Who doesn’t love a delicious plate of pasta with tomato sauce? I love a bowl full of brown rice noodles smothered in homemade tomato sauce made from my organic tomatoes fresh from the garden. Taste alone is enough reason to love this Italian favorite. But now there is more reason than ever to love a plate full of spaghetti with plentiful amounts of tomato sauce—the luscious, red fruit provides a serious boost to gut health.
It turns out that probiotics—those microscopic, beneficial bacteria—love tomatoes as much as we do. But that’s just what new research published in the Journal of Functional Foods found: microbes (the good kind) enjoy a plate of spaghetti. Okay, maybe not, but they love nibbling on the tomatoes from which the sauce originates. And, to thank us for the feast, they multiply.
That’s because tomatoes act as prebiotics (which are the foods for probiotics) thereby giving beneficial bacteria food from which to grow their numbers. The end result is a healthier gut and better overall health since gut health is linked to a growing list of health benefits, including: improved immunity to superbugs, reduced allergies, less pain and inflammation, better moods and much more.
The researchers assessed both raw and cooked tomatoes under digestive conditions alongside the probiotic known as Lactobacillus reuteri (L. reuteri) which is known for its gut-health promoting effects. While both raw and cooked tomatoes offered gut health benefits, the researchers found that the benefits of cooked tomatoes were greater than their raw counterparts at boosting L. reuteri.
Research links the probiotic L. reuteri to many other health benefits. According to a studypublished in the Medical Science Monitor, the probiotic may have healing properties for those suffering from arthritis. It also demonstrates the ability to help us with our dental health, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontolgy.
There are even heart health benefits of encouraging the growth of this microbe in your gut. The microscopic health booster has been found in research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition to help drop the levels of a heart- and blood-vessel damaging compound known as C-reactive protein, as well as improve other heart disease markers.
How can you benefit from the research?
Add more tomatoes and tomato sauce to your diet. Avoid white pasta or egg noodles, which are also typically made from refined white flour and can actually encourage the growth of harmful bacteria or yeasts in the intestines, thwarting your best efforts. Instead, choose whole grain or whole grain and gluten-free pasta options such as brown rice, quinoa or even pasta made from legumes like black beans, which is also delicious.
Cooked tomatoes increased the benefits of L. reuteri more than raw tomatoes, but the addition of more tomatoes of either the cooked or raw varieties should ultimately be the goal.
Choose only organic tomatoes since tomatoes are heavily-sprayed with harmful microbes and some of these pesticides have been linked to harmful imbalances of gut microbes. In other words, chemically-sprayed tomatoes can throw off the delicate microbial balance in your gut.
Add a splash of olive oil to your tomato sauce toward the end of the cook time since it will boost up the absorption of the potent antioxidant found in tomatoes, known as lycopene.
Enjoy your delicious plate of pasta knowing that you and the beneficial microbes who share your space will be enjoying it as much as you.