Spaghetti and meatballs have been known as two foods that shouldn’t be separated. Bread with butter, peanut butter with jelly, and cookies with milk are on the list inseparable food combinations. However, a new study shows that spaghetti with meatballs shouldn’t be on this list.
This new study shows that people won’t get the health benefits of tomatoes when eating meatballs. Tomatoes have a compound inside them called lycopene which gives tomatoes anti-cancer properties. However, researchers at The Ohio State University claim that iron-rich foods such as meatballs can neutralize the lycopene found in tomato sauce.
Lycopene is a carotenoid that is a natural pigment that provides many of the vibrant colors that can be found in fruits. what gives tomatoes, red cabbage, and watermelon their red pigment. Even though they aren’t red, foods such as asparagus can contain lycopene as well. Research has shown that lycopene has anti-cancer benefits against many types of cancer including lung and skin.
Their experiment the Ohio State group conducted was to give students a tomato-based shake with some containing shakes iron. The results showed that students who drank a shake containing iron had two times less lycopene in their blood and digestive fluids than those who drank a shake without iron.
Even though human bodies rely on iron for energy stores, waste management, and much more, it can overpower other beneficial compounds completely. This surprised scientists as they knew that certain compounds would be destroyed when mixed with iron but they didn’t know that carotenoids, like lycopene, would be one of these compounds. Scientists don’t know exactly why iron interferes with lycopene but a hypothesis is that iron oxidizes lycopene which leads to a different metabolic product. Another hypothesis suggests that the mix of tomato and fats is the right amount for cells to absorb lycopene and iron unbalances that mix.
However, people can still enjoy spaghetti with meatballs. Eating broccoli and blueberries are alternatives for people who want to eat cancer-reducing foods but don’t want to give up spaghetti and meatballs. Broccoli flushes out cancer-causing chemicals and boots protective enzymes in the body. Blueberries can slow down the growth of tumors by slowing down the growth of precancerous cells and keep new blood vessels from forming (which can feed the tumor).
Nutrition plays a major role in disease prevention. It is important for scientists to know how the foods that are consumed relate to people’s health. This way people are able to receive accurate, science-based recommendations.