What is a Tomato?
Tomato is a fruit that’s often treated as a vegetable, its benefits far surpassing its usage. A native to southern and central America, this fruit, which belongs to the nightshade family, is packed with nutritious values. Incidentally, when the Europeans came across it, they thought it to be a poisonous berry!
We could give the Spanish credit for taking the tomato to the world – they introduced it in Europe and the Philippines from where it spread to the rest of Southeast Asia.
Today, India is the largest producer of tomatoes. And while it comes mostly in red when matured, the tomato is also available in different colors, including yellow, orange, green, and including purple. What’s more, many subspecies of tomatoes exist with different shapes and flavors.
Nutrition Facts of Tomatoes
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.
Tomatoes are rich in natural vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin A, K, B1, B3, B5, B6, B7, and vitamin C. It also has folate, iron, potassium, magnesium, chromium, choline, zinc, and phosphorus
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
Carbs comprise 4% of raw tomatoes, which amounts to fewer than 5 grams of carbs for a medium specimen (123 grams).
Simple sugars, such as glucose and fructose, make up almost 70% of the carb content.
Tomatoes are a good source of fiber, providing about 1.5 grams per average-sized tomato.
Most of the fibers (87%) in tomatoes are insoluble, in the form of hemicellulose, cellulose, and lignin.
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.
Other plant compounds
The content of vitamins and plant compounds in tomatoes can vary greatly between varieties and sampling periods
The main plant compounds in tomatoes are:
- Lycopene. A red pigment and antioxidant, lycopene has been extensively studied for its beneficial health effects
- Beta carotene. An antioxidant that often gives foods a yellow or orange hue, beta carotene is converted into vitamin A in your body.
- Naringenin. Found in tomato skin, this flavonoid has been shown to decrease inflammation and protect against various diseases in mice
- Chlorogenic acid. A powerful antioxidant compound, chlorogenic acid may lower blood pressure in people with elevated levels.
Chlorophyll and carotenoids like lycopene are responsible for the rich color of tomatoes.
When the ripening process starts, the chlorophyll (green) is degraded, and carotenoids (red) are synthesized.
Lycopene — the most abundant carotenoid in ripened tomatoes — is particularly noteworthy when it comes to the fruit’s plant compounds. It’s found in the highest concentrations in the skin. Generally, the redder the tomato, the more lycopene it has.
Tomato products — such as ketchup, tomato juice, tomato paste, and tomato sauces — are the richest dietary sources of lycopene in the Western diet, providing over 80% of dietary lycopene in the United States.
Gram for gram, the amount of lycopene in processed tomato products is often much higher than in fresh tomatoes. For example, ketchup boasts 10–14 mg of lycopene per 3.5 ounces (100 grams), while one small, fresh tomato (100 grams) holds only 1–8 mg.
However, keep in mind that ketchup is often consumed in very small amounts. Thus, it may be easier to bump up your lycopene intake by eating unprocessed tomatoes — which also have far less sugar than ketchup.
Other foods in your diet may have a strong effect on lycopene absorption. Consuming this plant compound with a source of fat can increase absorption by up to four times.
However, not everyone absorbs lycopene at the same rate. Even though processed tomato products are higher in lycopene, it’s still recommended to consume fresh, whole tomatoes whenever possible.
Interesting Health Benefits of Tomatoes
Consumption of tomatoes and tomato-based products has been linked to improved skin health and a lower risk of heart disease and cancer.
Tomatoes are a good source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. And these two components help the body to get rid of harmful free radicals in our blood. However, to absorb Vitamin C into the system, the tomatoes need to be eaten raw, so bring on the salads.
2. Controls Blood Sugar
Tomatoes are known to have a mineral called chromium. And did you know that chromium works in keeping blood sugar levels in check? So for those who have diabetes, or a history of it in the family, it’s a good fruit to include in your diet.
Did you know that tomatoes are loaded with Vitamin K and Calcium? According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a hundred grams of tomatoes contain 110 mg of calcium. That means your bones stay strong as long as you eat tomatoes.
4. It Helps to Burn Fat
If you are on diet, now is the time to include tomatoes as part of your daily regime. Tomatoes encourage the production of the amino acid called Carnitine, which is reported to enhance the body’s fat-burning ability to at least 30 percent, if not more.
Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that spread beyond their normal boundaries, often invading other parts of the body.
Tomato is Anti-Carcinogenic The Lycopene in tomatoes is reported to control the growth of cancer cells, especially prostate, stomach, and colorectal cancer. If you cook tomatoes, the production of lycopene actually increases, so you can eat it as much as you like.
While the high lycopene content is believed responsible, high-quality human research needed to confirm the cause of these benefits.
Tomatoes help to improve the digestive system, and the liver. Tomatoes are loaded with fiber which helps prevent constipation too. So if you’ve eaten a bit too much or something too spicy, bite into a small ripe tomato at the end of the meal.
7. Heart Health
Heart disease — including heart attacks and strokes — is the world’s most common cause of death.
Increasing evidence from clinical trials suggests that supplementing with lycopene may help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol
They also show a protective effect on the inner layer of blood vessels and may decrease your risk of blood clotting
Loaded with vitamin C, fresh tomato juice is brilliant when it comes to boosting your immunity levels. The vitamin C in it also controls the increase of stress hormones and helps your body to remain energized, and healthy
9. Skin Health and Hair
Given the rising levels of pollution, our skin and hair end up bearing a lot of brunt. Incorporating tomatoes in your regular diet actually helps to battle the wear and tear our skin goes through. Tomatoes contain lycopene, which is also used for facial cleansers. And apart from eating them as salad, you can also peel the tomatoes, and use the skin as a mask on your face. It cleanses and refreshes your skin. And the Vitamin A in tomatoes protects your hair from external damages as well!
Kiwi is known to help our system when we quit smoking. But the coumaric acid and chlorogenic acid in tomatoes help to protect the body from the adverse effects of cigarette smoke, and that includes passive smokers as well.
Safety and side effects
Tomatoes are generally well tolerated and tomato allergy is very rare.
Although tomato allergy is rare, individuals allergic to grass pollen are more likely to be allergic to tomatoes.
This condition is called pollen-food allergy syndrome or oral allergy syndrome.
In oral-allergy syndrome, your immune system attacks fruit and vegetable proteins that are similar to pollen, which leads to allergic reactions like itching in the mouth, scratchy throat, or swelling of the mouth or throat.
People with latex allergy can also experience cross-reactivity to tomatoes.
Tomatoes are juicy and sweet, full of antioxidants, and may help fight several diseases.
They are especially high in lycopene, a plant compound linked to improved heart health, cancer prevention, and protection against sunburns
Tomatoes are generally well tolerated but may cause allergic reactions in people allergic to grass pollen.
Tomatoes can be a valuable part of a healthy diet.
Please let us know in the comments below:
- Is the tomato a large part of your diet? How often do you eat it?
- How do tomatoes help you in any way in your physical wellness?
- What kind of meal preparation do you serve tomatoes?
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