One of the great things about tomatoes is their versatility. While often miss categorized as a vegetable, this fruit can be eaten raw, on salads, on sandwiches, and offer a delightful sweetness when cooked. But other than being incredibly flexible to meal usage, tomatoes also have many health benefits. The following article will take you through some of the main known health benefits of this sweet, juicy, delicious fruit.
Tomatoes contain a strong colored reddish/orange pigment called Beta-carotene, which is also found in carrots, sweet potatoes, and other red/orange colored vegetables and fruits. Beta-carotene is known to help protect skin against sun damage and UV lighting.
Lycopene, a bright red carotene and carotenoid pigment also found in tomatoes, is not an essential nutrient, but research has shown that lycopene consumption reduces skin sensitivity against UV light damage. For the average American, 85% of lycopene in our diet is attributed only by tomato consumption. In a recent study, twenty three women were given 55g of tomato paste (approximately 16mg of lycopene) every day for twelve weeks. The results were undeniable with a 30% increase in skin protection against the UV lights. While this is by no means an alternative to sunblock, it is nice to know that tomato consumption can reduce UV light damage.
When you were a kid, you’re mom probably told you to drink milk for strong bones. Well, eating tomatoes is another way to make your bones healthy and strong. These fruits contain vitamin K and Calcium, both known to promote bone strengthening and repairing. Lycopene, as well as skin protection, also has been shown to increase bone mass. Thus, tomatoes is believed to be a great remedy for osteoporosis, a bone disease that is characterized by the diminishing of bone mass and density leading to fractures.
Reduces Risk of Cancers
The three main cancer fighting agents in tomatoes are lycopene, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Studies have shown that lycopene consumption lowers the risk of many cancers such as lung, prostate, and ovarian. Believe it or not, processed and cooked tomatoes contain even more lycopene than raw ones because the heat actually releases the lycopene by breaking down the cell walls. The most researched type of cancer in relationship to tomato consumption is by far prostate cancer. The verdict stands that tomatoes can lower risk of prostate cancer through the nutrient alpha-tomatine.
Without getting too biological here, free radicals are atoms that are formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. Once grouped together, these highly reactive radicals start a chain reaction that can severely damage essential cellular components. In order to prevent the build of free radicals, the body attacks with antioxidants. Antioxidants such as vitamin A, C, and beta-carotene are all found in tomatoes, and are great defenses against free radical build up.
Lowering Risk of Stroke
It appears that this juicy fruit also contributes to better brain health. A recent population based follow up study looked at 1,000 men to see if high levels of lycopene in their blood stream reduced their risk of stroke. The conclusion was that men with higher levels of the antioxidant in their blood lowered the risk of stroke by 55 to 59 percent. And since tomatoes acts as one of our main sources of lycopene, it’s safe to say that eating tomatoes can reduce the chances of suffering from a stroke.
Regulates Blood Sugar Levels
Due to being a great source of chromium, many studies suggest that tomatoes can help regulate blood sugar levels. Chromium is a mineral that our bodies need to help move blood sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream into the cells. 1 cup of raw tomatoes is approximately 4% DV of chromium.
Helping with Chronic Inflammatory Pain
Tomatoes could be a great pain reliever for individuals with chronic pain such as arthritis and back pain. Chronic pain is usually caused by inflammation, and reducing inflammation will automatically help with the pain. Since tomatoes are high in anti-inflammatory agents like bioflavonoids and carotenoids, tomatoes can be a smart natural alternative to fight chronic pain through anti-inflammatory relief.
Since tomatoes are a good source of vitamin A, studies have shown that tomato consumption directly improves vision, especially in the dark. In regards to vision, vitamin A is also known as retinol because it produces the pigments in the retina of the eye. More recent studies have shown that vitamin A, as well as other antioxidant vitamins in tomatoes; reduce the risk of macular degeneration, an irreversible eye condition.
How to Incorporate Tomatoes into Your Diet
As noted earlier, tomatoes are extremely versatile fruits that can easily be added to your everyday diet. Here are a few ideas of how you can integrate tomatoes into your daily diet:
- Slice tomatoes on a sandwich
- Put in salads
- Use canned diced tomatoes in soups, salsas or pasta sauces
- Add a slice of a tomato over mozzarella with balsamic vinegar and a pinch of basil
- Use cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes to dip into hummus or ranch
- Chop up a tomato and add to your morning eggs
Easy and Delicious Recipes
Chunky Tomato Bruschetta Recipe
- 1 loaf French bread, cut diagonally into 10 slices
- 1 Olive Oil No-Stick Cooking Spray
- 2 tbsp garlic salt
- 1 can Petite Diced Tomatoes, drained 14.5 oz each
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- 2 tbsp chopped onion
- Preheat broiler. Place bread slices on large baking sheet; spray evenly with cooking spray.
- Broil 1-2 minutes until golden brown; turn over. Spray with additional cooking spray; sprinkle with garlic salt. Continue broiling 1-2 minutes, or until second side is golden brown. Remove from baking sheet to wire rack. Cool.
- Combine tomatoes, basil and onion in medium bowl. Spoon evenly onto bread slices just before serving
Classic Lasagna Recipe
- 9 uncooked lasagna noodles about 8 ounces
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil No-Stick Cooking Spray
- 1 pound Italian pork sausage
- 1 pound ground round
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 can Crushed Tomatoes 28 oz each
- 1 can Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic and Oregano, undrained 14.5 oz each
- 4 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley divided
- ½ tbsp fennel seeds
- ½ tbsp ground black pepper divided
- ¼ tbsp salt
- 2 cups part skim ricotta cheese
- 1 cup shredded Romano cheese divided
- 2 eggs beaten
- 2 tbsp thinly sliced fresh basil
- 3 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese divided (3 cups = 12 oz)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop cooking. Meanwhile, spray large saucepan with cooking spray. Heat over medium-high heat until hot; add sausage and ground chuck. Cook and stir 5 minutes to crumble meat.
- Add onion and garlic to pan. Continue cooking 8 to 10 minutes or until meat is no longer pink and onion is tender. Drain meat mixture well. Add crushed and undrained tomatoes, 1 tablespoon parsley, fennel seeds, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and salt. Bring meat mixture to a boil. Reduce heat; cook uncovered over medium-low heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
- Place ricotta, 3/4 cup of the Romano cheese, eggs, remaining parsley, basil and remaining pepper in medium bowl; blend well. Set aside.
- Assemble Lasagna: Spray 13x9-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 1 cup meat sauce evenly over bottom of dish. Place 3 lasagna noodles over sauce, top with 2 cups meat sauce, half of ricotta cheese mixture and 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers ending with a layer of noodles topped with sauce and the remaining mozzarella and Romano cheeses.
- Spray underside of aluminum foil with cooking spray; cover dish tightly with foil. Bake 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes or until cheese melts and sauce is bubbling. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Justin writes about food and healthy living on behalf of Hunt’s, the home of diced, whole, stewed, and crushed tomatoes naturally peeled with steam. If you would like to write for HealthResource4u, check our guest submission guidelines.