Tomatoes: the Everyday Superfood for Heart Health
Nutrient-rich tomatoes are primary source of the antioxidant lycopene and second most consumed vegetable in the American diet

OMAHA, Neb., Nov 09, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) --

ConAgra Foods, Inc., (NYSE: CAG) one of North America's leading food makers, presented research findings this week exploring the unique cardiovascular benefits of tomatoes as part of a heart-healthy diet. Beyond the widely recognized benefits of lycopene, recent studies have suggested that the distinct combination of nutrients found in tomatoes may have a measurable impact on heart disease prevention.

At the American Dietetic Association's Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo held in Boston this week, ConAgra Foods, the maker of Hunt's(R) tomatoes, sponsored a session featuring Dr. Tissa Kappagoda of the University of California-Davis and Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton of Penn State University. They reviewed multiple studies, including the 2009 Tomato Products Wellness Council research they co-authored with other medical experts, examining how fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes can reduce heart disease risk factors.

"Research suggests a protective relationship between the consumption of tomatoes and tomato products and cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Kappagoda, director of the Coronary Heart Disease Reversal Program, University of California-Davis. "For instance, in a six-week study, people with high blood pressure who consumed two servings of canned tomato products daily experienced a significant decrease in blood pressure."(1)

According to a study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, lycopene absorption is two to three times greater in canned tomato products than raw tomatoes. (2) "Tomatoes not only contain high levels of carotenoid antioxidants such as lycopene, but also serve as a significant source of vitamin C, fiber and potassium in the American diet," said Kristin Reimers, Ph.D., nutrition manager, ConAgra Foods. "Calorie for calorie, tomatoes contain more than twice the potassium of other common sources such as bananas, potatoes, milk and orange juice."

Tomatoes are America's favorite non-starchy vegetable and account for 85 percent of the lycopene consumed in the U.S. Because of the tomato's popularity and nutritive value, the USDA has outlined a new red-orange vegetable sub-group in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to provide a greater focus on tomatoes.

In addition to the specific health benefits of tomatoes, encouraging greater tomato consumption may help increase overall vegetable intake since canned tomatoes, such as Hunt's, are readily available, widely accepted by consumers, convenient and economical. "At a time when consumers are as concerned about getting the most for their grocery dollar as they may be about their long-term health, products like Hunt's canned tomatoes can help people balance value with nutrition," Reimers said.

"For many years, heart-healthy diets have focused on dietary restrictions such as saturated fat and trans fat," said Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., distinguished professor, Penn State University. "That mindset is changing and today, the overwhelming majority of dietitians and physicians agree that to improve health and reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease, Americans need to think positively about which foods to include in their diets instead of which foods to avoid."

ConAgra Foods has an ongoing commitment to health and wellness and sponsors numerous research studies throughout the year to convey the health benefits of a variety of foods to dietitians and consumers.

About Hunt's

Hunt's tomatoes are available in many varieties, including No Salt Added options, making it easy to incorporate the health benefits of tomatoes into your daily meals. Only Hunt's uses the natural FlashSteam(R) process to lock in natural tomato goodness of every tomato in Diced, Whole and Stewed varieties.

About ConAgra Foods

ConAgra Foods, Inc., (NYSE: CAG), is one of North America's leading food companies, with brands in 97 percent of America's households. Consumers find Banquet,Chef Boyardee, Egg Beaters, Hebrew National, Hunt's, Marie Callender's, Orville Redenbacher's, PAM, Peter Pan, Reddi-wip, Slim Jim, Snack Pack and many other ConAgra Foods brands in grocery, convenience, mass merchandise and club stores. ConAgra Foods also has a strong business-to-business presence, supplying frozen potato and sweet potato products as well as other vegetable, spice and grain products to a variety of well-known restaurants, foodservice operators and commercial customers. For more information, please visit us at www.conagrafoods.com.

(1)"Processed tomato products and risk factors for chronic disease," Tomato Products Wellness Council, 2009.

(2)American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1997:66, 116-22.

SOURCE: ConAgra Foods, Inc.

ConAgra Foods
Becky Niiya, 402-240-5312