Tomato is one of the healthiest food loaded with antioxidants, phytonutrients, and other nutrients.
Tomato is a fruit but categorized as vegetables. They are scientifically known as Solanum lycopersicum, and are berry of nightshade plant.
They are a great source of vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin A (in form of carotenoid), manganese, potassium and other healthy nutrients.
With abundant nutrients contained a small tomato, they provide protection from many chronic diseases.
Tomato is a great food that shouldn’t be missed from a diet. Let’s explore the nutrients and benefits they can provide if you add enough tomato to your diet.
1. Best Source of Lycopene
If you are looking over the tomato dense source of nutrient, sure it’s the lycopene.
100 grams of tomato provides 3041μg of lycopene. On the base of its lycopene content tomato holds the third position, but major of lycopene in today’s diet is received through the tomato.
Tomato is the most used food to prepare any recipe or also been consumed as a sauce.
Lycopene is a carotenoid – a family of pigment that gives tomato its red color. It is the most abundant carotenoid in ripened tomato.
Deeper the color of tomato higher the lycopene content. (1)
Lycopene is a strong antioxidant which protects from free radicals.
A tomato sauce might contain a high amount of lycopene but it’s not suggested to prefer processed food to get lycopene. You should prefer natural food source to get lycopene as they don’t contain any added sugar or preservatives. (6)
- It has a radioprotective effect
- reduce cholesterol synthesis and increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) degradation
- Decrease the risk of cancer
- Prevent arteries damaging (atherosclerosis)
- Decrease the risk of stroke
Consuming tomato with fat increases the absorption of lycopene. (10)
Cooking tomato for 30 minutes or more can break down the tomato cells walls which increase the bioavailability of lycopene while oil can increase the absorption. (11)
A study was done with cooked tomato in olive oil – 82% increase in plasma trans-lycopene and a 40% in cis-lycopene concentrations was found in the subject. (12)
Wrap up: With a great source of lycopene and with its high antioxidant property, tomato provides a great range of benefits.
2. Outstanding Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory Compound
The nutritional value of tomato is not limited to its lycopene content. There are many other nutrients available in tomatoes that provide it high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.
There is a good amount of conventional antioxidants like:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E,
- Vitamin A (in form of carotenoid)
Tomato provides a great amount of health-supportive phytonutrients
- Flavones – fisetin
- Flavonones -naringenin, chalconaringenin
- Flavonols – rutin, kaempferol, quercetin
- Hydroxycinnamic acids – caffeic acid, ferulic acid, coumaric acid
- Carotenoids – lycopene, lutein, photofluene, neurosporine, zeaxanthin, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene
- Saponins – esculeoside A
- Fatty acid derivatives – 9-oxo-octadecadienoic acid
With a whole list of phytonutrients, they provide a high anti-inflammatory property which protects from oxidative stress and inflammation.
If you are considering to get maximum nutrients that a tomato provides, prefer to cook them in oil. With a cooked tomato you will increase the availability of carotenoids which isn’t in the raw tomato.
The combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds provides a wide range of benefits.
Quercetin and kaempferol, are two flavonoids present in tomatoes have strong antioxidant property and are concentrated in the skin. They provide tomato anti-inflammatory property. (14)
A thought of concern,
If you have gone through some guide that may be warning you about the risk associated with tomato consumption. The concern isn’t real as per many of studies.
The phytonutrients named alkaloids can posses risk when consumed in a large amount or to a person with sensitivity. If you are eating the pulp then there is no concern as the stem and leaves are rich in alkaloid, while the pulp contains the lowest amount.
With the lowest amount of alkaloid in the tomato, there should be an overdose even you eat a large serving of tomatoes.
Wrap up: With the high amount of antioxidant and phytonutrients, tomato possess a wide range of benefits. While the concern with alkaloids is just a misconception as they are present in leaves and stems which aren’t consumed.
3. Increase Folate Intake
Folate is also known as folic acid is also an important nutrient.
1 cup (243 g) of tomato contains 48.6 mg of folate which is 12% of daily value.
