“A recent study showed that lycopene intake, almost entirely from tomato-based foods,was related to a lower risk of prostate cancer,” said Gail Hanula. Your mother told you to eat all your veggies. She was giving you better advice than sheknew. Hanula said betacarotene has had a lot of press, too. “It was the ‘wonder vitamin’ ofthe past few years,” she said. Betacarotene is the yellow-orange food pigment whichthe body converts into vitamin A. Studies have shown that people who eat at least five fruit and vegetable servings a dayhave clear benefits. They have lower rates of lung, prostate, bladder, esophageal andstomach cancers. That supports a theory on why Mediterranean people have lower cancer rates. Theirdiets have many tomato-rich dishes. Their diets are often lower in saturated fats andhigher in fiber than the typical American diets. Georgia farmers grow many crops known for their high carotenoid content. Extensionhorticulturist Terry Kelley said tomatoes, squash, carrots, sweet potatoes and leafygreens grow well in south Georgia. “They’re nutrition bargains,” Hanula said. “A medium carrot has 30 calories andprovides enough vitamin A for two days.” “That way you’re likely to get all of the nutrients you need for good health,” she said.”And you get other substances which might protect against cancer.” “Diets high in fruits and vegetables decrease the risk of certain types of cancer,”Hanula said. “But exactly why isn’t known.” Tomatoes, oranges, carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash have more carotenoidsthan white or light-colored veggies. Dark green and orange vegetables have more of thehelpful pigment than others. Don’t just eat the same fruit or veggie over and over, she said. Eat a variety. Vegetables are low in calories, rich in vitamins and high in fiber. Lycopene, she said, is just one of more than 500 carotenoid pigments found in fruitsand vegetables. It’s getting a lot of attention lately. New research links lycopene andother carotenoids with reduced cancer risk. Hanula is a nutrition and health specialist with the University of Georgia ExtensionService. Betacarotene supplements, though, haven’t been shown to decrease cancer risk. It maybe, Hanula said, that some other substance in betacarotene-rich foods may be thecancer preventer. In 1996, Georgia growers picked 90,000 tons of tomatoes from 4,500 acres. The cropwas valued at more than $43 million. “Three of the four tomato-based foods studied — tomato sauce, tomatoes and pizza –were related to a lower risk of prostate cancer,” Hanula said.