THE BIG TWO … It’s a rare pizza that doesn’t include tomatoes and cheese in some form. These two pizza giants both offer surprising health benefits.

TOMATOES are bursting with the antioxidant lycopene, which is known to successfully block cancer growth. Lycopene (which makes tomatoes red) can prevent malignant cells from multiplying, and actually cause those cells to self-destruct. Tomatoes in all forms are nutritional, but an unusual twist is that lycopene is more easily used by the body if the tomato product involved (like tomato sauce) is cooked, not raw. Whether raw or fresh, your body can absorb more of the lycopene offered in tomatoes if a splash of oil is used in the preparation.

The journal Maturitas encourages us to drink tomato juice, and enjoy salsa and tomato sauces, as well as eating tomatoes out of hand, in salads and on sandwiches. If we consume 25mg. of lycopene daily, it can reduce our bad cholesterol by 10% — enough for many of the 15 million Americans who now take cholesterol-lowering drugs to either take lower doses of (or discontinue using) statins — a great savings financially, and a proven way to reduce the fatigue and muscle weakness associated with these prescriptions.

CHEESE has suffered image problems in the past, as dieters were convinced cheese could sabotage any well-intentioned diet. Not so, say scientists, who have found that not all saturated fat is bad. When this healthy fat comes to us through dairy products, it actually boosts our heart health. They say daily consumption of 5 grams of the saturated fat found in milk products (yes, we’re talking cheese) will result in 21% less risk for cardiovascular disease. When saturated fat comes from, for instance, red meat, the risk rises 31%!

Ever wonder why we love cheese so much? It contains a tiny amount of a mildly addictive “feel good” chemical called casein, a protein concentrated during the cheesemaking process. We digest and break it down in our bodies, creating morphine-like chemicals called casomorphins that calm us and make us mellow.

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Amy Heydt
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