It is found that during pregnancy folate can prevent neural tube defects in offspring. (15)
There are supplements available in form of folic acid, but its recommend to prefer natural source.
Folic acid (vitamin B9) with vitamin b12 has been linked with a lower rate of depression. (18)
Wrap up: Tomato contains a good amount of folate which can cut the risk of cancer, heart disease, lowers depression, and fight fatigue.
4. High In Potassium
A cup of tomato provides 237 mg of potassium which is 7% of the required value.
If you were looking for a banana to meet your potassium need, then add tomato to add more potassium.
Potassium is an important mineral, is also an electrolyte. They conduct electric signals throughout the body. Their function range from:
- Maintain water balance
- Maintain healthy blood pressure
- Muscle contraction
- Nerve impulse
- Heart rhythm
- pH balance (acidity and alkalinity)
Calcium loss is one of the reasons for the weakening of bone, fracture and osteoporosis. (21)
In four-year studies, it was found that people consuming high potassium daily have 51% less risk of kidney stone. (25)
Wrap up: Tomato is high in potassium which is also an alternative to receive potassium rather than depending only on the banana.
5. It Protects From Cancer
Tomato provides protection from many types of cancer due to its high antioxidant and phytonutrients content.
Antioxidants like Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Manganese, Zinc, Chromium, Choline provides a high amount of antioxidant and protects from the free radicals.
Free radicals are the cause of degradation DNA and cells which is a reason for the development of cancerous cells, thus cancer.
A study suggests that eating a tomato rich diet provide lycopene may help reduce pancreatic cancer risk. The lycopene is found to reduce the risk by 31% in people consuming lycopene provided by tomatoes compared to people who don’t eat enough lycopene. (28)
Tomato is a great source of carotenoid which provides its anti-tumor and anti-cancer property.
The beta-carotene can prevent tumor development in prostate cancer as per a journal published by Molecular Cancer Research. (31)
Harvard School of Public Health studies also found that high dietary carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lycopene) can cut the risk of prostate cancer. (32)
High consumption of beta-carotene can increase the deposit of beta-carotene in the skin.
- Protect from UV damage
- Lower the risk of skin cancer
- Prevent early sign of aging
It’s not clear, but a diet rich in lycopene has been linked to provide protection from lung cancer. (37)
Wrap up: With a wide variety of antioxidant and phytonutrients, tomato posses high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory property thus protects from many types of cancer.
6. It Provides Protection From Heart Disease
Tomato is surely great food for the heart in many ways…
1. Lowers Cholesterol
2. Prevent artery hardening
3. Plague buildup in arteries
4. Manage homocysteine level
5. Lowers Blood Pressure
1. Lowers Cholesterol
Fiber present in tomato can help to limit the absorption of bile salt thus it results in lower cholesterol in the blood. (40)
While the benefits of cholesterol-lowering effect in not only due to fiber, it’s also due to lycopene.
Lycopene and beta-carotene have hypocholesterolemic effect which is found to suppress the cholesterol synthesis.
On a three month’s study, 6 males were given 60mg per day of tomato’s lycopene. At the end of the study, there was a 14% reduction in their blood LDL cholesterol. (41)
2. Prevent Artery Hardening
When we breathe in oxygen they enter the bloodstream. Bloodstream and heart are responsible to carry oxygen to other parts of the body. Due to high expose of oxygen there is a need of high antioxidant in blood to prevent unwanted damage due to oxidation.
High level of oxygen in the blood can neutralize the free-radicals. These free radicals can damage the arteries which make arteries hard. Hardened arteries can increase the risk of heart disease.
Tomatoes are a great source of strong antioxidant like Vitamin C, E, A, lycopene and more in the list. With ample supply of antioxidants, consuming a tomato-rich diet can increase the antioxidants level in blood. These antioxidant and phytonutrients neutralize the free radicals and lower the inflammation thus prevent any damage to arteries.
3. Plague Buildup
The nutrients protecting arteries from damage also protect the LDL cholesterol oxidation.
