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The tomato is the most widely consumed vegetable in America, with over half of all Americans eating this fruit every day. The benefits of tomatoes can be found in their nutrition and health properties that include cancer prevention, inflammation relief, heart-healthy nutrients, and antioxidants.
According to several health specialists, tomatoes are the most essential non-starchy food in the American diet. What is the reason? Because of the nutritional value of tomatoes.
Did you know that over 7,500 distinct tomato types are growing worldwide today? According to botanical classification, you’ve undoubtedly heard that tomatoes are a fruit, not a vegetable. In truth, they’re actually berries, but they’re classified as a vegetable under a long-standing United States legislation going back to the late 1800s.
Tomatoes have a long history in Mexico, reaching back to roughly 500 B.C. when they were a major crop for the Aztecs and were consumed alongside beans and maize. The somewhat sweet “fruit” was utilized in various ways by Aztecs and other Mesoamerican peoples, and tomatoes were even held in high spiritual respect. For example, tomato seeds were said to be “gifted with divination skills.”
Tomatoes are one of those simple anti-inflammatory meals that also taste good. So what are the advantages of tomatoes in terms of health? “Tomatoes are the second most produced and eaten vegetable countrywide and are a rich source of lycopene, beta-carotene, folate, potassium, vitamin C, flavonoids, and vitamin E,” according to the Department of Food Sciences at North Carolina State University in a research on tomato nutrition.
Nutritional Information about Tomatoes
Tomatoes (scientific name Solanum Lycopersicum) belong to the nightshade vegetable family Solanaceae, including vegetables like peppers, eggplant, and potatoes.
To this day, tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables (or fruits) planted in American gardens. Tomato plants are also known for “out-producing the demands of the farmers” since they tend to take off and produce a large number of tomatoes all at once during the summer months. Because they come in a range of brilliant colors, flavors, and sizes, “heirloom” tomatoes have grown more popular among home gardeners and organic growers in recent years.
China, India, the United States, and Turkey are presently the world’s top tomato producers. Tomatoes are cultivated all around the globe and include the following varieties:
- Steak de boeuf
- Vine-ripened tomatoes
- Krim (black)
What is the carbohydrate content of tomatoes? What is the sugar content of a tomato? First, let’s look at some USDA-provided tomato nutrition information.
A medium red, ripe, raw tomato (weighing roughly 123 grams) contains approximately:
- Calorie Count: 22.1
- Carbohydrates: 4.8 grams
- Protein: 1.1 gram
- Fat: 0.2 gram
- Fiber: 1.5 g
- Vitamin C: 15.6 milligrams (26 percent DV)
- Vitamin A: 1,025 international units (20 percent DV)
- Vitamin K: 9.7 micrograms (12 percent DV)
- Potassium: 292 milligrams (8 percent DV)
- Manganese: 0.1 milligrams (7 percent DV)
- Vitamin B6: 0.1 milligrams (5 percent DV)
- Folate: 18.4 micrograms (5 percent DV)
Vitamin E, niacin, pantothenic acid, choline, betaine, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and other nutrients are all found in tomatoes.
Why are tomatoes excellent for you because of their vitamin content? Tomatoes are regarded as a high-antioxidant food and one of the most excellent sources of the phytonutrient lycopene in the world, in addition to being low in calories and a rich source of vitamin C and vitamin K.
Lycopene is linked to improved immunity and a lower risk of cancer. Although most people associate lycopene with deep-red tomatoes, it’s thought to be found in similar amounts in organic yellow, green, and orange tomatoes.
Lycopene, a component of tomato nutrients, has been shown to slow the formation of malignant tumors in studies. When adults with cancer supplement with large doses of lycopene, they often exhibit evidence of cancer regression and tumor malignancy in studies.
When lycopene supplements are given to individuals who already have prostate cancer, research has shown that lycopene reduces the size of the tumors and stops malignant cells from spreading.
While lycopene is most known for its role in tomato nutrition and prostate cancer prevention, it also helps protect against other cancers. For example, higher lycopene consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of lung, stomach, colon, oral, breast, and cervical cancers.
Tomatoes also include a variety of antioxidants and a variety of vitamins, in addition to potassium and phosphorus.
1. Packed with anti-cancer antioxidants
According to studies conducted over the last few decades, prostate cancer, the most frequent type of cancer in American males, is less common among persons who consume more tomatoes. Cooked tomatoes are particularly effective in the battle against cancer because their abundant amount of the carotenoid antioxidant lycopene becomes even more accessible when cooked (especially with a source of fat, such as olive oil).
