Health benefits of tomatoes
The tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is a fruit from the nightshade family native to South America.
Despite botanically being a fruit, it’s generally eaten and prepared like a vegetable.
In case you were wondering, a tomato is a technically a fruit, because it’s seed-bearing and develops from the ovary of a flowering plant. (Botanically speaking, vegetables consist of other plant parts, like roots, leaves, and stems.) But when it comes to nutrition, tomatoes —along with seedy cucumbers and zucchini—are categorized as vegetables. That’s due in part to their lower carb and sugar contents: A medium tomato provides just 22 calories, and about 5 grams of total carb, with 3 as sugar and 1.5 as fiber. But this low-calorie, low-carb package is chock-full of nutrients, and has been linked to a variety of health benefits. Here are seven, along with some simple ways to incorporate more tomatoes into your everyday meals and snacks.
Tomatoes are the major dietary source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to many health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.
They are also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K.
A tomato is a nutrient-dense superfood that offers benefit to a range of bodily systems. Its nutritional content supports healthful skin, weight loss, and heart health.
Despite the popularity of tomatoes, it was only 200 years ago that they were thought to be poisonous in the United States (U.S.) This is likely to be because the plant belongs to the toxic nightshade family.
- Including tomatoes in the diet can help protect against cancer, maintain healthy blood pressure, and reduce blood glucose in people with diabetes.
- Tomatoes contain key carotenoids such as lutein and lycopene. These can protect the eye against light-induced damage.
- Eat more tomatoes by adding them to wraps or sandwiches, sauces, or salsas. Alternatively, eat them cooked or stewed, as these preparation methods can boost the availability of key nutrients.
- Tomatoes are in the top ten fruits and vegetables for containing levels of pesticide residue. Wash tomatoes before eating.
Vitamins and minerals
Tomatoes are a good source of several vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin C. This vitamin is an essential nutrient and antioxidant. One medium-sized tomato can provide about 28% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI).
- Potassium. An essential mineral, potassium is beneficial for blood pressure control and heart disease prevention.
- Vitamin K1. Also known as phylloquinone, vitamin K is important for blood clotting and bone health.
- Folate (vitamin B9). One of the B vitamins, folate is important for normal tissue growth and cell function. It’s particularly important for pregnant women.
The water content of tomatoes is around 95%. The other 5% consists mainly of carbohydrate and fiber .
Here are the nutrients in a small (100-gram) raw tomato
- Calories: 18
- Water: 95%
- Protein: 0.9 grams
- Carbs: 3.9 grams
- Sugar: 2.6 grams
- Fiber: 1.2 grams
- Fat: 0.2 grams
Boost digestive health
The fluid and fiber in tomatoes may be helpful if you’re prone to constipation. (According to the USDA one large tomato contains 6 ounces of fluid, and 1.5 grams of fiber.) Just be aware that in some people, the acidity from cooked tomatoes may trigger or worsen acid reflux and indigestion.
Help with diabetes management
Tomatoes may be a protective food for people with type 2 diabetes: In one study, people with diabetes who supplemented with cooked tomatoes for 30 days experienced a decrease in lipid peroxidation, a chain reaction in which substances called free radicals attack fat, leading to damage that ups the risk of heart disease. This is particularly important, because diabetes doubles the risk of stroke and heart attack.
Guard skin health
A 2011 study found that the combination of tomato paste and olive oil protected against sun damage, and boosted the production of pro-collagen, a molecule that gives the skin its structure and keeps it firm and youthful. Scientists believe that the lycopene in tomatoes is key. It’s at its highest concentration when tomatoes have been cooked, and olive oil boosts its absorption from your digestive system into your bloodstream.
Tomatoes are a great source of vitamins
A single tomato can provide about 40% of the daily recommended minimum of vitamin C. What’s more, tomatoes supply vitamin A, which supports immunity, vision, and skin health; vitamin K, which is good for your bones; and potassium, a key nutrient for heart function, muscle contractions, and maintaining a healthy blood pressure and fluid balance.
Tomatoes help prevent several types of cancer.
A number of studies have been conducted that indicate that the high levels of lycopene in tomatoes works to reduce your chances of developing prostate, colorectal and stomach cancer.
Lycopene is a natural antioxidant that works effectively to slow the growth of cancerous cells. Cooked tomatoes produce even more lycopene, so go ahead and cook up a batch of your mom’s famous tomato soup.
Tomatoes help maintain strong bones.
Tomatoes contain a considerable amount of calcium and Vitamin K. Both of these nutrients are essential in strengthening and performing minor repairs on the bones as well as the bone tissue.
Tomatoes help repair damage caused by smoking.
No, eating tomatoes is not the most recent fad to help you quit smoking. However, tomatoes can reduce the amount of damaged done to your body by smoking cigarettes.
Tomatoes contain coumaric acid and chlorogenic acid that work to protect the body from carcinogens that are produced from cigarette smoke.
Tomatoes provide essential antioxidants.
Tomatoes contain a great deal of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. This is primarily because these vitamins and beta-carotene work as antioxidants to neutralize harmful free radicals in the blood.
Free radicals in the blood stream are dangerous because it may lead to cell damage. Remember, the redder the tomato you eat is, the more beta-carotene it contains. In addition, you also want to keep in mind that cooking destroys the Vitamin C, so for these benefits, the tomatoes need to be eaten raw.