Health Benefits of Tomatoes

| March 23, 2013 Comment

health benefits of tomatoes

The health benefits of tomatoes are numerous as they are packed with vitamin C, potassium, fiber, folate, beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A, and lycopene — vitamins and minerals that you can get naturally without buying them in a vitamin shop.

Tomatoes originated in South America, and according to historians, it was the Spanish explorers who brought them to Europe. Tomato was introduced to North America in the early 1800s by immigrants from Europe, particularly, the Italians. Today, the United States is the second largest tomato producers in the world, after China, with most of the produce coming from Florida and California.

While tomatoes are widely used in cooking, rather like a vegetable, they are actually the fruits of the tomato plant. Tomatoes are extremely popular all over the world, but there was a time when tomatoes were considered to be poisonous because of their toxic leaves and were grown only as ornamental fruit.

Tomatoes are easy to grow and there are hundreds of varieties to choose from. They come in different sizes, shapes, and colors. They fall into three main categories: round ones (perfect for slicing and eating raw), plum (great for making sauces and canning), and cherry tomatoes (served whole in salads and also great in sautees and other dishes).

Vine-ripened tomatoes taste best; and although tomatoes are available year-round, vine-ripened ones are only available during the growing season.

Tomatoes and Health

Tomatoes are one of the richest sources of lycopene, a phytochemical that give tomatoes their red color. Lycopene acts as an anitoxidant neutralizing free radicals which damage cells of our body and reduces the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer, especially prostate cancer.

A study conducted by Harvard scientists showed that men who ate more than 10 servings of tomato-based foods daily could cut the risk of developing prostate cancer by 35 percent compared to those who ate the least quantity of these foods. The benefits of lycopene were even more pronounced in advanced stages of prostate cancer. Furthermore, studies indicated that tomato consumption may reduce the risk of colorectal, stomach, and lung cancers as well.

Unlike some vegetables that lose their vitamins and minerals when cooked, the health benefits of tomatoes increase when they are cooked and processed. When making sauces, juices, and ketchups, water gets evaporated, leaving a more concentrated product, with more lycopene per unit than with a fresh-cut tomato. So in the case of tomatoes, it’s better to eat processed products than fresh tomatoes.

The lycopene-rich tomato may also benefit heart health by lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies show that lycopene prevents the oxidation of LDL “bad” cholesterol. In a women’s health study of nearly 40,000 women, those with the highest lycopene levels had a fifty percent reduced risk of cardiovascular disease compared to women who had the lowest levels.

A clinical study showed that eight weeks of daily intake of a tomato extract led to a significant drop in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients with mild to moderate hypertension.

The lycopene in tomatoes also acts as a natural sunblock and helps prevent sunburns, prevent cell-damage that causes skin cancer.

Tomatoes are a good source of vitamin K which is essential for bone health and prevention of osteoporosis.

The vitamins A and C in tomatoes are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and help protect against asthma, atherosclerosis, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

It might be a good idea to go for organically grown tomatoes, as they seem to contain higher levels of vitamin C and lycopene though smaller in size. Researchers explain that this is because organic growing tends to cause more stress to the plants as they have to fend off pests, and therefore produce more of stress compounds like vitamin C and lycopene to defend themselves.

Cooking Tips

  • Use a serrated knife or very sharp non-serrated knife to slice or chop tomatoes.
  • To peel tomatoes, blanch by dropping them into boiling water for about 30 seconds, or longer for firm tomatoes, then drop into a bowl of ice water to cool quickly, and pull the skin off.
  • Cook tomatoes in non-reactive saucepans.
  • When you eat cooked tomatoes, your body absorbs more of their cancer-fighting lycopene.

Sources

http://www.mayoclinic.com

http://www.ars.usda.gov

http://urbanext.illinois.edu

http://news.ufl.edu (University of Florida)

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/02/19/172416458/

smaller-but-better-organic-tomatoes-may-pack-more-nutritional-punch
The Complete Book of Nutritional Healing, Deborah Mitchell 

Related Content
Health Benefits of Bell-Pepper
The main health benefits of bell-pepper are in the vitamins A and C that it provides. One raw bell-pepper provides more vitamin C than one cup of orange juice. Bell-Peppers or ...
READ MORE
Health Benefits of Strawberries
The health benefits of strawberries are many. These delicious and popular fruits have a lot to offer in terms of nutrition and health. For centuries, strawberries have been used as ...
READ MORE
Health Benefits of Broccoli
The health benefits of broccoli lie in the abundant antioxidants, vitamins, phytonutrients, and fiber it provides. This relative of cabbage gets its name from ancient Romans who thought it looked ...
READ MORE
Health Benefits of Carrots
The health benefits of carrots are varied. A root vegetable, carrot belongs to the same family as parsley, dill, and fennel. Widely recommended by physicians for innumerable medicinal purposes, carrots ...
READ MORE
Health Benefits of Sweet Potato
The health benefits of sweet potato are so many that it should be topmost on the list of healthy foods that we should consume on a regular basis. The Center of ...
READ MORE
Health Benefits of Okra
The health benefits of okra are varied and reason enough to include this vegetable in your diet. Also known as ladies finger, bhindi, bendakaya, okra belongs to the same ...
READ MORE
Health Benefits of Bananas
The many health benefits of bananas make these fruits very important for a healthy diet. Affordable and available year-round almost everywhere, bananas are a wholesome and nutritious food. Bananas are ...
READ MORE
Health Benefits of Vegetables
The health benefits of vegetables are innumerable. That's a great reason to eat your veggies. Apart from that, vegetables add a lot of taste and variety to your meals. A plant-based diet ...
READ MORE
The health benefits of apples are numerous, especially, organically grown apples. New studies are proving almost on a daily basis the truth of the old adage: an apple a day ...
READ MORE
The health benefits of asparagus are numerous as it's a powerhouse of nutrients. A member of the lily family, asparagus is believed to have originated in the eastern Mediterranean region about ...
READ MORE
Health Benefits of Spinach
Because of all the health benefits of spinach, it ranks high among green leafy vegetables. Believed to have originated in the Arab countries and cultivated by the Persians (Iranians) about ...
READ MORE
Health Benefits of Cauliflower
The health benefits of cauliflower are in the antioxidants that it contains which help protect against cancer and other diseases. A cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower means "cabbage flower" derived from the ...
READ MORE
Health Benefits of Bell-Pepper
Health Benefits of Strawberries
Health Benefits of Broccoli
Health Benefits of Carrots
Health Benefits of Sweet Potato
Health Benefits of Okra
Health Benefits of Bananas
Health Benefits of Vegetables
Health Benefits of Apples
Health Benefits of Asparagus
Health Benefits of Spinach
Health Benefits of Cauliflower

Category: Health

Leave a comment