For decades, experts have known about the immune-boosting properties of foods containing lycopene as a natural cancer therapy. For example, men who ate the most tomatoes had a substantially reduced risk of prostate cancer than non-tomato eaters, according to Harvard University Medical School studies going back to the 1990s. Some of the guys consumed up to 10 servings of tomatoes per week (or more) from sources such as tomato juice, tomato sauce, and raw tomatoes. At least five studies show that eating a lot of tomatoes or lycopene lowers the risk of prostate cancer by 30 percent to 40%.
The Royal Victoria Hospital and the McGill University of Montreal collaborated on an extensive research that looked at 11 case-control studies and 10 cohort studies on the use of tomato, tomato products, or lycopene for cancer prevention. According to researchers, tomatoes, particularly when consumed in large quantities, provide substantial protection.
Aside from lycopene, tomato nutrition offers a slew of additional potent compounds that may aid in the battle against several chronic illnesses. For example, phenolic acids present in tomatoes have been shown to have the potential to prevent lung cancer by inhibiting the development of nitrosamine molecules in the body.
2. It has anti-inflammatory properties
Tomatoes’ dark hue indicates a high concentration of anti-inflammatory antioxidants. This is why many nutritionists recommend that you “eat the rainbow.” Tomatoes are particularly well-known for a trio of antioxidants called zeta-carotene, phytoene, and phytofluene, which may be found in various vividly colored fruits and vegetables.
These phytonutrients help reduce disease-causing inflammation and thereby slow age-related disorders such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and cognitive decline.
“Down-regulation of the inflammatory response” is one of the proposed pathways for tomatoes’ protective effects. This involves reducing pro-inflammatory mediators (such as reactive oxygen species), stopping the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and altering nitric oxide signal pathways.
However, bear in mind that the bioavailability of these anti-inflammatory elements may be decreased by tomato processing. Increased lycopene bioavailability is achieved by homogenization, high-heat treatment/cooking, and the addition of oil in processed tomato products. Regrettably, these processes may also result in considerable losses of other sensitive nutrients. This is why it is beneficial to regularly consume both raw and cooked tomatoes.
3. Assists in the improvement of heart health
If you’re at risk for heart disease, why are tomatoes beneficial for you? Antioxidants in tomatoes, particularly lycopene, have been shown to counteract free radical damage and protect the heart from oxidative stress. This provides heart disease prevention and reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes. This is significant since heart disease is the leading cause of mortality in the United States and many other countries.
Treatment with antioxidant-rich tomato extract has been shown in several trials to decrease high blood pressure, lower cholesterol naturally, and enhance blood vessel health.
Healthy people who consumed lycopene in the form of tomato juice, tomato sauce, or soft gel capsules for one week had considerably lower levels of LDL oxidized cholesterol than control groups, according to a 2002 research. Improved LDL degradation, LDL particle size, composition, decreased plaque accumulation, and changed blood artery function are all possible pathways for tomatoes enhancing heart health.
Researchers have discovered that the numerous nutrients included in tomatoes work together in a variety of ways to protect lipoproteins and vascular cells against oxidation. Tomatoes, for example, contain lutein, which may aid in preventing or delaying artery thickening.
The most commonly accepted hypothesis for atherosclerosis, or the hardening and thickening of arteries that may contribute to cardiovascular disease, is oxidation. Tomatoes are also high in potassium, which may help avoid blood pressure issues caused by a lack of potassium.
4. Assists in the protection of vision and eye health
Tomatoes include a defensive component called lutein, which is good for your eyes. Lutein is often investigated in relation to eye health because it preserves the eye’s retina, which is required for proper vision. Unfortunately, long-term U.V. light damage and oxidative stress from other causes make the retina particularly susceptible in old age. In addition, only lutein and zeaxanthin, two of the numerous carotenoids found in the body, are found in the macula lutea, the part of the eye where the lens focuses light.
According to research, lutein in tomatoes may work as a natural macular degeneration cure. Keep in mind that macular degeneration is the major cause of blindness in older age. Tomatoes are an excellent approach to enhance eyesight and avoid cataracts or overall degradation of sensitive eye tissue for those who aren’t at high risk for macular degeneration.
5. Skin Health Advantages
Tomatoes should be at the top of your list when treating skin cancer with diet. This is because tomatoes are high in vitamin C, which is essential for maintaining skin’s immunity, elasticity, look, and complexion as we age.
