Tomatoes can slash your stroke risk

While many diseases come with warning signs, strokes can strike with none at all -- and that element of the unknown is part of what makes them so frightening.

But there are simple steps you can take right now to slash that risk -- like eating more tomatoes.

This humble fruit (yes, it's a fruit) is rich in lycopene benefits, a cancer-fighting antioxidant that can also help thin the blood. Thinner blood is less likely to clot, cut off the flow, and lead to a stroke.

That's why a new study of more than 1,000 Finnish men finds that those with the highest blood levels of lycopene benefits have a 55 percent lower risk of stroke than those with the lowest.

So it can prevent stroke and fight off cancer -- including cancers of the lung, stomach, and prostate -- and that's still not all this natural wonder nutrient can do. Studies have shown that lycopene benefits can also boost the immune system, and there's even evidence it can help prevent heart disease.

In one study, high levels of lycopene cut the risk of the disease in women by more than a third.

As I mentioned, tomatoes are one of the best natural sources of lycopene benefits. The best way to enjoy them is cooked, since heat can break down the fiber and help your body to absorb the lycopene better. The fats in olive oil can also add some flavor and increase that absorption.

Yes, in other words tomato sauce may be the best and most delicious way to get this nutrient -- as long as it's not on top of a fast food pizza. In addition to tomatoes, other delicious sources of lycopene include watermelon, guava, and papaya.