A tomato is a superfood that is rich in nutrients and provides benefits for a variety of body systems. The dietary content supports healthy skin, weight loss and heart health.
Given the prevalence of tomatoes, in the United States (U.S.) it was just 200 years ago that they were considered to be poisonous. It is possibly because the plant belongs to the poisonous family of nightshade.
Now, tomatoes are the fourth most common fresh vegetable in the market behind potatoes, lettuce and onions. This article will discuss their important health benefits, nutritional quality, ways to include more tomatoes in the diet and the risks associated with tomato use.
Fast facts on tomatoes
- The inclusion of tomatoes in the diet can help protect people with diabetes from cancer , maintain healthy blood pressure and reduce blood glucose.
- Tomatoes contain important carotenoids including lutein and lycopene. This can protect the eye from damage which is caused by light.
- Eat more tomatoes by applying them to sandwiches or wraps, sauces or salsas. Alternatively, eat them fried or stewed, as these methods of preparation can increase the supply of the main nutrients.
- Tomatoes are among the top ten fruits and vegetables to produce pesticide residue levels. Clean the tomatoes until they eat.
Tomatoes are plant food which is highly nutritious.
The benefits of eating various kinds of fruit and vegetables are remarkable, and tomatoes are no different. The risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and cancer decreases as the proportion of plant foods in the diet rises.
Tomatoes are of various styles and sizes, and can be cooked in different ways. Which include tomatoes made from cherry, stewed tomatoes, raw tomatoes, soups, juices and purees.
The health benefits can vary by form. Cherry tomatoes for example have a higher beta-carotene content than standard tomatoes.
High consumption of fruits and vegetables also has to do with good skin and hair, increased strength and lower weight. Growing fruit and vegetable intake substantially reduces the risk of obesity and overall mortality.
Tomatoes are an excellent source of other antioxidants and vitamin C. Tomatoes can help fight the creation of free radicals with certain materials. It is understood that free radicals can cause cancer.
A recent research in the journal Molecular Cancer Research associated the intake of high beta-carotene levels with the prevention of development of tumors in prostate cancer.
Tomatoes include lycopene, too. Lycopene is a polyphenol, or plant derivative, which has been linked to one form of prevention of prostate cancer. It also gives the tomatoes their distinctive red colour.
Tomato products contain 80 percent of the dietary lycopene consumed in the United States.
A study of the Japanese population shows that intake of beta-carotene will reduce the risk of colon cancer. Fibre consumption from fruits and vegetables is associated with decreased colorectal cancer risk.
Beta-carotene-rich diets may play a protective role in combating prostate cancer.
We need more human-based studies to investigate the potential functions of lycopene and beta-carotene in cancer prevention or treatment.
2) Blood pressure
Maintaining a low sodium intake helps keep the blood pressure stable. However, due to its widening impact on the arteries, increasing potassium intake may be equally important.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) estimates that less than 2 percent of U.S. adults meet the recommended daily intake of 4,700 milligrams (mg) of potassium.
High potassium and low sodium intake are also associated with a chance of dying from all causes decreased by 20 percent.
3) Heart health
The quality of fibre, potassium, vitamin C, and choline in tomatoes all contribute to heart health.
The most significant dietary adjustment the average person can make to minimize their risk of cardiovascular disease is an increase in potassium intake along with a decrease in sodium intake.
Tomatoes contain folate, too. That helps to balance the levels of homocysteine. Homocysteine is an amino acid arising from a degradation of proteins. It’s said the risk of heart attacks and strokes is increased. Folate administration of homocysteine levels decreases one of the risk factors for heart disease.
Not only is high potassium intake also associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, but it is also known for protecting the muscles against deterioration, preserving bone mineral density, and reducing the production of kidney stones.
Research have shown that people with type 1 diabetes who consume high-fiber diets have lower levels of blood glucose, whereas people with type 2 diabetes can have higher levels of blood sugar, lipids and insulin. A cup of cherry tomatoes contains around 2 grams (g) of fibre.
