By- Meena Ganagani,Practicing,Clinical Nutritionist,Mumbai.
The tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is a fruit from the nightshade family native to South America. Despite botanically being a fruit, it’s generally eaten and prepared like a vegetable. Usually red when mature, tomatoes can also come in a variety of colors, including yellow, orange, green, and purple. What’s more, many subspecies of tomatoes exist with different shapes and flavor. Tomatoes are the major dietary source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to many health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. (1)
- Including tomatoes in the diet can help protect against cancer, maintain healthy blood, and reduce blood glucose in people with diabetes.
- Tomatoes contain key carotenoids such as lutein and lycopene. These can protect the eye against light-induced damage.
- Eat more tomatoes by adding them to wraps or sandwiches, sauces, or salsas. Alternatively, eat them cooked or stewed, as these preparation methods can boost the availability of key nutrients.
- Tomatoes are in the top ten fruits and vegetables for containing levels of pesticide residue. Wash tomatoes before eating. (2)
Health benefits of Tomatoes
- Tomatoes are one of the low-calorie vegetables. They are also very low in fat contents and have zero cholesterol levels. Nonetheless, they are excellent sources of antioxidants, dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
- The antioxidants present in tomatoes are scientifically found to be protective against cancers, including colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic tumors.
- Lycopene, a flavonoid antioxidant, is a unique phytochemical compound found in the tomatoes. Red variety fruits tend to possess more of this antioxidant. Together with carotenoids, lycopene may help protect cells and other structures in the human body from harmful oxygen-free radicals. Studies show that lycopene protects the skin from ultra-violet (UV) rays and thus offers some defense against skin cancer.
- Zea-xanthin is another flavonoid compound present abundantly in this vegetable. Zeaxanthin helps protect eyes from age-related macular related macular disease (ARMD) in the older adults by filtering harmful ultra-violet rays.
- It contains very good levels of vitamin-A, and flavonoid antioxidants such as a and ß-carotenes, xanthins and lutein. Altogether, these pigment compounds are found to have antioxidant properties and take part in night-vision, maintenance of healthy mucosa and skin, and bones. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in flavonoids is known to help protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
- Additionally, they are also a good source of antioxidant vitamin-C; consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful free radicals.
- Fresh tomato is very rich in potassium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure caused by sodium.
- Further, they carry average levels of vital B-complex vitamins such as folates, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin as well some essential minerals like iron, calcium, manganese and other trace elements. (3)