Bunch of tomatoes at the farmers market

11 Reasons To Eat More Tomatoes

Bunch of tomatoes at the farmers market

 

Is tomato a fruit or vegetable?

 

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting them in a fruit salad. Miles Kington

 

Technically a fruit, tomatoes are seen and used as a vegetable; typically in recipes that are more savoury in nature. They pair well with salt of course, but also with herbs like oregano, basil, thyme, chives and more.

 

Tomatoes are a versatile fruit that come in several different varieties lending to their diverse role in cooking. A tomato isn’t always a red tomato. Alternate colours include yellow, green, orange, purple or blends. Check this site out to learn about heirloom tomatoes.

 

In addition to being an ingredient of many a great recipe, tomatoes and tomato products have loads of healthy attributes too; great taste and good nutrition in an unassuming package!

11 reasons to eat more tomatoes

Health benefits

1] Potassium

1 medium tomato has a decent 300 mg of heart healthy potassium; almost as much as a medium banana. Potassium helps to slash high blood pressure. An essential nutrient, potassium lowers blood pressure and helps with cardiovascular disease protection including stroke (1).

 

Most of us don’t get enough potassium so adding tomatoes is a great low-calorie option. If you opt for tomato sauce, a concentrated tomato product, the potassium content jumps to a whopping 725 mg per cup !

 

2] Lycopene

A cousin of beta-carotene, lutein and other carotenoids, lycopene is a potent antioxidant; compounds that help to rust-proof your body.

 

Rust proof your LDL cholesterol and reduce heart disease. Rust proof your brain and reduce dementia. Rust proof your body and reduce inflammation…the list goes on.

 

Beyond rusting-proofing your body, lycopene has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol by a modest 10%. It took about 25 mg of lycopene, or the equivalent of about 1 cup / 250 ml of tomato juice to do this (2).

 

Lycopene is well researched for its health effects. Lycopene is more concentrated in tomato products like tomato juice, paste, and sauce. Because lycopene is fat-soluble, its absorbed best when eaten with a source of fat (3).

 

Tomato juice with tomatoes cucumber slices on a wooden table

 

3] Water

Contrary to what you’ve heard, you DO NOT need to drink an additional 8-10 glasses of water a day on top of other fluids. This is because we get lots of water from food, other beverages and from cooking foods in water. Obey your thirst and you’ll be fine.

 

On that note, tomatoes are about 95% water by weight making them a great source of this essential nutrient. Not only that, 1 medium tomato only has about 22 calories!!

 

4] Cardiovascular disease 

Studies have routinely found a positive association between tomato & tomato product consumption and lower rates of cardiovascular disease (4). Verified by assessing tomato consumption both by food records, and levels of lycopene in the blood and fat stores which reflect long term tomato consumption (5).

 

Atherosclerosis is not a disease of LDL cholesterol. It is a disease or disorder of inflammation. Without inflammation, atherosclerosis could not exist or progress. Foods, supplements and medications that lower inflammation also reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease – statins work, in part, for this reason.

 

A review of 21 studies looking at the impact of diets supplemented with tomato products saw an impressive reduction in inflammation and improvements with blood flow. Both of which reduce the risk for, and progression of cardiovascular disease (6).

 

5] Cancer prevention

Like cardiovascular disease, tomatoes & tomato products have been linked to lower rates of cancer including prostate and breast. (7, 8). The prostate selectively concentrates lycopene in its tissues suggestive of the important role it plays in prostate health.

 

A review of 24 studies associated a high intake of tomatoes and tomato products with a significantly reduced risk of prostate cancer (9).

 

 

6] Skin health

Certain carotenoids are concentrated in the skin such as lutein, lycopene, and beta-carotene (10). One study found that lycopene lowered the risk for sunburn likely due to it’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (12, 13).

 

7] Inflammation

Tomatoes & tomato products are a great addition to any dietary anti-inflammatory toolkit. Diet is a great way to fight the inflammation that results from, and contributes to most degenerative chronic diseases.

 

The sad reality as well is that chronic low-grade inflammation is a natural part of aging. It’s something that starts to out pace the body’s ability to fight it. The good news is that many foods are able to fight inflammation including tomatoes. Due to their high lycopene and phytonutrient content, tomatoes are very anti-inflammatory (14, 15).

 

8] Bone protection

I know what you’re thinking – tomato and bone health? For real? Yes and it has nothing to do with calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, boron, vitamin K2 or zinc. It all goes back to lycopene. As an antioxidant, it helps to protect bone cells from oxidation; less oxidation, less breakdown of bone tissue!! (16, 17).

Easy to grow and use

9] Inexpensive – tomatoes are relatively cheap to buy. When they’re in season, farmers’ markets and grocery stores tend to have tomatoes at really good prices. Because they’re produced world wide in large amounts, getting canned or jarred tomatoes at rock bottom prices is easy. They make a great staple for the pantry.

 

10] Easy to use – whether you’re cracking open a can of tomato juice, garden cocktail, throwing a can of diced tomatoes into some sauteed garlic, onions and basil, including and enjoying tomatoes and tomato products is easy.

 

11] Easy to grow – since they’re a hardy species, growing tomatoes is pretty much fail safe. They can been grown in backyard gardens, on condo balconies, or as hanging plants if space is tight. Note, tomato plants are real hogs for water so you’ll need to keep an eye on them; they’re thirsty buggers.

 

Sun dried tomatoes in a bowl - by Doug Cook RD

 

Check out Foodland Ontario’s site for more information, recipes, storage tips, availability and more on tomatoes.

 

Here are quick links to Field Tomatoes, and Greenhouse Tomatoes.

 

Doug Cook RDN is a Toronto based integrative and functional nutritionist and dietitian with a focus on digestive, gut, mental health.  Follow me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

 

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