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Nutritional profile of tomatoes
Tomatoes are a rich source of vitamins A and C and folic acid. Tomatoes contain a wide array of beneficial nutrients and antioxidants, including alpha-lipoic acid, lycopene, choline, folic acid, beta-carotene and lutein.
Cooking tomatoes appears to increase the availability of key nutrients such as the caroteinoids lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Stewed tomatoes provide considerably more lutein and zeaxanthin than sun dried tomatoes and raw cherry tomatoes.
Alpha-lipoic acid helps the body to convert glucose into energy. Some evidence suggests that alpha-lipoic acid can aid in blood glucose control, improve vasodilation and protect against retinopathy in people with diabetes; it may even help preserve brain and nerve tissue.1
Lycopene is the antioxidant that gives tomatoes their rich red color. Tomatoes account for 80 percent of lycopene consumption in the average diet.
Choline is an important nutrient found in tomatoes that helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory. Choline also helps to maintain the structure of cellular membranes, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, assists in the absorption of fat and reduces chronic inflammation.2
How to incorporate more tomatoes into your diet
Make sure to store fresh tomatoes at room temperature. Avoid refrigeration, as this causes tomatoes to lose their flavor.
Tomatoes can be easily incorporated into your daily diet, from using them in sauces and soups to creating a quick bruschetta appetizer.
- Dip grape or cherry tomatoes in hummus or plain yogurt dip and have as a side or a snack
- Add sliced tomato to your sandwiches and wraps
- Add diced canned tomatoes (low sodium) to homemade or jarred marinara sauces when making pasta
- Used canned diced or stewed tomatoes in soups
- Have a piece of toast with avocado and tomato slices
- Make your own 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 your omelets or scrambles for breakfast
- Drizzle freshly sliced tomatoes and sliced mozzarella with balsamic vinegar and top with chopped basil
- Make a quick bruschetta for an appetizer.
Risks and Cautions
Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) produces a list of fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residue, known as the Dirty Dozen. Cherry tomatoes are frequently high on that list, prompting the EWG to suggest that people buy organic tomatoes where possible so as to minimize pesticide exposure.
However, it is still vastly more beneficial to include a wide range of non-organic produce in the diet than to only eat a small amount of organic produce. The nutritional benefits of eating conventionally grown (non-organic) produce far outweighs the risk of not eating produce at all. Tomatoes should be washed before eating.
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 for those whose kidneys are not fully functional. If your kidneys are unable to remove excess potassium from the blood, it could be fatal.
Those with gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) may experience an increase in symptoms such as heartburn and regurgitation when consuming highly acidic foods such as tomatoes, however individual reactions vary.
It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is best to eat a diet with variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.
Risk of breast cancer for postmenopausal women may reduce with a tomato-rich diet, after a study showed the diet increased levels of adiponectin - a fat and blood sugar regulator.
Men who consume plenty of soy and tomato combinations probably have a much lower risk of developing prostate cancer compared to those who don't.
Results of a study published in the journal PLOS One, revealed that cardiovascular disease (CVD) patients who received lycopene supplementation showed improved blood vessel response to acetylcholine, compared with healthy volunteers, which indicated normalized endothelial function.
A recent study, published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, found significant benefits of tomato juice consumption for people with metabolic syndrome.
Compared to control patients not consuming tomato juice, those who drank tomato juice four times a week for 2 months had significant improvements in inflammation status and endothelial dysfunction, as well as improvements in insulin resistance. The juice group also had a significant decrease in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and a slight increase in beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL).9
Learn about the health benefits of other everyday foods in our collection of food articles.