The Health Benefits of Tomatoes Feature Image

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Introduction

Finding a kitchen without any tomatoes in it would be a challenge. This delicious fruit, which originated from South America, is widely used in everyday cooking, whether it’s salads, pasta sauces, pizza toppings, or soups!

But did you now that tomatoes are so much more than a tasty ingredient? Yes, they are incredibly beneficial for our health because of the vitamins and minerals they contain.

In addition to that, tomatoes are a major dietary source of antioxidants which are known to help our bodies fight off various severe diseases.

So, what are the health benefits of tomato (scientifically known as Solanum lycopersicum) – and should you be increasing your tomato consumption?

We’ve taken an insider look and provided an extensive overview of tomato health properties, so read on to find out what they are!

1. Tomatoes Are Highly Nutritious

Tomatoes are loaded in various minerals and vitamins which are incredibly beneficial for our health! They are a great source of the following nutrients:

  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant which helps protect our cells from the damage of free radicals. Tomatoes are a great source of Vitamin C, with one medium-sized tomato containing about 26 percent of the recommended daily intake of this important vitamin [1];
  • Vitamin K: Our bodies need Vitamin K for blood coagulation (the clotting of blood) [2] as well as bone health [3]. A medium-sized tomato contains 9.7 mcg of Vitamin K (which is 12 percent of the recommended daily intake);
  • Potassium: Having sufficient levels of potassium is really important for our health. Potassium is needed for the regulation of fluid and muscle contraction, as well as the sending of nerve signals [4]. One medium-sized tomato contains 292mg of potassium, which is 8 percent of the daily value (DV);
  • Folate (B9): Folate (folic acid) is an essential B-group vitamin which our bodies need to maintain normal tissue growth and cell function [5]. Having sufficient levels of folic acid is particularly important for pregnant women. One medium-sized tomato contains 18.4 mcg of folate, which is 5 percent of the daily value;
  • Fiber: Fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate which feeds the good gut bacteria [6], as well as reduces blood sugar spikes [7]. An average-sized tomato (about 123 grams) contains about 1.5 grams of dietary fiber. The majority of the fibers (87 percent) are insoluble.

Even though tomatoes are packed with nutrients, they are very low in calories: one medium-sized tomato contains only 22 kcal.

2. They Contain Many Other Healthy Plant Compounds

Tomatoes contain plenty of other healthy plant compounds which have been linked to a variety of health benefits. However, it is important to know that these compounds vary significantly between different tomato varieties – as well as sampling periods [8, 9].

The four main compounds found in tomatoes are:

  • Beta-Carotene: Beta-Carotene is a yellow antioxidant, which the body converts into vitamin A. It plays many crucial roles in the body’s ability to fight against free radicals. Beta-carotene has been found to improve cognitive function [10], promote good and healthy skin [11], and even help prevent cancer [12];
  • Lycopene: Studies have linked lycopene to many health benefits because of its antioxidant properties, from preventing cancer to lowering cardiovascular disease risk [13]. Lycopene is also responsible for the red color of tomato;
  • Naringenin: Naringenin is a flavonoid found in tomato skin, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties in studies with mice [14]. It has also associated with protecting the body against – as well as treating – liver disease [15];
  • Chlorogenic acid: Chlorogenic acid is a powerful antioxidant which is known to lower blood pressure in those with hypertension [16]. It is also found in other fruits and vegetables, such as apples, pears, carrots, and sweet potatoes [17].

As you can see, tomatoes are an excellent source of various health-boosting plant compounds.

Tomato health benefits mainly come from their high content of antioxidants which are known to protect the body against oxidative damage.

3. Tomatoes Are Beneficial For Heart Health

Since tomatoes contain beta-carotene, they are great for your heart, too. Low blood levels of beta-carotene have been linked to a higher risk of heart problems, such as heart attacks and strokes [18, 19]. And, since heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of deaths globally, and are responsible for 1 in every 3 deaths in the US [20], consuming foods that improve our heart health is incredibly important.

But beta-carotene isn’t the only plant compound beneficial for our heart health that can be found in tomatoes – lycopene contributes to our heart health, too! There is scientific evidence that supplementing with lycopene can effectively lower LDL cholesterol – which has long been associated with an increased risk of dying from heart attacks and strokes [21].

Other studies have shown that tomato products may protect the inner layer of our blood vessels – and help decrease the risk of blood clotting [22, 23]. Excessive blood clotting has been closely linked to various heart problems because blood clots can travel to the arteries in our vital organs – such as brain, heart, and kidneys – and cause heart attack, stroke, or even death [24].

4. Tomatoes May Help Prevent Cancer

Consuming tomatoes as part of your everyday diet may also provide protection against several types of cancer, observational studies have found.

Links have been made between consuming tomatoes and tomato products and fewer incidences of lung, prostate, and stomach cancers [25].

Studies have also shown that consuming tomato products may protect our bodies from oxidative stress. Various processed tomato products – such as tomato paste, tomato puree, tomato ketchup, and tomato juice – are a great source of lycopene, which protects the body against oxidative damage, and has anticarcinogenic effects [26].

Another study conducted with women showed that high concentrations of carotenoids (which tomatoes are a great source of) may protect against the development of breast cancer [27].

5. Eating Tomatoes May Improve Your Skin Health

If you’re dreaming of healthy, glowing skin, tomatoes might be just the fruit to consume!

Rich in lycopene and other plant compounds, tomatoes may protect your skin from sunburn [28].

A study showed that supplementing with high doses of beta-carotene protects the skin against UV-light induced erythema. Tomato paste (providing approximately 16 mg of lycopene) was ingested with 10 grams of olive oil over the period of 10 weeks by volunteers. At the end of the study, carotenoid levels of the participants who consumed tomato paste with olive oil were higher – and sunburn levels were 40 percent lower [29]!

6. Tomatoes Are Great For Those Aiming To Lose Weight

Last but not least, since tomatoes are very low in calories (one medium-sized tomato only contains 22 calories), but are packed in various vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – they are a great food to incorporate into your diet if you are aiming to achieve a healthy weight.

Choosing a healthy and balanced diet is crucial in succeeding with your weight loss goals. Adding fruits nutritious (and delicious!) fruits like tomatoes to your diet could help you successfully reach your weight loss goals.

However, bear in mind that since tomatoes are relatively high in carbohydrates (they are 79 percent carb), they would not be a suitable type of fruit to consume on the ketogenic diet.

Conclusion

While we know that eating fruit and vegetables is generally good for us, we don’t always hear about the health benefits of tomato.

Turns out, this vitamin and nutrient-dense fruit can improve our health in many ways – from boosting our heart health and protecting our skin, to even helping prevent cancer. And these claims aren’t just speculative – there are plenty of human research studies that back them up.

Most of the health-boosting properties of tomatoes come from their high content of antioxidants which are known to help the body fight various diseases. Therefore, we think it is safe to say that tomatoes should be added to a healthy and nutritious diet.

Luckily, incorporating tomatoes into our diet is very easy because they already are the key ingredient in so many delicious recipes.

Marina Ma, MD
Marina Ma, MD
Staff Writer & Fact Checker at DietProbe
Marina has an MD from U-M and is a resident writer and fact checker at DietProbe.
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Fact Checked


This article has been reviewed and fact-checked by a certified nutritionist, and only uses information from credible academic sources.