Updated: Mar 17, 2020
A tomato is a nutrient-dense superfood that offers benefit to a range of bodily systems. Its nutritional content supports healthful skin, weight loss, and heart health. Tomatoes are now the fourth most popular fresh-market vegetable behind potatoes, lettuce, and onions. This article will examine their powerful health benefits, nutritional content, ways to include more tomatoes in the diet, and the risks of tomato consumption.
Despite botanically being a fruit, it’s generally eaten and prepared like a vegetable. 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. They are also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K. 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 also contain lycopene. Lycopene is a polyphenol, or plant compound, that has been linked with one type of prostate cancer preventionTrusted Source. It also gives tomatoes their characteristic red color.
Tomato products provide 80 percentTrusted Source of dietary lycopene consumed in the U.S.
A studyTrusted Source of the Japanese population demonstrates that beta-carotene consumption may reduce the risk of colon cancer. Fiber intake from fruits and vegetables is associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer.
Diets rich in beta-carotene may play a protective roleTrusted Source against prostate cancer.
Further human-based research is needed to explore the possible roles of lycopene and beta-carotene in preventing or treating cancer.
Maintaining a low sodium intake helps to maintain healthful blood pressure. However, increasing potassium intake may be just as important due to its widening effects on the arteries.
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), fewer than 2 percent of U.S. adults meet the recommended daily potassium intake of 4,700 milligramsTrusted Source (mg).
High potassium and low sodium intake are also associated with a 20 percent reduced risk of dyingTrusted Source from all causes.
The fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and choline content in tomatoes all support heart health.
An increase in potassium intake, along with a decrease in sodium intake, is the most important dietary changeTrusted Source the average person can make to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.
Tomatoes also contain folate. This helps to balance homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid that results from protein breakdown. It is said to increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The management of homocysteine levels by folate reduces one of the risk factors for heart disease.
Not only is high potassium intake also associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, but it is also known for protecting the musclesTrusted Source against deterioration, preservingTrusted Source bone mineral density, and reducingTrusted Source the production of kidney stones.
Studies have shown that people with type 1 diabetes who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels, while people with type 2 diabetes may have improved blood sugar, lipids, and insulin levels. One cup of cherry tomatoes provides about 2 gramsTrusted Source (g) of fiber.
The American Diabetes Association recommends consuming around 25 g of fiber per day for women and an estimated 38 g per day for men.
Eating foods that are high in water content and fiber, such as tomatoes, may help hydration and support normal bowel movements. Tomatoes are often described as a laxative fruit.
More research is needed to confirm the laxative qualities of tomatoes.