Damaged LDL cholesterol can accumulate in the blood vessel (also known a plague) can block the blood flow.
Lycopene and other nutrients protect the LDL damage cutting the risk of plaque buildup in arteries.
It is also found to lower the blood platelet aggregation thus prevent clot buildup in arteries.
4. Manage Homocysteine Level
Tomato also balances the homocysteine level in the blood. Homocysteine is an amino acid from protein breakdown.
High level of Homocysteine in the blood can increase the risk of heart disease.
Folate in tomato is found to balance the homocysteine level which incredibly cut the risk of heart disease. (42)
5. Lowers Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can increase the level of blood pressure thus the risk of heart disease.
The potassium in tomato can keep blood pressure in control which lowers the risk of heart attack. (43)
Wrap up: With a wide range of protective effect on cardiovascular health, it’s sure that tomatoes are the best food for heart health
7. Improve Eye Health
A cup of chopped tomato provides 1499 IU of Vitamin A which is 30% of recommended intake.
Vitamin A is important for eye health as it is the important component of rhodopsin, a protein that absorbs light in the retinal receptors. (44)
Vitamin C, E, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin prevents macular eye degeneration. (45)
Lutein and Zeaxanthin are both important carotene for eye present in tomato. They are found in the retina and lens of the eye.
Higher deposits of lutein and zeaxanthin at the center of eye’s retina(macula) absorb 90% blue light to prevent damage to the critical visual structure from light-induced oxidative stress. (46)
Wrap up: With abundant eye-protecting nutrients like Vitamin A, C, E, lutein and zeaxanthin the risk to eye related problem lowers.
8. It Impoves Skin Health
Tomato is also a great food for skin health.
A cup of chopped tomato (128g) provides 22.9mg of Vitamin C which is 38% of recommended intake.
Vitamin C is required for collagen synthesis. Collagen is the connective tissue required for a firm and healthy skin.
High intake of Vitamin C also protects and treat from UV induced photodamage, pollution and other environmental pollutants. (47)
9. It Contains Alpha-lipoic Acid
Tomato contains alpha-lipoic acid, a nutrient that has many roles.
They are also helpful in regeneration antioxidants.
Aging is due to the high rate of protein oxidation and a decrease in oxidized protein repair. Glutathione is the cell acts as a powerful antioxidant that protects the cell from oxidation and repair the oxidized protein. (52)
It improves glucose and lipid metabolism which proves beneficial to prevent complications due to diabetes. (56)
Wrap up: Alpha-lipoic acid present in tomato plays many roles in the body but the major role is its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect. While it helps to regenerate antioxidants and protect from complication due to diabetes.
1 cup chopped or sliced tomato (180 gram) contains (% daily value) :
- Water – 170 gram
- Dietary fiber – 2.2 gram (9%)
- Protein – 1.6 g (3% )
- Vitamin A – 1499 IU (30%)
- Vitamin C – 22.9mg (38%)
- Vitamin E – 1.0mg (5%)
- Vitamin K – 14.2 mcg (18%)
- Niacin – 1.1 mg (5%)
- Vitamin B6 – 0.1mg (7%)
- Folate – 27mcg (7%)
- Magnesium – 19.8mg (5%)
- Potassium – 427mg (12%)
- Manganese – 0.2mg (10%)
How to Eat?
There are many ways to add tomato in daily meal
- Add extra slice in the sandwich and wraps
- Add to the salad along with other veggies
- Add them in soups
- You add them in preparation of the main course
Fresh and Organic Tomato
A study from Brazil suggests that an organic tomato contains more Vitamin C and other nutrients than the tomato grown conventionally. (57)
If you are looking to add them in your diet, try to find the organic tomato due to high nutritional value as well as no pesticide contamination.
If you want to enjoy the taste and flavor of the tomato, you need to get a fresh tomato grown in your local.
Choose fresh and unprocessed tomato if possible. Tomato sauce may contain high lycopene but the additional ingredients like sugar and preservatives aren’t good for health.
Choose fresh and unprocessed whenever possible.