Tomatoes often are thought to be a vegetable, though in reality they are a fruit. Whether you call them a fruit or a vegetable, tomatoes are a nutritional powerhouse and can provide immense health benefits when included in your diet plan.
They contain a good amount of vitamins A, C, and K, folate and potassium along with thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, all of which are necessary to maintain good health.
The best part is that tomatoes are naturally low in sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol and calories. They go well in salads and sandwiches, as gravy for vegetables, and in sauces and soups.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of tomatoes.
1. Keeps Skin Healthy
Regular consumption of tomatoes will help make your skin look great. Tomatoes have lycopene, an antioxidant that helps protect skin against sun damage. It also makes skin less sensitive to ultraviolet light damage, one of the main causes of fine lines and wrinkles on the face.
Also, tomatoes can be used to minimize large pores, heal acne and rashes or treat minor burns. Rubbing the pulp of tomatoes on dull skin is a simple way to revive a healthy glow.
2. Supports Bone Health
Tomatoes are good for your bones due to the presence of vitamin K and calcium in them. Both these elements are excellent for strengthening and repairing bones.
The antioxidant lycopene also has been shown to improve bone mass, which is a great way to fight osteoporosis, a disease that can lead to bone fractures, disability, and deformity.
3. Improves Vision
The high amount of vitamins A and C in tomatoes can greatly help improve your vision and prevent night blindness. Recent research shows that the vitamin A in tomatoes helps reduce the risk of macular degeneration, a serious and irreversible eye condition.
Tomatoes also can reduce the risk of developing cataracts. Plus, tomatoes contain the phytochemical antioxidants zeaxanthin, lutein and lycopene. All these compounds protect the eyes from light damage.
4. Reduces Hair Problems
Tomatoes can even make your hair look better. The vitamins (especially vitamin A) and iron present in tomatoes help strengthen hair as well as add shine to dull, damaged and lifeless locks.
Plus, the acidity in tomatoes helps balance the pH levels in your hair, which in turn helps remove hair colors and dyes and maintain your hair’s natural color.
If you have an itchy scalp and dandruff, simply apply fresh tomato juice on your scalp and hair after shampooing, leave it in for four to five minutes and then rinse with cold water.
Note: Do not use tomatoes on your hair on a regular basis as their acidity can leave your hair dry.
5. Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
Tomatoes are a great food for diabetics to lower their blood sugar levels. They contain very little carbohydrates, which helps control the urine glucose level.
They are also a very good source of chromium that helps regulate blood sugar, as well as fiber, which has been shown to keep blood sugar levels from getting too high.
Several studies have shown that the antioxidants in tomatoes also provide protection to the kidneys and bloodstream, two areas frequently affected by diabetes. Finally, a low-calorie food like tomatoes can be helpful for diabetics trying to lose weight.
6. Wards Off Cancer
A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggests that eating more tomatoes lowers the risk of prostate cancer.
It may also decrease the risk of other cancers like lung, stomach, cervical, mouth, pharynx, throat, esophagus, colon, rectal, and ovarian cancer. This is primarily due to the antioxidant lycopene that is present in tomatoes.
Moreover, the anti-cancer benefits of tomatoes are maximized when they are cooked with olive oil.
7. Controls Weight
Tomatoes can help you lose weight also. Tomatoes are very low in fat and have zero cholesterol. They contain lots of water and fiber, so they help your stomach fill up fast without a lot of calories.
So, if you are planning to lose weight, include lots of tomatoes into your diet plan. You can eat them raw like an apple or add them to salads, casseroles, sandwiches and other meals.
8. Promotes Sound Sleep
According to a study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, those who consume more lycopene enjoy better sleep compared with people who do not. Tomatoes contain a good amount of lycopene.
Also, including higher levels of vitamin C in your diet can promote sound sleep and tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C. So, if you are not sleeping properly, try eating tomato soup or a salad with tomatoes at dinner time.
9. Lowers Blood Pressure
Tomatoes, which are rich in potassium, can help lower blood pressure. It has been found that blood pressure can rise when your diet lacks potassium, especially if you consume too much sodium. Potassium helps flush sodium from your body.
Just one cup of fresh tomatoes contains 11.4 percent of your daily requirement of potassium, so eating more tomatoes is a great way to fight high blood pressure and reduce the risk of various heart conditions.
At the same time, tomatoes contain an array of powerful nutrients like lycopene, vitamins A and C, fiber, and carotenoids that work together to reduce the risk of heart disease.
10. Reduces Chronic Pain
Tomatoes can even reduce chronic pain, due to the presence of anti-inflammatory agents like bioflavonoids and carotenoids. Those who regularly suffer from mild to moderate pain often have inflammation. Reducing inflammation will automatically bring pain relief.
A study found that drinking a glass of tomato juice daily can reduce blood levels of TNF-alpha, which causes inflammation, by 34 percent. Tomatoes are a good food for people suffering from chronic, degenerative health problems like heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s.
So the next time you are produce shopping, do not forget to add tomatoes to your basket. Whether fresh, stewed, juiced, pureed or sun-dried, eating tomatoes is an easy and delicious way to remain healthy.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Ms. Amy Gorin (Registered Dietician and Nutritionist)
What are the benefits of eating raw tomatoes?
Tomatoes offer cholesterol-helping fiber and are an excellent source of immunity-helping vitamin C. As well, raw tomatoes are more than 97% water, so they provide you with plenty of hydration. Tomatoes also offer the antioxidant lycopene, which may help in fighting certain types of cancer and may also help protect your skin from UV damage.
Can tomatoes help with weight loss?
Eating low-calorie, water-rich produce like tomatoes can help keep you fuller for longer. Feeling satiated can help curb the urge to snack, which can help with weight loss.
Which variety of tomatoes, green or red, is more beneficial?
A green tomato is an under-ripe tomato. The nutrients of both are fairly similar. You’ll get slightly more vitamin C from a green tomato and slightly more fiber from a red tomato.
Can tomatoes help in fighting anemia?
Tomatoes supply a small amount of plant-based iron. The vitamin C in tomatoes will help you better absorb that plant-based iron.
Please provide some additional tips or inputs to help our readers maximize the health benefits of tomatoes.
Research shows that the lycopene in cooked tomatoes is more easily absorbed by the body, versus from raw tomatoes. So aim to incorporate foods like tomato sauce and tomato paste into your diet.
About Amy Gorin, MS, RDN: Amy is the owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. She specializes in plant-based nutrition and loves creating nutritious vegetarian recipes, which she shares on her blog, Amy’s Eat List. Stay in touch with Amy via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.