No one has to remind you of the importance of green, leafy vegetables, but what about red, round fruit—specifically, tomatoes? This star of Italian-American cuisine and a darling of home gardeners is off the charts in lycopene, an antioxidant compound that has been linked to a reduced risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration. Recently, a study published in the journal Neurology suggested that high levels of lycopene in the blood may offer protection against strokes
. Finnish researchers followed more than 1,000 men ages 46 to 55 and found that those with the highest levels of lycopene were 55 percent less likely to have a stroke than those with the lowest levels. Interestingly, it may be easier for the body to absorb lycopene from cooked tomato products (especially those with a small amount of oil or fat) than from raw tomatoes.