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Research findings suggest that high consumption of tomato products may be associated with reduced incidences of some types of cancer, specifically cancer of the prostate and digestive tract. The pigment that gives tomatoes their rich, red colour is called lycopene, proven by scientists to be a powerful antioxidant. In the body, antioxidant compounds fight the free radicals that may lead to disease.

The human body does not produce its own lycopene, so the benefits can only be obtained through a sound daily diet. To date, the most available sources of lycopene are found in cooked tomato foods like pasta sauce, juice, paste, and ketchup.

Dietitians tell us that the body can better absorb the lycopene in tomatoes if they are cooked. For example, that lycopene is absorbed 2.5 times more effectively from tomato paste, than it is from fresh tomatoes. About 85 percent of dietary lycopene comes from tomatoes and tomato products such as juice, ketchup, paste and sauce. Currently, Canada’s Food Guide recommends four to 10 servings of fruit and vegetables every day, a goal that is easily achieved when one adds such favourites as tomato juice, tomato soup, and pasta sauce.

Take a look at some typical values for lycopene content of some very common and popular foods:

There's been quite a lot of research in the last few years into the positive health benefits of lycopene and tomato products.

  • In the body, lycopene is deposited in the liver, lungs, prostate gland, colon and skin. Its concentration in body tissues tends to be higher than all other carotenoids.
  • Research conducted into breast, lung and endometrial cancer and reported in two prominent studies shows that lycopene is even more effective than its cousins, alpha- and beta-carotene, causing a delay in the cancer-cell cycle progression from one growth phase to the next.
  • Epidemiological and clinical studies show that high intake of lycopene-containing vegetables is inversely associated with the incidence of certain types of cancer. A meta-analysis of observational studies on the role of tomato intake and lycopene in the prevention of prostate cancer indicated that tomato intake was modestly and inversely associated with prostate cancer risk. The preventive effect was slightly stronger for cooked vs. raw tomato intake.
  • In addition to lycopene, tomatoes and tomato products are rich sources of other phytonutrients as well as vitamins, minerals and fiber. Many of these beneficial compounds have antioxidant properties that seem to work in combination with lycopene to offer health benefits.

So, although fresh tomatoes brighten your table and spruce up your salad - and are still very good for you – think about the even better benefits of processed tomatoes the next time you’re enjoying that pasta with your favourite CATELLI tomato sauce. It tastes great and it’s good for you. Now that’s something to sink your teeth into.

In addition to delivering the health benefits of lycopene, CATELLI Garden Select Pasta Sauce is a healthy choice and meets the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Health Check™ nutrient criteria for sodium, is low in fat and is a source of Vitamin A and C and Fibre.

Health Check™ is the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s food information program designed to help Canadians make healthy food choices. Every food in the program is evaluated by the Foundation’s registered dietitians and must meet specific nutrient criteria based on recommendations in Canada’s Food Guide.

The Health Check™ symbol is your assurance that the food contributes to an overall healthy diet and has been reviewed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation registered dietitians. Every participating Health Check product has an on-pack message explaining why it is part of a healthy diet. www.healthcheck.org

1. Yeung. D., & Rao, V. (2001). Unlock The Power of Lycopene. Pittsburgh, PA
2. Yeung. D., & laquatra, I. (2003). Heinz Handbook of Nutrition 9th edition. H.J. Heinz Company Ltd, Pittsburgh, PA
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