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14/06/18

Everything you need to know about tomatoes

A tomato is a nutrient-dense superfood that offers benefit to a range of bodily systems.

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Despite the popularity of tomatoes, it was only 200 years ago that they were thought to be poisonous in the United States (U.S.) This is likely to be because the plant belongs to the toxic nightshade family.

Tomatoes are now the fourth most popular fresh-market vegetable behind potatoes, lettuce, and onions. This article will examine their powerful health benefits, nutritional content, ways to include more tomatoes in the diet, and the risks of tomato consumption.

Fast facts on tomatoes

  • Including tomatoes in the diet can help protect against many common health conditions.
  • Tomatoes contain key carotenoids such as lutein and lycopene. These can protect the eye against light-induced damage.
  • Eat more tomatoes by adding them to wraps or sandwiches, sauces, or salsas. Alternatively, eat them cooked or stewed, as these preparation methods can boost the availability of key nutrients.
  • Tomatoes are in the top ten fruits and vegetables for containing levels of pesticide residue. Wash tomatoes before eating.

Benefits

Tomatoes are an intensely nutritious plant food.

The benefits of consuming different types of fruit and vegetable are impressive, and tomatoes are no different. As the proportion of plant foods in the diet increases, the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and cancer decreases.

There are different types and sizes of tomato, and they can be prepared in different ways. These include cherry tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, raw tomatoes, soups, juices, and purees.

The health benefits can vary between types. For example, cherry tomatoes have higher beta-carotene content than regular tomatoes.

High fruit and vegetable intake is also linked to healthy skin and hair, increased energy, and lower weight. Increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables significantly decreases the risk of obesity and overall mortality.

Nutrition

Tomatoes are packed with nutrients.

One cup of chopped or sliced raw tomatoes contains:

Tomatoes also have a wealth of vitamin and mineral content, including:

  • 18 mg of calcium
  • 427 mg of potassium
  • 43 mg of phosphorus
  • 24.7 mg of vitamin C
  • 1499 international units (IU) of vitamin A

Tomatoes also contain a wide array of beneficial nutrients and antioxidants, including:

  • alpha-lipoic acid
  • lycopene
  • choline
  • folic acid
  • beta-carotene
  • lutein

The cooking of tomatoes appears to increase the availability of key nutrients, such as the carotenoids lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Stewed tomatoes provide more lutein and zeaxanthin than sun-dried tomatoes and raw cherry tomatoes.

Tomatoes garlic and onions frying in the bottom of the pan

Diet

There are easy ways to include the nutritional value of tomatoes in any diet.

Be sure to store fresh tomatoes at room temperature and avoid refrigeration, as this causes tomatoes to lose their flavor.

Incorporate more tomatoes into the diet using the following tips:

  • Dip grape or cherry tomatoes in hummus or plain yogurt dip and consume them as a side or a snack.
  • Add sliced tomato to sandwiches and wraps.
  • Add diced, low-sodium canned tomatoes to homemade or jarred marinara sauces when making pasta.
  • Used canned, diced, or stewed tomatoes in soups.
  • Eat a piece of toast with avocado and tomato slices.
  • Make a quick salsa with diced tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and freshly squeezed lime.
  • Dice fresh tomatoes and add them to rice and beans, quesadillas, or tacos. Add them to omelets or scrambles for breakfast.
  • Drizzle freshly sliced tomatoes and sliced mozzarella with balsamic vinegar, and top with chopped basil.
  • Make a bruschetta as an appetizer.

Beta-blockers, a type of medication most commonly prescribed for heart disease, can cause potassium levels to increase in the blood. High potassium foods such as tomatoes should be consumed in moderation when taking beta-blockers.

Consuming too much potassium can be harmful to people with impaired kidney function. Failure to remove excess potassium from the blood can be fatal.

Those with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may experience an increase in symptoms such as heartburn and vomiting when consuming highly acidic foods such as tomatoes. Individual reactions vary.

The nutrients of one food type do not give a complete picture of how to achieve a healthful diet. It is better to eat a varied diet than to concentrate on individual foods.

 

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