The American Diabetes Association recommends that women eat about 25 g of fiber per day, and that men eat an additional 38 g per day.
Eating foods rich in water and fibre, such as tomatoes, can help to hydrate and promote regular bowel movements. Tomatoes are also described as fruit which is laxative.
To confirm the laxative qualities of the tomatoes, more research is needed.
6) Eye health
Tomatoes are a rich source of beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene. These are effective antioxidants that have been demonstrated to protect the eyes from light-induced damage, cataract development and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Recently, the Age-Related Eye Disease Research (AREDS) found that people with high carotenoid lutein and zeaxanthin dietary intake, both present in tomatoes, had a 35% reduction in neovascular Ard incidence.
Collagen is an important skin, hair, nails and connective tissue part.
Collagen production in the body is dependent upon vitamin C. A vitamin C deficiency can contribute to scurvy. Given that vitamin C is a strong antioxidant, low intake is associated with increased sunlight, pollution and smoke damage.
This can lead to skin wrinkles, aging, blemishes and other adverse health effects.
Adequate folate intake is essential before and during pregnancy to protect against neural tube defects in infants.
Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate. It is available in supplements but can also be boosted through dietary measures.
While it is recommended that women who are pregnant take a folic acid supplement, tomatoes are a great source of naturally-occurring folate. This applies equally for women who may become pregnant in the near future.
Tomatoes are packed with nutrients.
One cup of chopped or sliced raw tomatoes contains:
- 32 calories (kcal)
- 170.14 g of water
- 1.58 g of protein
- 2.2 g of fiber
- 5.8 g of carbohydrate
- 0 g cholesterol
Tomatoes also have a wealth of vitamin and mineral content, including:
- 18 mg of calcium
- 427 mg of potassium
- 43 mg of phosphorus
- 24.7 mg of vitamin C
- 1499 international units (IU) of vitamin A
Tomatoes also contain a wide array of beneficial nutrients and antioxidants, including:
- alpha-lipoic acid
- folic acid
Tomato cooking seems to improve the supply of essential nutrients, such as lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin carotenoids. Stewed tomatoes have more lutein and zeaxanthin than raw cherry tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes.
There are simple ways of integrating tomato nutritional value into every diet.
Be sure to store fresh tomatoes at room temperature and avoid freezing, because this causes the tomatoes to lose their flavour.
Using the following suggestions, introduce more tomatoes into the diet:
- Dip grape or cherry tomatoes in hummus or plain yogurt dip and consume them as a side or a snack.
- Add sliced tomato to sandwiches and wraps.
- Add diced, low-sodium canned tomatoes to homemade or jarred marinara sauces when making pasta.
- Used canned, diced, or stewed tomatoes in soups.
- Eat a piece of toast with avocado and tomato slices.
- Make a quick salsa with diced tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and freshly squeezed lime.
- Dice fresh tomatoes and add them to rice and beans, quesadillas, or tacos. Add them to omelets or scrambles for breakfast.
- Drizzle freshly sliced tomatoes and sliced mozzarella with balsamic vinegar, and top with chopped basil.
- Make a bruschetta as an appetizer.
Including tomatoes in the diet has certain risks.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) compiles an annual list of fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of contamination from pesticides. These foods are called the Dirty Dozen.
Tomatoes are on the list for the year 2017 number 10 and cherry tomatoes number 14. Even though consuming organic foods has not been shown to have significant health benefits, the EWG recommends that people can buy organic tomatoes where possible.
Buying organic minimizes the exposure to pesticides, although this has not been proved scientifically to prevent disease.
Need to wash before eating tomatoes.
Beta-blockers, a form of drug most commonly used for heart disease, can cause elevated blood potassium levels. When taking beta-blockers high potassium foods such as tomatoes should be eaten in moderation.
Eating too much potassium can be detrimental to those with kidney failure. Lack of extracting excess potassium from the blood may be fatal.
One type of food nutrients don’t give a full picture of how a balanced diet can be accomplished. Eating a diverse diet is safer than focusing on the individual foods.