After years out in the cold under former manager Fabio Capello, tomato ketchup has finally been re-admitted into the England squad’s diet ahead of the World Cup.
While Capello was said to be unimpressed by the high salt and sugar content of the sauce - favouring a Mediterranean diet for the squad - his successor Roy Hodgson says ketchup will not do his players any harm as they train in Florida before heading to Brazil. HP sauce and butter are also back on the menu.
But more than not causing any harm, a bit of ketchup could even do the players some good if these reported health benefits are to be believed.
1. It reduces risk of prostate cancer
Eating tomato sauce two or more times a week reduces a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer by around 20 per cent, according to a 2002 American study of 47,000 men.
Earlier research suggested it was lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes, which cut the cancer risk.
2. It increases sperm count
Lycopene, which gives tomatoes their red colour, could also boost male fertility, a study published earlier this year found.
Researchers found the antioxidant could increase sperm count by up to 70 per cent, increase swimming speed and reduce the number of abnormal sperm.
3. It cuts cholesterol
Tests carried out by Finnish scientists found that ketchup could cut low-density lipoprotein, aka ‘bad cholesterol’.
Volunteers in the 2007 study, who added ketchup to their three daily meals, saw their total cholesterol levels drop by six per cent over six weeks and their low-density lipoprotein levels drop by 13 per cent.
4. It improves your eyesight
As well as being high in vitamin C and low in fat, ketchup contains vitamin A, which is key for a healthy immune system and, perhaps crucially, good vision.
5. It makes actually healthy food bearable to eat
Let’s be honest here - despite the health benefits above, ketchup is also packed with sugar and salt, so it's possibly not the best thing for a serious health kick. Tomato growers have also argued that people would need to eat a whole bottle of the sauce a day to see many of these benefits.
It does, however, mask the taste of almost anything, so England footballers who’ve never quite got accustomed to the Capello diet could use it to ease down all those virtuous Mediterranean vegetables.
The Telegraph, London