The tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) belongs to the nightshade family of fruits and is originated from South America.
Tomatoes are prepared and eaten as vegetables, despite the fact that they are fruits.
Tomatoes are the main source of the antioxidant lycopene. This antioxidant has proved that it has many health benefits such as decreasing the chance of heart diseases and cancer.
Tomatoes have other nutrients like vitamin B9 (folate), vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium.
Tomatoes come in different colors, although the usual is color Red, but it comes also in yellow, orange, green and purple. Tomatoes exist in a lot of shapes and flavor according to their subspecies.
The following lines give you some health benefits information about tomatoes.
Tomatoes consist of water (about 95 % of its weight) and the other 5 % mainly are carbohydrates and fiber.
100 grams (g) of raw tomato give you these nutrients:
- Calories: 18
- Water: 95%
- Protein: 0.9 g
- Carbs: 3.9 g
- Sugar: 2.6 g
- Fiber: 1.2 g
- Fat: 0.2 g
A medium-sized tomato (about 123 g) may have a less than 5 g of carbs because raw tomatoes have about 4 % carbs. This carbs mainly consist of simple sugar like glucose and fructose (almost 70 %).
An average-sized tomato will give about 1.5 g of fiber, thus tomatoes are considered to be a great source of fiber. About 87 % of the fiber content in tomatoes are hemicellulose, cellulose, and lignin, which are all insoluble.
Vitamins and minerals
Tomatoes are rich in many vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin B9 (folate): Folate is very essential for the growth of cells and tissues, especially in pregnant women. It is one of the B vitamins.
- Vitamin C: A medium-sized tomato may give your body about 28 % of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) of vitamin C. This vitamin is very important to the body for its antioxidant effect.
- Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone): this vitamin has a significant role in bone health and blood clotting.
- Potassium: This element is very important in keeping blood pressure under control and in protecting the heart from diseases.
Other plant compounds
The type and sampling periods of tomatoes have a great effect on the content of vitamins and other plant compounds.
Tomatoes have these compounds:
- Lycopene: This red pigment has a great health benefits, it is a good antioxidant.
- Beta carotene: This antioxidant turns to vitamin A in the body. It usually gives foods a yellow or orange look.
- Naringenin: Some studies have been done on mice and found that this flavonoid reduces inflammation and prevent the body from many diseases. It is found in tomato peel.
- Chlorogenic acid: People with high blood pressure can get a great benefit from this powerful antioxidant compound.
The rich color of tomatoes comes from chlorophylls and carotenoids like lycopene. The Green color of chlorophyll will gradually degenerate after the maturation process starts, and turns into the red color of carotenoids.
The peel of the tomato is rich in lycopene, it is the most plentiful carotenoid in the mature tomato. Lycopene is especially remarkable between the whole plant compounds. If the tomato is more red, it means that it has more lycopene in it.
In the United States (U.S), 80 % of the dietary lycopene comes from tomato products like tomato juice, ketchup, tomato paste and tomato sauces. It is known that processed tomato products usually have more amount of lycopene than fresh tomatoes.
You can prove that by comparing a one small, fresh tomato (100 g) which contains about 1 : 8 mg of lycopene, with ketchup which contain 10 : 14 mg of the same compound.
But you must consider that ketchup is usually eaten in small amounts, unlike tomatoes. So, it will be much easier to increase the intake of lycopene by consuming unprocessed tomatoes, which have also much less amount of sugar.
The absorption of lycopene in your body is highly affected by other types of food in your diet. For example, if you add fat to your diet, this will increase lycopene absorption by four times.
This means that each one of us absorb lycopene in an amount differ from the other.
Although Processed tomato products have more lycopene, but the health institutions advice to eat fresh, whole tomato.
Health benefits of tomatoes
It has been proven that eating tomatoes and processed tomato products have many health benefits to the skin and in reducing the chance for any heart disease and cancer.
The most common cause of death around the world is heart attacks, strokes, and other heart diseases.
There is a link between low concentration of lycopene and beta- carotene in the blood, with the high chance of strokes and heart attacks. That is according to research done on men in the middle age.
Another suggests comes from clinical research, that introducing lycopene can help in lowering Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – also known as bad cholesterol-.
Processed tomato products – according to some clinical research – have high health benefits against inflammation and oxidative stress.
Tomatoes also have a very important effect in preserving the inner layer of blood vessels and can reduce the chance for blood clotting.
When normal cells grow abnormally out of their limits and attack other cells in the body. This is called cancer.
Tomatoes and processed tomato products have noticed to connect with low risk of prostate, lung and stomach cancers. And that is according to monitoring studies.
More studies must be done to prove that the high content of lycopene in tomatoes is responsible for these health benefits.
In women, research proves that tomatoes with high amounts of carotenoids can save their body from breast cancer.
Tomatoes have great health benefits for the skin.
Processed tomato products that have a high amount of lycopene and some other compounds are known to protect the skin from sunburn.
One study shows that if you keep on eating 40 g (1.3 ounces) of tomato paste with olive oil for 10 weeks, the risk of getting a sunburn will decrease by 40 %. This 40 g has about 16 mg of lycopene.