Do you love tomatoes? This versatile fruit – yes, the tomato is a fruit – has been used to enhance the taste of meals at least as far back as 2500 years ago. Since then, tomato cultivation has spread from Mexico and Central America to continents all over the world. Tomatoes are now an essential part of many culinary traditions.
Tomatoes don’t just taste great, however. They have numerous health benefits. The tomato has an important place in the Mediterranean diet, which some researchers say can reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.
You should include more tomatoes in your diet. Here’s why:
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1. They’re a great source of lycopene
Of all commonly eaten foods, tomatoes contain the highest concentration of lycopene, an antioxidant that gives tomatoes their red color. Studies show that eating lycopene-rich foods might reduce cholesterol levels and lower cancer risk. A diet rich in lycopene could decrease the risk of osteoporosis in post-menopausal women.
2. Tomatoes are high in vitamin C
One large, whole, red tomato contains 25 milligrams of vitamin C, one third of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adult women and more than one fourth of the RDA for adult men.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant. It’s essential for proper functioning of the immune system. It’s used in the production of collagen and is needed for wound healing. Vitamin C is also used to produce some neurotransmitters.
Research suggests that vitamin C protects against heart disease, stroke and cancer.
3. They’re a good source of potassium
A large, whole red tomato contains more than 400 milligrams of potassium – about one tenth of the adult RDA. You need potassium for your heart and muscles to work properly. Potassium plays an important role in the breakdown of carbohydrates to release energy.
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Getting more potassium in your diet is associated with a lower risk of stroke and other forms of cardiovascular disease.
4. They contain beta-carotene
Beta-carotene is a nutrient found in some fruits and vegetables. An antioxidant, beta-carotene might provide protection against age-related cognitive decline.
Your body uses beta-carotene to produce vitamin A. It’s better to get vitamin A from beta-carotene in food than from supplements, because your body will only convert as much beta-carotene to vitamin A as it needs. Too much vitamin A can be dangerous.
5. They’re a source of lutein
Like lycopene and beta-carotene, lutein belongs to the group of antioxidants known as carotenoids. Lutein is known for its role in protecting eye health. Research suggests that it can protect against macular degeneration, cataracts and retinitis pigmentosa.
Lutein might play an important role in brain development in children. In adults, high levels of lutein are associated with improved cognitive function.
6. Eating tomatoes could improve your cholesterol levels
A 2006 study of 98 healthy volunteers in Israel showed that eating a tomato-rich diet for one month increases levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
In 2007, a study of 21 healthy subjects in Finland showed that consuming a large amount of tomato juice for three weeks reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
7. They might help control blood glucose levels
One study showed that when diabetic rats were fed tomatoes, their blood glucose levels dropped.
8. Tomatoes could help prevent atherosclerosis
Some research suggests that eating tomatoes could reduce platelet clumping, decreasing your risk of atherosclerosis.
9. They can help you lose weight
The fiber in tomatoes can help you feel full sooner, so you eat less. Fiber also helps stabilize blood sugar. A high-fiber diet reduces your risk of colorectal cancer and heart disease.
Eat Clean and Enjoy the Health Benefits of Tomatoes
While tomatoes and tomato-based products are great for your health, processed tomato sauces, tomato pastes and ketchup can contain high levels of sugar and salt. They can also contain preservatives, artificial colors and artificial flavors. Always check the label and, whenever you can, buy fresh tomatoes and make your own sauce.
The Beneficial Effects of Tomatoes, European Journal of Internal Medicine
Dietary Reference Intakes, Institute of Medicine
Effects of tomatoes on the lipid profile, Clinical and Investigative Medicine
Hypoglycaemic Effects of Dietary Intake of Ripe and Unripe Lycopersicon esculentum (Tomatoes) on Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetes Mellitus in Rats, OnLine Journal of Biological Sciences
Lycopene consumption decreases oxidative stress and bone resorption markers in postmenopausal women, Osteoporosis International
Lycopene in Cancer Prevention and Treatment, American Journal of Therapeutics
The Role of Tomato Products and Lycopene in the Prevention of Prostate Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention
Tomato juice decreases LDL cholesterol levels and increases LDL resistance to oxidation, British Journal of Nutrition
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid), University of Maryland Medical Center
Vitamin C Fact Sheet for Health Professionals, National Institutes of Health