13 Health Benefits of Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Known scientifically as Solanum lycopersicum, tomatoes are one of the most popular fruits in the world. A fruit? Yes, that’s right. Tomato is actually a fruit – not a vegetable. However, since it’s not as sweet as other fruits and is most often served as a vegetable, most people think that tomato is a vegetable and not a fruit. The reason it is a fruit because it contains the ovary and the seeds of a flowering plant.

Botanically, the tomato belongs to the nightshade family whose other members include potatoes, eggplants, and peppers.

Native to South America, tomatoes are widely grown in temperate climates across the world. Tomatoes are available in a wide variety of shapes (from tiny spheres to large ovals), sizes (from small, marble-size tomatoes to large beefstake tomatoes, and colors (from red to yellow, orange, and green).

Tomato varieties

The fruits are commonly eaten raw in salads, or used as an ingredient in various dishes, and pickled. Additionally, a large percentage of the world’s tomato crop is used for processed foods, such as ketchup, sauce, and juice.

Tomato Nutrition Facts

The tomato is very low in calories and has no saturated fat or cholesterol. It is a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin E, copper, folate, niacin, magnesium, and phosphorus, and a great source of vitamin A, C, & K, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber.

One medium sized tomato (123 grams) contains about [1]:

  • Calories: 22.1 (92.5 kJ)
  • Vitamin C: 15.6 mg (26% Daily Value)
  • Vitamin A: 1025 IU (20% Daily Value)
  • Vitamin K: 9.7 mcg (12% Daily Value)
  • Potassium: 292 mg (8% Daily Value)
  • Manganese: 0.1 mg (7% Daily Value)
  • Fiber: 1.5 g (6% Daily Value)
  • Vitamin B6: 0.1 mg (5% Daily Value)
  • Folate: 18.4 mcg (5% Daily Value)
  • Niacin: 0.7 mg (4% Daily Value)
  • Copper: 0.1 mg (4% Daily Value)
  • Vitamin E: 0.7 mg (3% Daily Value)
  • Magnesium: 13.5 mg (3% Daily Value)
  • Phosphorus: 29.5 mg (3% Daily Value)

They also contain a powerful antioxidant called lycopene, which has been linked to a number of health benefits, including reducing the risk of some cancers and heart disease.

Health Benefits of Tomatoes

1. Prevent cancer

Tomatoes are packed with lycopene, a carotenoid pigment that is responsible for the red color of tomatoes. A number of studies have indicated that high levels of lycopene in tomatoes works to reduce the risk of cancers, particularly breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, stomach cancer, and skin cancer.

A 1999 study published in the journal of the National Cancer Institute found links between tomatoes and tomato products, and fewer incidences of prostate, lung, and stomach cancers [2].

A 2012 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that high concentrations of carotenoids, found in tomatoes, may protect against the development of breast cancer [3].

2. Keep your skin healthy

Tomatoes are full of lycopene, a phytochemical which acts as a natural sunscreen. This antioxidant protects the skin from UV radiation. Moreover, lycopene has been shown to defend skin aging which keeps your skin looking youthful.

To reap the most benefits, heat them up because the heat makes them easier for you to absorb phytonutrients and chlorogenic acid that impacts your metabolism.

3. Lower LDL cholesterol

A diet rich in tomatoes or tomato products have been associated with a lower incidence of atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of plaque inside the artery walls.

In one study published in the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism showed that regular consumption of tomato products, containing lycopene, decreases the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and increases the HDL (good) cholesterol in the blood.

Researchers think the lycopene in tomatoes inhibits LDL production while at the same time helping break down this artery-clogging fat. You’ll need to consume at least 25 milligrams of lycopene a day for cholesterol benefits.

4. Lower blood pressure

Tomatoes are a good source of potassium which can help prevent blood pressure issues. The mineral helps lower blood pressure by balancing the effects of salt on the body, and helps the kidneys function properly.

5. Boost immune system

Presence of lycopene is the major factor that makes tomato an excellent option for improving immunity. This help in modulating the immune cells, thereby improving the resistance power of our body against foreign invaders.

Tomatoes also have high amounts of vitamin A and vitamin C, which works best for supporting the immune system of our body.

6. Fight infections

The high content of antioxidants and vitamin C will help to prevent and fight infections. This is due to the ability of tomato juice to keep the immune system in check. Prevention and treatment of diseases will become easy if your immune system is functioning properly.

7. Maintain eye health

Tomatoes contain a group of phytochemicals called carotenoids, including beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene. These compounds are essential to maintain eye health and may help protect the eyes against age-related macular degeneration and other eye diseases.

8. Control blood sugar

Tomatoes contain chromium which helps keep your blood sugar in check and thus reduce the risk of diabetes.

Clinical study suggests that chromium supplements may help people with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar levels [4].

So, for those who have diabetes, tomato is a good fruit to include in your diet.

9. Reduce the risk of blood clots

Blood clots are vital for healing wounds after an accident or surgery, but if they become too sticky, they bind together which can stop the free flow of blood.

The tomato substance reduces the stickiness of platelets so they flow smoothly through blood vessels, reducing the risk of developing heart attack or stroke. The anti-platelet properties are found in the yellow fluid surrounding the seeds.

In clinical trials published in the journal Platelet, it was found that the stickiness of platelets was reduced by 70 percent when volunteers had a drink containing the tomato extract [5].

10. Support bone and teeth

Since tomato is a great source of vitamin K, it can help keep the bone and teeth healthy. A single serving of just 100 grams of this fruit can provide about 10% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K.

11. Promote hair growth

Tomatoes contain several nutrients like vitamins A, C, E and lycopene, which are excellent for growing healthy hair. These vitamins help to prevent hair loss and give hair a natural shine. Vitamin C also helps to treat scalp problems like dandruff, eczema, and psoriasis.

Due to the presence of antioxidants like vitamin C and lycopene in tomato, eating it regularly or applying it topically on the hair has been found to be beneficial for reducing the risk of premature greying of the hair.

12. Improve digestive health

Due to its rich fiber content, consuming tomatoes regularly can keep your digestive system healthy as it prevents both constipation and diarrhea.

A healthy amount of fiber helps stimulate bowel movements, thereby improving your overall digestive health.

13. Reverse the effects of smoking

Tomatoes contain chlorogenic and coumaric acid that help fight against nitrosamines, which are the main carcinogens found in cigarettes. Furthermore, the high level of vitamin A in tomatoes has been shown to lower the impacts of cancer-causing agents and can protect you from lung disease.

How to Select and Store Tomatoes

When buying tomatoes at the market, look for ones that are round, plump and feel heavy for their size. The skin should be smooth and taut, with no bruises or blemishes.

Ripe tomatoes are red and fragrant, even mature green ones should have a mild fragrance. If they have no aroma at all, the tomatoes were probably picked when immature, and will never ripen.

Ripe tomatoes should be stored at room temperature and used within a few days.

How to Eat Tomatoes: Cooked or Raw?

Raw tomatoes are undoubtedly full of nutrients, such as vitamins A, C, and K, potassium, fiber, and lycopene. On the other hand, cooked tomatoes have been found to be the healthier option after all. While heat exposure does cause vitamin C loss, it increases the levels of lycopene in tomatoes.

Since lycopene is fat soluble, cooking the tomatoes with a small amount of olive oil or other healthy fats enhances the body’s absorption of lycopene.

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