It’s worth noting that the gel-like material surrounding tomato seeds has the highest concentration of vitamin C in tomato nutrition. When chopping tomatoes, be cautious not to allow too much of the precious juice to “bleed out” and go to waste.
Lutein, a component of tomato nutrients, is also beneficial to skin health. Lutein is found naturally in the skin, and animal studies show that it protects against light-induced skin damage and skin cancer, mainly from U.V. wavelengths.
6. Assists in the preservation of bone health
Lycopene has been related to improved bone health, particularly in the elderly. In a research on the impact of dietary sources of lycopene in the diets of older women, it was shown that those with low lycopene intake had a greater risk of bone-related disorders, including osteoporosis. This is why tomatoes and other lycopene-rich foods are included in anti-aging and healing diets. Tomatoes are also high in manganese, phosphate, and vitamin K, which help create strong bones.
Traditional Medical Applications
Tomatoes have been used to detoxify, protect and stimulate the liver, produce better energy levels, support the kidneys, lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, and encourage skin cell renewal in folkloric medicine and traditional systems of medicine.
Tomato juice has long been suggested to keep the circulation alkaline and aid in disease resistance. Tomatoes are also known to help with various liver and digestive problems, including dyspepsia, diarrhea, and dysentery. Consuming a mixture of tomato, garlic, and musumbi (lime) juice was a traditional cure for decreasing dysentery. In addition, tomatoes have traditionally been used to prevent scurvy due to their high vitamin C content. Tomatoes are also thought to be beneficial in the hot summer months for increasing hydration and preventing sunstroke/heat stroke.
According to Ayurvedic medicine, tomatoes, which belong to the nightshade vegetable family, might be harmful for certain persons. Therefore, it is stated that red tomatoes are better accepted than yellow or green tomatoes. To aid with digestion, tomatoes should be boiled and de-seeded (and ideally de-skinned as well).
Tomatoes: How to Buy and Use Them
Here are some suggestions for getting the best tomatoes:
- Vine-ripened tomatoes may be found at farmers’ markets or specialist stores. When feasible, go for organic tomatoes.
- According to some studies, a tomato cultivated in a greenhouse (or hothouse) has around half the vitamin C content of its vine-ripened counterpart! Purchase fresh, vividly colored, vine-ripened tomatoes whenever feasible. They have more antioxidants and minerals in them.
- Tomatoes should be soft yet solid when they’re ready to eat. The softer they get, the riper they become, and the sweeter they taste. Store them away from the refrigerator. Eat them as soon as possible once they’ve ripened (or make some sauce).
- On a side note, tomatoes are regarded to be one of the foods that people seldom get to enjoy at their prime since many commercially cultivated tomatoes are plucked while under-ripe and green and then forced to ripen using gas-filled ethylene greenhouses. This means that although your tomato may seem regular and red when purchased at a grocery shop, the nutrients and flavor are not the same.
Tomatoes in the kitchen:
Keep in mind that lycopene’s preventive effects, particularly in terms of cancer prevention, are most valuable and absorbable when ingested with a fat-rich diet. This is why eating tomatoes with healthy fats like avocado, olive or coconut oil, nuts, and seeds, or fatty seafood like salmon is a terrific idea. What is the reason behind this? Carotenoids are a kind of nutrient that is fat-soluble. This implies that you can only receive the most absorption from them if you take them with a natural fat source.
However, this does not imply that you should consume greasy pizza regularly. It simply means that adding genuine, oil-based dressing to your salad or other types of fat to veggie-based meals (especially those with leafy greens or cruciferous vegetables, which also contain fat-soluble nutrients) will help you absorb more nutrients.
Is it healthy to eat raw tomatoes? Tomatoes may be either fresh or cooked, and both methods provide health advantages. According to one research, eating more than seven servings of raw tomatoes each week reduced the incidence of colon and stomach cancer. Other studies have shown that the body absorbs more lycopene when tomatoes are cooked (or “thermally treated”). This is why eating tomatoes in various ways is a brilliant idea.
To cultivate tomatoes, follow these steps:
Tomatoes are 85 percent of home gardeners’ preferred fruit in the United States. So if you’re thinking about planting a tomato garden, here’s a quick guide to getting started:
- Look at the calendar. Find out what your area’s frost-free date is, and don’t plant any tomato plants until the threat of frost has gone.
- Make the land more fertile. Add some homemade compost or high-quality compost to your vegetable bed to enhance soil fertility in the spring.
- Check for prevalent tomato illnesses in your region.
- Tomatoes should be grown in a whole light.
- If you don’t have enough room for plant beds, consider utilizing containers.
- Plant tomatoes near radishes, chives, parsley, marigolds, nasturtiums, and carrots, but not near other heavy feeders like potatoes. Radishes, for example, are wonderful “companion plants” for tomatoes because they help each other flourish by increasing nitrogen, maximizing space, and shading weeds. While tomatoes take a long time to develop, radishes and other crops grow quickly.
All sorts of tomatoes, whether beef steak, cherry, or grape, may be used in various ways, including eating them raw, adding them to cooked sauces, or incorporating them into a juice or smoothie. Tomatoes pair well with garlic, oil, fresh herbs of all types (particularly basil and parsley), onions, avocado, peppers, beans, and leafy greens, all of which enhance their taste.
Facts and History
Thousands of years ago, the original tomato species flourished in portions of South America, mainly in the Andes Mountains. Wild tomatoes were lumpier and less sweet and smooth than modern-day varieties. Following the Spanish colonization of the Americas, sailors took them back to Europe aboard their ships, spreading around the globe.
After capturing the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City, in 1521, Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés is said to be the first to introduce the little yellow tomato to Europe. Tomatoes were once thought to be a form of eggplant by Europeans, who split them into pieces to be cooked and seasoned with salt, black pepper, and oil. Following the Spanish conquest of the Americas, the Spaniards transported tomatoes across their Caribbean possessions and introduced them to Asia, particularly the Philippines.
Because the tomato thrives in warm climes, it quickly expanded over the Mediterranean and became extensively farmed in the 1540s. In 1692, the first cookbook featuring tomato recipes was produced in Naples, Italy. Tomatoes were originally planted primarily for ornamental purposes in Italy. They were not considered a staple diet for the peasant people since they were not as full as other fruits. As a result, it took hundreds of years for diverse tomato species to develop and for dishes like marinara pasta sauce, pizza, and chicken Parmesan to gain popularity.
Interactions, Side Effects, and Risks
Is it possible that tomatoes are harmful to your health?
Although tomatoes have many health advantages, they are nightshade food, which might worsen health problems in specific individuals. In addition, green tomatoes contain a chemical called solarnine, which may aggravate arthritis and other inflammatory illnesses. Even for fruits and vegetables, allergies to nightshade crops are very frequent.
Many health specialists advise persons with severe arthritic symptoms to avoid nightshades entirely, while others argue that the advantages of doing so vary greatly depending on an individual’s particular tolerance — and that it isn’t always required. For example, tomatoes are frequently avoided by patients with GERD or other reflux illnesses such as heartburn because of their high acid content.
If you routinely have acid reflux, stomach, joint, or muscular discomfort, avoiding tomatoes may be an excellent way to see how you respond. If you have unexplained stomach difficulties that might indicate a probable food sensitivity, you may attempt an elimination diet that eliminates all nightshade vegetables, including all forms of tomatoes. These diets usually are most effective when followed religiously for at least six weeks, so although it may seem overwhelming at first, it’s worth a shot to help decrease additional inflammation and swelling.
- Tomatoes (Solanum Lycopersicum) belong to the Solanaceae family of nightshade vegetables, including peppers, eggplant, and potatoes.
- Tomatoes are the second most widely grown and eaten vegetable in the United States. They’re also the most popular products in American backyard gardens.
- Tomatoes are high in lycopene, beta-carotene, folate, potassium, vitamin C, flavonoids, and vitamin E, among other nutrients. In addition, tomatoes are low in calories, abundant in water, and contain a wide range of antioxidants.
- Tomato nutrition contains anti-inflammatory properties, may help with heart health, and can also help with bone, skin, and eye health.
- Because tomatoes are nightshades, they may worsen some health conditions/symptoms, such as acid reflux, joint discomfort, autoimmune illnesses, or allergic responses in certain individuals.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the side effects of tomatoes?
A: There are many side effects of tomatoes: they have a high concentration of lycopene. Lycopene is believed to be an antioxidant that can help prevent some cancers and heart disease. However, the downside is that this nutrient increases the risk for kidney stones in women who consume them regularly.
What are the nutritional benefits of tomatoes?
A: Tomatoes are a fruit with many nutritional benefits and can be eaten raw or cooked. They contain vitamin C, which is suitable for the immune system and helps to prevent scurvy. They also provide folate, which plays an essential role in cell division and enzyme function in our body.
What are the benefits of cooked tomatoes?
A: To cook tomatoes, you can either boil them on the stovetop or steam them in a covered pot. Also, cooking will help break down some of the cellulose and water content found inside their walls, making for a smoother soup.
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