Tomatoes are one of the healthiest foods on earth. Loaded with a wide range of nutrients including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other phytonutrients, they are a slightly sweet addition to any meal. While commonly considered a vegetable, tomatoes are technically a fruit. They pair wonderfully with soft cheeses and are available in many different varieties including grape, cherry, beefsteak, roma, and heirloom – just to name a few!
Adding tomatoes to your diet can take any dish from frumpy to fabulous! So, add this superfood to your diet today for these 5 incredible health benefits:
1. Cardiovascular Support.
Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S. taking an estimated 610,000 American lives every year. (1)
Tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant inside the peel called lycopene. Also a pigment, this compound is responsible for the red color of tomatoes and many of it’s health benefits. Lycopene has been shown in clinical studies to reduce LDL cholesterol levels, which is a bad type of cholesterol shown to cause heart problems. (2)
Additionally, clinical trials reveal that tomatoes have protective effects on endothelial cells, strengthening the inner layer of blood vessels to support a healthy cardiovascular system. Studies show that tomato consumption was associated with improvements in platelet function to reduce the risk of blood clotting, further promoting a healthy heart. (3,4)
2. Protection from Sunburn
Because of the especially high content of antioxidants in tomatoes, they are able to protect the skin from UVA and UVB rays from the sun. The photo-protection qualities of lycopene-rich foods have been clinically shown to decrease UV-induced damage in healthy skin. (5)
One study showed that daily consumption of tomato paste containing 16 mg of lycopene was associated with 40% fewer sunburns after 10 weeks of use. (6)
NOTE: Lycopene is a fruit pigment, and is found in the highest concentrations in the skin of tomatoes. Therefore, grape and cherry varieties provide the most antioxidant protection from UV skin damage.
The protective benefits of the antioxidants in tomatoes may help to reduce the growth of abnormal cells in the body. As we are exposed to toxins in our environment including pollution and UV rays from the sun, our cells come in contact with free radicals – molecules that are missing one electron. In order to re-balance, those free radicals steal electrons from healthy cells in your body, which can lead to a range of health problems.
Antioxidants are able to donate those electrons to free radical molecules, thus balancing your body and promoting homeostasis and your optimal health.
Because tomatoes offer such a large amount of antioxidants including Vitamins C & E, carotenoids (lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene), and Flavonols (rutin, kaempferol, quercetin) they are well-known to reduce cellular abnormalities caused by free radical damage. (7,8) Just one more reason to eat more tomatoes!
The combination of antioxidants provided by tomatoes has been linked to good vision and overall eye health. In one major study (AREDS 2 study), researchers found that a specific combination of antioxidants was able to promote good vision: vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, lutein, and zeaxanthin. This is the same formula recommended by experts at the National Eye Institute, and it is found naturally in tomatoes.
In the AREDS 2 study, researchers found that this nutrient formula was associated with a significant reduction in age-related macular degeneration thus promoting good vision. (9)
For men over the age of 50, prostate health can become a concern. Lycopene rich foods have been associated with a healthy prostate. (10) In one clinical trial, high tomato or lycopene consumption was associated with a significant reduction of prostate risk. (11)
How Can I Get More Tomatoes into My Diet?
While many of the benefits of tomatoes can be attributed to the content of antioxidants they provide, researchers have found that cooking tomatoes in an omega-3 rich oil boosts the bioavailability of the main antioxidant in tomatoes (lycopene) – up to 82%! (12)
Get more tomatoes into your diet with this creamy tomato & roasted pepper soup recipe
Creamy Tomato & Roasted Pepper Soup Ingredients:
· 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
· 1 tablespoon tomato paste
· 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced organic tomatoes
· 1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
· 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
· 1/2 cup half-and-half cream
· 1 red onion, chopped
· 1 carrot, chopped
· 2 cloves garlic, chopped
· 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
· Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, then add the onions, garlic, and carrots, sautéing them until tender (about 5 minutes). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Slowly add in the tomato paste, stirring constantly. Then add the tomatoes, red peppers, and chicken broth. Set the temperature to the lowest setting and let the pot simmer for up to 30 minutes, allowing the flavors to marry.
After it has had time to simmer, taste the soup to see if you want to adjust the flavors to include more salt, pepper, basil, or even a sweetener like honey. It’s up to you!
If you are happy with the taste, serve the soup in small bowls and top with fresh basil leaves.
As a general rule, always purchase certified organic tomatoes when you grocery shop. Recent reports by the Environmental Working Group have revealed that cherry tomatoes are #12 on the list of WORST foods to eat, due to high levels of pesticide residue. (13) This can be avoided by purchasing organic and organic only.
Tomatoes aren’t just a sweet and delicious food. They are a true superfood! Add these juicy treats to your diet for LOADS of essential nutrients. You may gain these 5 health benefits, plus many more.
1. Heart Disease Fact Sheet. Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention.https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_heart_disease.htm
2. Palozza, Catalano A. Effect of lycopene and tomato products on cholesterol metabolism. Ann Nutr Metab. 2012;61(2):126-34.
3. Palomo I, Fuentes E. Platelets and atherogenesis: Platelet anti-aggregation activity and endothelial protection from tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum L.). Exp Ther Med. 2012 Apr;3(4):577-584. Epub 2012 Feb 9.
4. Ivan Palomo, Eduardo Fuentes. Platelets and atherogenesis: Platelet anti-aggregation activity and endothelial protection from tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum L.) Exp Ther Med. 2012 Apr; 3(4): 577–584.
5. Stahl W, Heinrich U. Lycopene-rich products and dietary photoprotection. Photochem Photobiol Sci. 2006 Feb;5(2):238-42. Epub 2005 Aug 12.
6. Stahl W, Heinrich U. Dietary tomato paste protects against ultraviolet light-induced erythema in humans. J Nutr. 2001 May;131(5):1449-51.
7. Giovannucci E. Tomatoes, tomato-based products, lycopene, and cancer: review of the epidemiologic literature. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1999 Feb 17;91(4):317-31.
8. Chen J, Song Y. Lycopene/tomato consumption and the risk of prostate cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2013;59(3):213-23.
9. What the Age-Related Eye Disease Studies Mean for You. National Eye Institute (NEI).https://nei.nih.gov/areds2/PatientFAQ
10. Giovannucci E. A review of epidemiologic studies of tomatoes, lycopene, and prostate cancer. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2002 Nov;227(10):852-9.
11. Giovannucci E, Ascherio A, Rimm EB et al. Intake of carotenoids and retinol in relation to risk of prostate cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1995; 87:1767-76.
12. Fielding JM, Rowley KG. Increases in plasma lycopene concentration after consumption of tomatoes cooked with olive oil. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2005;14(2):131-6.
13. Dirty Dozen. EWG’s 2016 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™.https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty_dozen_list.php