Benefits and Nutritional Value of Tomatoes


A close up of a tomato

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.

Tomatoes are now the fourth most popular fresh-market vegetable behind potatoes, lettuce, and onions. This article will examine their powerful health benefits, nutritional content, ways to include more tomatoes in the diet, and the risks of tomato consumption.

Fast facts on tomatoes

A close up of a plant
  • 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.

Benefits

A bowl of fruit sitting on top of a wooden table
  • Tomatoes have extremely high nutritional density.
  • Image credit: unique_capture, own work
  • Tomatoes are an intensely nutritious plant food.

The benefits of consuming different types of fruit and vegetable are impressive, and tomatoes are no different. As the proportion of plant foods in the diet increases, the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and cancer decreases.

There are different types and sizes of tomato, and they can be prepared in different ways. These include cherry tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, raw tomatoes, soups, juices, and purees.

The health benefits can vary between types. For example, cherry tomatoes have higher beta-carotene content than regular tomatoes.

High fruit and vegetable intake is also linked to healthy skin and hair, increased energy, and lower weight. Increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables significantly decreases the risk of obesity and overall mortality.

1) Cancer

Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C and other antioxidants. With these components, tomatoes can help combat the formation of free radicals. Free radicals are known to cause cancer.

Tomatoes also contain lycopene. Lycopene is a polyphenol, or plant compound, that has been linked with one type of prostate cancer prevention. It also gives tomatoes their characteristic red color.

2) Blood pressure

Maintaining a low sodium intake helps to maintain healthful blood pressure. However, increasing potassium intake may be just as important due to its widening effects on the arteries.

High potassium and low sodium intake are also associated with a 20 percent reduced risk of dying from all causes.

3) Heart health

The fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and choline content in tomatoes all support heart health.

An increase in potassium intake, along with a decrease in sodium intake, is the most important dietary change the average person can make to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.

Tomatoes also contain folate. This helps to balance homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid that results from protein breakdown. It is said to increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The management of homocysteine levels by folate reduces one of the risk factors for heart disease.

4) Diabetes

Studies have shown that people with type 1 diabetes who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels, while people with type 2 diabetes may have improved blood sugar, lipids, and insulin levels. 

The American Diabetes Association recommends consuming around 25 g of fiber per day for women and an estimated 38 g per day for men.

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