Of the scores of fruits and vegetables available to you, there are plenty of reasons you should be eating more tomatoes. This fascinating fruit has an interesting story, noteworthy nutritional value, and health benefits galore.
Tomatoes are believed to have originated in countries along the western side of South America, including Peru, Chile, Ecuador, and Colombia. However, they were later cultivated in Mexico. The first tomatoes grown are believed to look like today’s cherry tomato rather than the larger fruits we commonly see in the market.
Tomatoes are a member of the nightshade family, which is viewed as a potentially deadly group of foods. At one time, the Europeans did not trust the bright, shiny fruits and considered them to be poisonous. Although the leaves are toxic, the wide popularity of these fruits has shown the poisonous idea to be untrue.
Understanding Tomato Nutrition
This delicious fruit especially shines in the area of nutritional value. One interesting thing about tomatoes is that they have one specific nutrient—lycopene—which is enhanced when they are cooked and processed into foods such as ketchup, soup, sauce, juice, and paste
The redder the tomato, the higher the lycopene content. For most other nutrients, fresh tomatoes are a better source.
For example, raw tomatoes are excellent sources of vitamin C, vitamin K, and biotin as well as the mineral molybdenum. They also provide very good levels of vitamins A, B3, B6, E, and folate, along with copper, manganese, phosphorus, and potassium. However, levels of vitamin C decline by up to 30 percent when tomatoes are cooked.
The amount of fiber in tomatoes is also worth noting. One cup of fresh tomato slices provides more than 2 grams of fiber, which is important for heart and colon health.
Health Benefits of Nutrient Tomatoes
Tomatoes provide a wealth of health benefits. You will want to include more in your diet, fresh or minimally processed, so you can reap the advantages of biting into these luscious fruits.
Source of Potent Antioxidants
Tomatoes are a treasure chest of phytonutrients with free-radical fighting powers, including carotenoids, fatty acid derivatives, flavonoids, and saponins. In addition to these antioxidants, these fruits also have the traditional tomato vitamins with antioxidant powers—A, C, and E; and the antioxidant minerals, chromium, manganese, and zinc.
The same phytonutrients that offer antioxidant powers also help fight inflammation. One of those phytonutrients is naringenin, a flavonoid found in tomato skin and known to reduce inflammation. Some of the conditions associated with inflammation include asthma, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, and heart disease.
Tomatoes are helpful for the cardiovascular system in three main ways: their antioxidant powers, their ability to regulate fats in the bloodstream, and their impact on platelets. Lycopene is the star when it comes to benefits for the cardiovascular system because it works to reduce damage to cell membranes by fats in the blood. Research shows that eating tomatoes has been proven to reduce levels of total cholesterol, bad cholesterol (LDL), and triglycerides. Finally, too much clumping of platelet cells can cause blood clots and resulting problems, such as heart attack and stroke. These fruits contain various phytonutrients that can help prevent excessive clumping.
Men may be familiar with research indicating that the lycopene in tomatoes is associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Another important substance in tomatoes that helps lower prostate cancer risk is alpha-tomatine, which has been shown to affect developing prostate cancer cells. Other cancers that may respond well to tomato consumption include non-small cell lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and breast cancer, but more research needs to be done.
If you are looking for protection against sunburn, tomatoes may be one solution. Eating foods rich in lycopene may protect against sunburn.
Why Else Should You Eat Tomatoes?
Let’s face it: tomatoes are just great tasting and fun to eat. They spark up a salad, enliven sandwiches, add zing to dips, add flavor to hot and cold soups, and jazz up casseroles and stews. Whether you choose heirlooms, cherry tomatoes, beefsteak varieties, Roma, or any of the other varieties available, you’ll be doing something good for your body—and your tastebuds—by adding tomatoes.
Deborah Mitchell is a freelance health writer who is passionate about animals and the environment. She has authored, co-authored, and written more than 50 books and thousands of articles on a wide range of topics. This article was first published on NaturallySavvy.com