They are the pride of summer gardeners and the mainstay of many Italian dishes. They also add texture and flavor to sandwiches. People all over the world love tomatoes. In fact, contrary to what you might expect, China reigns as the top tomato producer with 34 tons each year.
Believed to have originated in Mexico, the tomato is the fruit of the plant with the botanical name Lycopersicon esculentum. Although they are most frequently recognized for their bright red color, tomatoes can come in yellow, orange, pink, green, purple, brown and even black. They also vary greatly in size and shape, from the large beefsteak to the tiny cherry size.
Although they are technically a fruit, tomatoes are often prepared and served as a vegetable. They have a slightly bitter and acidic taste that becomes rich and warm when cooked. However you choose to consume them, tomatoes are one of the world’s healthiest foods.
Here are seven health benefits tomatoes can provide.
1. Heart and blood health – Tomatoes are rich in potassium, which helps maintain your body’s nervous system and which is associated with a reduced risk of stroke. They’re also rich in iron, which is important for healthy blood. In addition, tomatoes are abundant sources of Vitamin K, which is necessary for blood clotting and for bleeding control.
The folic acid in tomatoes helps regulate your body’s homocysteine levels, which help lower your risk of heart disease.
The lycopene in tomatoes also offers protection against cardiovascular diseases. The regular consumption of tomatoes has been linked with lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and of lower levels of triglycerides in the blood.
Consuming a tomato daily also reduces your risk of developing hypertension, or high blood pressure. As a vasodilator, potassium helps reduce the tension in blood vessels and arteries, helping to improve circulation and lowering the stress on the heart.
2. Vision – The rich content of Vitamin A in tomatoes contributes to eye health. As a powerful antioxidant, Vitamin A helps prevent night blindness and macular degeneration.
The lycopene, lutein and beta-carotene in tomatoes help protect your eyes from developing cataracts.
3. Digestion — Tomatoes are loaded with fiber and water, both of which can help you have regular bowel movements. Eating tomatoes helps prevent jaundice and works to remove toxins from the body.
4. Diabetes — The high fiber content of tomatoes is beneficial for people who have diabetes. A Journal of the American Medical Association study found that people who consumed tomatoes on a daily basis had a reduced risk of the oxidative stress associated with Type 2 diabetes.
Other research indicates that people with Type 1 diabetes who eat high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels, and people with Type 2 diabetes may experience improved blood sugar and insulin levels.
5. Skin – Eating tomatoes regularly also may help your skin. Vitamin C consumption is associated with protection from exposure to potential damage from sunlight, pollution and smoke. Your skin, hair and nails are all reliant on vitamin C to remain strong and healthy.
6. Urinary system – Because of the antioxidants they contain and their high-water content, tomatoes can help prevent urinary tract infections. The regular consumption of tomatoes also can help maintain a healthy gallbladder.
7. Cancer – A single tomato can provide you with 40 percent of your daily Vitamin C requirement. As a natural antioxidant, Vitamin C may help protect against certain forms of cancer. In addition, the lycopene in tomatoes may help prevent prostate cancer, stomach cancer, cervical cancer and pharynx and esophageal cancers.
The high presence of vitamin A in tomatoes can offer some protection against lung cancer. Additionally, tomatoes contain coumaric acid and chlorogenic acid, which can help protect the body from carcinogens produced from second-hand cigarette smoke.
8. Bone health — Tomatoes contain calcium and Vitamin K, both of which contribute to strong bones and bone tissue.
Of course, there always can be a case of too much of a good thing. People who have gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) may experience heartburn and regurgitation after eating tomatoes, largely due to their high acidic content.
Also, tomatoes, especially cherry tomatoes, are high on the list of foods that frequently are sprayed with chemicals by non-organic farmers. Because of that, the Environmental Working Group suggests that you purchase organic tomatoes or grow your own tomatoes organically.
Are you wondering how you can add more tomatoes to your family’s diet? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Make a Caprese salad with fresh tomato slices, mozzarella cheese and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Top with fresh basil.
- Spread smashed tomatoes on sandwiches instead of butter or mayo.
- Scramble chopped tomatoes into eggs or use them to top an omelet.
- Roast tomatoes in the oven along with potatoes or veggies.
- Make your own fresh tomato sauce.
- Stir-fry tomatoes on the stove.
- Add sliced tomatoes to a grilled cheese sandwich.
- Add fresh tomatoes to your next smoothie instead of water.
Have you discovered other ways tomatoes can benefit your health? Share your tips in the section below: