When was the last time you ate some tomatoes? And I’m not referring to the ketchup you had with your French fries or the tomato sauce found in your canned spaghetti. I’m talking about real tomatoes – tomatoes that came from the vine, you chopped up and ate?
If it’s been awhile, that’s something you’ll want to change as soon as you can. There are so many benefits to tomatoes that simply cannot go overlooked, yet sadly, many people do. They just aren’t fully aware of the amazing health benefits tomatoes can bring and choose to eat other vegetables like carrots and broccoli over this one.
While there’s certainly nothing wrong with broccoli – it too is one of the most beneficial vegetables you could be eating, the fact remains that tomatoes do tend to offer something special. Therefore, they should be included as well.
Let’s take a look.
Nutritional Stats Of The Tomato
Before we get into the benefits of the tomato, let’s first go over a few of the key nutritional stats you should know about. Keep in mind there are many different varieties of tomatoes out there, so each variety will be slightly different, but for the most part, this is what you can expect.
Carbs: 4.8 grams
Protein: 1.1 grams
Fat: 0.2 grams
Fiber: 1.5 grams
Vitamin C: 26%
Vitamin A: 20%
Vitamin K: 12%
Vitamin B6: 5%
Tomatoes are a great lower-calorie food to have in your diet plan, so regardless of where you are with wanting to control your body weight, you should be able to find a way to get tomatoes in. Any vegetable lower in calories with the exception of potatoes makes for terrific weight-loss-friendly choices.
The tomato is also very low in fat and contains just a tiny bit of protein, so those who are struggling to meet their needs should find them relatively helpful.
They aren’t all-stars in terms of their fiber content, but at the same time, they will still provide some dietary fiber, so that’s something that you’ll want to consider as well.
So now that you know the stats of the tomato, let’s look at the actual health benefits it’ll provide.
Jam-Packed With Antioxidants
One of the most important things that you’ll want to focus your attention on in your diet plan is getting sufficient antioxidants into the picture. Sadly, many people overlook antioxidants and instead, are focusing more on macros these days as that’s the buzzword.
It’s not to say macros aren’t important, but antioxidants are more important. Antioxidants are compounds that work in the body to neutralize free radicals, which, if left to ravage your cells on their own, would result in serious damage and could set you up for an increased risk of disease.
Think of it like rust on a car. Rust is slowly going to build and build until it builds up so great that the car becomes damaged you can’t drive it.
A similar experience happens in your body. All the free radicals you come into contact with are slowly going to damage your cells and tissues and eventually you’ll be struck down with disease.
Aging is also primarily related to the build-up of free radicals, so the better you can avoid them from coming into play, the better chances you have of keeping your body in top shape.
While there are things you can do to help avoid free radicals in the first place (such as don’t expose yourself to a heavily polluted area for instance), sometimes it’s better to fight it at the other end of the spectrum whenever you can.
One particular antioxidant that tomatoes are very rich in is lycopene, which has been proven to be great for helping to combat cancer1. Research has illustrated that those who have more lycopene in their diet plan, tend to have a 30-40% lower chance of developing cancer than those who have less.
Another important benefit that cannot go overlooked is the anti-inflammatory benefits that tomatoes provide. Inflammation is your body’s response when something is wrong. For instance, if you stub your toe very hard, chances are, it’ll become a bit puffy. This is inflammation at work. The body is sending in help to repair that damaged area and get you back to feeling your best again.
This is good inflammation. But far too often today at times, we are experiencing bad inflammation. This is inflammation that stands the test of time. It’s not short-term inflammation in response to injury but rather, inflammation that comes about due to long-term poor lifestyle choices.
This could be a lack of sleep or lack of exercise for example. A poor diet is also heavily linked to higher levels of inflammation while a good diet is more linked to lower degrees of inflammation.
Tomatoes are rich in a number of phytonutrients, which help to lower diseases linked to inflammation such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and cognitive decline.
Inflammation is at play in just about everyone’s body these days but it’s how much inflammation is present that’s the ticket.
One thing that you do need to keep in mind with this – both the reduction of inflammation and the presentation of powerful antioxidants is that whenever tomatoes are heavily processed, such as when ketchup is made, for instance, many of these special compounds are destroyed in the process. So if you say that you eat a lot of ketchup and therefore must be getting a lot of antioxidants, you aren’t correct in this statement. Chances are, you are getting very little.
If you prepare homemade tomato sauce using tomatoes that you cut up with your own hands, that will likely have more of the powerful nutrients you need, but not if you purchase the canned variety in the supermarket. While tomato sauce is still better than say ketchup, which contains very little due to the fact that ketchup also contains a lot of other ingredients such as sugar, it’s not ideal.
Fresh is best.
Heart Health Benefits
Moving on, we come to another great benefit that tomatoes have to offer and that is solid heart health protection. Tomatoes contain a very good dose of lycopene, and as you’ve already read, lycopene is essential to help fight free radical damage in the body.
This in turn also helps to reduce the level of oxidative stress you experience, which can take a serious toll on your overall heart health. A big reason that many people suffer from heart attacks and strokes is due to the high level of free radical damage that’s occurring in their body, so this will go a long way towards keeping your ticker healthy.
Obviously you do still need to be watching your cholesterol level and exercising regularly, however eating a diet that contains plenty of lycopene does certainly help as well.
Some research has also noted that tomatoes can help lower blood pressure levels and may even lower cholesterol as well. Since those are two other additional factors linked to improved heart health, you’ll certainly want to take note of that also2 .
Tomatoes are also a rich source of lutein, which is classically known to help enhance eye health and prevent macular degeneration. But in addition to that, it may also go a long way towards helping to reduce the thickening of the arteries.
Boosts Eye Health
Which now brings us to the next benefit of tomatoes and that is making sure your eyes stay nice and healthy. When you eat a diet full of tomatoes on a regular basis, you’ll maintain better vision and help to reduce suffering from macular degeneration in the long run.
Macular degeneration is very common, especially in older age, so you definitely want to be doing all you can now to keep those eyes as young as possible.
Regular consumption of tomatoes can also help lower the chances that you develop cataracts at any point in your life as well, which is another eye condition that would require special medical treatment.
While both of these eye concerns are quite treatable in today’s times, they will still impact your vision to some degree so the better you can steer clear of that, the better off you’ll be.
The two powerful compounds found in tomatoes that will help to keep your eyes strong are lutein and zeaxanthin, which are not found in many other foods. So if you want to get maximum protection, these are the ones to be focusing on.
Just about everyone would like to look younger. Aging is something that is going to happen whether you like it or not as you can’t stop the passage of time. But this said you can control how time impacts you. Some people will age faster than others and this is very often due to the lifestyle choices that they’re making.
If you are starting to notice signs of fine lines and wrinkles and want to put your best foot forward at stopping them before they get out of control. You’ll want to ensure that tomatoes are a regular part of your diet plan.
One of the reasons that tomatoes are so great for skin health is because they contain a powerful dose of vitamin C. That’s one nutrient that helps to keep your skin’s elasticity in check. When the skin starts losing elasticity, that’s when it becomes saggy looking and wrinkles are more likely to form. It also helps to keep your complexion looking better as well, which is something that nearly all of us can appreciate.
Lutein, the powerful antioxidant we mentioned above that’s helpful to keep your eyes feeling their best is also going to be essential for protecting against skin cancer when you are exposed to UV light. While wearing sunscreen is a definite must, having lutein in your diet also helps out3.
Keeps Your Bones Strong
Another thing that you’ll want to keep in the back of your mind as you start to grow older is the healthy state of your bones. Sadly, many people suffer from bone breaks, stress fractures, and other bone-related conditions and don’t use this as a sign that they need to sit up and take action to improve the integrity of their skeletal system.
As you get older, your bones will become more depleted and this can put you at an increased risk of osteoporosis. When you age, if your joints start hurting and you’re constantly in pain, this will really lower your overall quality of life. Doing something about all this now while you are young can make a world of difference.
Luckily, lycopene is also great for keeping your bones strong and healthy and may help to ward off osteoporosis down the road4.
Tomatoes are also a great source of vitamin K, which is another important vitamin that’s needed to promote stronger bones long-term.
So there you have some of the biggest benefits linked to tomatoes and why you should be eating them in your diet plan. As they are so low in calories, there’s really no excuse for not getting them in. Anyone can have them as part of their regular diet.
If you aren’t a fan of the taste of tomatoes, which many people aren’t, consider chopping them up and adding them to other foods. You don’t necessarily need to eat them all on their own. Even light cooking of tomatoes will be fine. Although you should try not to overcook them too often as that is when they can lose their nutritional benefits.
When purchasing your tomatoes, to get the best results possible, you’ll also want to focus on purchasing tomatoes that are on the vine as often as you can. This means they will contain the highest level of nutrition when you bring them home to eat. Brightly colored tomatoes – when they are vibrant red – is also a good indication that they may have more nutrients than tomatoes that aren’t as vibrant, so choose these more often.
And if you are trying to decide whether a tomato is good to eat before cutting into it, know that tomatoes are best when they are somewhat soft but still have a relatively firm feel. You don’t want them to be extra firm but at the same time, they should definitely not feel mushy either.
Finally, to help boost the nutrient absorption in tomatoes, it’s a great idea to cook them with a few healthy fats. So sautéing your tomatoes in some olive oil for instance or slicing them up and having them with a bit of cheddar cheese can be perfect for ensuring that you are getting all the nutritional benefits that they will provide.
Here are some additional serving ideas for ways to incorporate tomatoes into your diet plan. Once you get cooking with them, you’ll likely find that they’re much easier to incorporate than you may have initially thought.
· Try stuffed potatoes. Slice them and then add in some cheese and herbs and then bake until the cheese is slightly melted.
· Grill your tomatoes. Tomatoes aren’t often thought of as food you can grill, but you certainly can if you’re careful. They taste great in this manner.
· Stab cherry tomatoes onto skewers. They’re perfect for this purpose.
· Put them into your own homemade pasta sauce. When you control the ingredients, you can ensure it’s as healthy as possible.
· Make them into a jam. While you may not ever think to do this, by mixing them with other berries, you can get a unique taste that you’ll actually really love.
· Serve them with cucumber on toasted bread. It’s a simple sandwich but a delicious one.
· Add them to soups you’re making. They’ll bring a whole new level of flavor to your broth.
· Try them pickled. Tomatoes can make for great pickled food when done right.
So don’t overlook what tomatoes can offer any longer. Get them into your diet and start reaping the benefits today.
- Giovannucci, Edward. “A review of epidemiologic studies of tomatoes, lycopene, and prostate cancer.” Experimental biology and medicine 227.10 (2002): 852-859
- Rao, A. V. “Lycopene, tomatoes, and the prevention of coronary heart disease.” Experimental Biology and Medicine 227.10 (2002): 908-913.
- Bernstein, Paul S., et al. “Lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin: The basic and clinical science underlying carotenoid-based nutritional interventions against ocular disease.” Progress in retinal and eye research 50 (2016): 34-66.
- Sahni, Shivani, et al. “Dietary approaches for bone health: lessons from the Framingham Osteoporosis Study.” Current osteoporosis reports 13.4 (2015): 245-255.