown plants than those raised conventionally with chemical sprays to reduce competition from weeds, insects, and disease. These very molecules that are helping to protect the health of the plant also have increasingly recognized importance for our health, too. Both of the phytochemicals studied in this research have demonstrated anti-cancer activity against human cancer cells. They likely have additional health-promoting actions, too.

Thus, when I made a personal goal of maximizing the number of cancer-fighting foods going into my body, I also made a goal of seeking out not just any tomato (or fill in the blank) but those that also have superior taste (thus I am going to WANT to eat more of them!) plus also have more "bang for the buck" in terms of cancer-fighting activity.

Here is the full citation for the article I mentioned. You can click on PubMed under my Favorite Web Sites and find the abstract for the article using the key words "quercetin tomatoes".
Mitchell AE, Hong YJ, Koh E, Barrett DM, Bryant DE, Denison RF, Kaffka
S. Ten-Year Comparison of the Influence of Organic and Conventional
Crop Management Practices on the Content of Flavonoids in Tomatoes. J
Agric Food Chem. 2007 Jun 23.

Find your local Farmers' Market this week and purchase some organically grown tomaoes to try my cancer-fighting Tabouli recipe! In addition, I still saw tomato plants for sale at our Farmers' Market last Saturday, so it's not too late (but hurry) in my area to get some in the ground or in pots on your deck or patio. Plant some basil in an adjacent spot or pot, too, for a summer of delicious smells while waiting for delicious and healthful tastes!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

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