Next time you load on the sauce, onto your pizza or spaghetti, make sure it's made from orange tomatoes, not the usual red ones.
Scientists from Ohio State University have reported findings, which state that lycopene- the well-known antioxidant found in tomatoes, is absorbed better by the body, when it comes from tomatoes that are orange in color.
The study is published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Lycopene is said to be a potent antioxidant that fights free radicals, which are thought to cause cancer, and ageing, battles age-related eye problems and is also good for the heart. Lycopene is found in many orange and red colored fruits and vegetables.
The researchers led by Dr. Steven Schwartz, did their study using 12 adult volunteers. They were asked to refrain from eating tomatoes or any form of the fruit up to 13 days before the commencement of the experiment.
As part of the test they were divided into two groups. One was given spaghetti and sauce made from red tomatoes and the other spaghetti with sauce made from the orange tomatoes. Blood levels of lycopene were measured before and after meals and also every hour, up to 10 hours after the meals.
It was seen that lycopene absorption from the orange tomatoes was 2.5 times higher than the one from the red tomatoes. It was also seen that 5 hours after the meals, the blood lycopene levels from the orange tomatoes were around 200 times higher than from their counterpart.
Says Schwartz: "While red tomatoes contain far more lycopene than orange tomatoes, most of it is in a form that the body doesn't absorb well.
"The people in the study actually consumed less lycopene when they ate sauce made from the orange tomatoes, but they absorbed far more lycopene than they would have if it had come from red tomatoes," he noted.
Before you rush out to buy that orange colored tomato, wait a while. The tomatoes, known as Tangerine tomatoes, used in the study, were those specifically bred by the scientists of the university's agricultural research station. These are not available commercially yet, but scientists recommend to those willing to go the extra mile, to look for orange or golden colored heirloom tomatoes-though they have not conducted studies on these yet. They believe that lighter colored tomatoes may have a more absorbable form of lycopene.