If you thought the GM foods debate was long dead and buried, think again. This week, researchers at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, released findings that show that tomatoes which have been genetically modified with additional plant chemicals, could help treat diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Why tomatoes?

Tomatoes are a cheap fruit to produce, and can be grown in various climates, making them one of the most harvested fruits in the world. Whilst they are already known for their health boosting properties, these GM tomatoes feature larger quantities of compounds known to help prevent cancer and other diseases.

The tomatoes feature large quantities of resveratrol, which is typically found in peanuts, berries and grapes. Resveratrol has been found to help lower blood glucose, resistance to insulin as well as helping to lower cholesterol. A single GM tomato features the equivalent amount of resveratrol as 50 bottles of red wine, and could be hailed as a major breakthrough.

The GM tomatoes have also been developed with large quantities of genistein, a compound found in soybeans, which has been linked to the prevention of breast cancer in the past. It’s hoped that with some more research, GM foods could be used to prevent other diseases too.

Cathie Martin, a professor from the John Innes Centre who worked on the research, said: “Our work will be of interest to different research areas including fundamental research on plants, plant/microbe engineering, medicinal plant natural products, as well as diet and health research.” The findings also pave the way for further research amongst compounds which come from plants, which could lead to finding ways to treat other types of diseases and even reduce obesity.

Eating for your health – antioxidant rich foods

It is currently unknown when or if these tomatoes will be a fixture on our supermarket shelves, but there are other foods which you can buy which are rich in antioxidants and could help to prevent diseases or fight illness. Foods which are high in antioxidants include:

  • Beans such as red, kidney and pinto beans
  • Berries such as blueberries, cranberries, raspberries and strawberries
  • Apples
  • Plums
  • Pecans
  • Prunes
  • Artichokes
  • Walnuts

Adding these to your dishes, whether it’s with breakfast in the morning, in a smoothie or as part of your main meal, can help your body’s natural defences against disease, as well as contribute to your five-a-day. There are plenty of great ways you can add these foods to your diet, so make it a part of your lifestyle to eat healthier.

Maintaining a healthy diet is important, particularly during the winter. Take steps to safeguard your health, and your family’s by preparing home-cooked, healthy meals featuring plenty of fruit and vegetables. If you’d like more information on how to eat healthily, as well as some great meal suggestions, the Live Well section on the NHS website has plenty of great tips.