Just How Good is Tomato for Your Health?3 months ago | Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
I’m always growing tomatoes in my garden. It’s one of my go-to fruits (yes, tomatoes are fruits) for adding extra freshness and flavor to salads, pastas, sandwiches, sauces and more.
There are thousands of varieties of tomatoes. A few you are likely familiar with include the heirloom, grape, cherry, roma and beefsteak tomatoes. And according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), California is the largest producer of tomatoes in the country.
It’s so important to take advantage of the access we have to healthy foods. Doing this will prevent many diseases. “It is estimated that approximately 50% of cancer cases and 35% of cancer deaths in the United States can be attributed to poor diet,” according to the National Institutes for Health (NIH).
Adding tomatoes to your diet is a great way to be proactive about good nutrition. A nickname for the tomato is “love apple.” And after looking at some of the health benefits of this very popular fruit, I understand why.
Tomatoes may help prevent prostate and other types of cancer.
The NIH reports that epidemiological studies have associated tomato consumption with a decreased risk of prostate cancer.
This may be due to the fact that tomatoes are very rich in lycopene, a carotenoid pigment (an antioxidant). Antioxidants are great at fighting inflammation, which is widely believed to be one of the causes of all types of cancer.
Along with prostate cancer, the NIH reports that consuming tomatoes and tomato products also may reduce the risk of other types of cancer, particularly lung and stomach.
And here’s a tip: when you eat tomato, make sure to eat it with a healthy fat, like avocado. This may help your body better absorb the lycopene.
Tomatoes may help prevent osteoporosis.
A study published in the medical journal Osteoporosis International found evidence from examining a group of postmenopausal women that lycopene may slow down the breakdown of bone cells, which may cause osteoporosis.
Tomatoes may help balance your blood sugar, which is especially great for people who suffer from diabetes.
Several reports say tomatoes are a good source of chromium. Chromium is a mineral you may not know a lot about, but it may help keep type 2 diabetes at bay by reducing insulin resistance and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. It may even help prevent heart disease.
Tomatoes may help you lose weight or help maintain a healthy weight.
Tomatoes have a high water content. Eating foods rich in water not only will help keep you hydrated, but they may also may make you feel fuller longer and prevent cravings. And an added bonus is the combination of water and antioxidants in tomatoes will help keep your skin and hair looking beautiful.
Check out some of the additional vitamins and minerals in just one cup of raw, chopped red tomato.
- Calcium, 18 mg. Of course, calcium is important for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. This mineral is also important for maintaining hair and nail health in perimenopausal and menopausal women. Adequate calcium intake may also decrease your risk for colorectal cancer.
- Magnesium, 20 mg. This must-have mineral helps with blood pressure regulation and also has antioxidant properties. Several studies have also shown an improvement in the severity of symptoms of depression when study participants were given 125-300 mg of magnesium with each meal and at bedtime.
- Phosphorus, 43 mg. This mineral often does not get the credit it deserves, but it does so much for your body. Phosphorus is almost as abundant in your body as calcium and helps calcium build strong bones and teeth. Phosphorus is also important for how your body stores and uses energy, repairs cells and is needed to make proteins like the one responsible for the oxygen-carrying capabilities of our red blood cells. This mineral has also been linked to weight management. In a study of almost 40,000 women in Korea, phosphorus deficiency correlated with weight gain from oral contraceptives. Furthermore, a study from Lebanon showed that phosphorus supplements in a small group (63 people) for 12 weeks significantly decreased body weight, BMI, waist circumference and subjective appetite scores.
- Potassium, 427 mg. There’s a surprising connection with the liver and potassium. Liver injury or infection causes patients to urinate their potassium out. When the liver heals, the potassium levels start to go back up. This has implications for people with chronic liver problems, in terms of both diet as well as use of medications, since very low potassium levels can be more dangerous than the liver problem alone. Potassium may also help keep blood pressure under control and may even help reduce kidney stones and bone loss as you age.
- Vitamin C, 24.7 mg. Vitamin C is one of the most important nutrients needed for survival. It is an antioxidant that protects your immune system from deficiencies that lead to cardiovascular illnesses. It also is responsible for helping the body produce collagen for your skin and bones and is a common ingredient in beauty products.
- Folate, 27 µg. Folate (also called vitamin B9) is a very important nutrient, especially for pregnant women. Folate may help prevent cancer and heart disease and improve mental health.
- Choline, 12.1 mg. Choline is a nutrient that was recognized as an essential nutrient by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 1998. “The importance of choline in the diet extends into adulthood and old age. In a study of healthy adult subjects deprived of dietary choline, 77% of the men and 80% of the postmenopausal women developed signs of subclinical organ dysfunction (fatty liver or muscle damage)," reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
- Vitamin A, 1499 IU. Vitamin A helps with bone growth and reproductive health. It is mainly known for improving your eyesight, skin health and cell regeneration.
Lastly, I have some advice on storing precious tomatoes. Refrigerating tomatoes stops the ripening process and compromises the flavor and texture. Keep them stored on your counter along with other fruits in your fruit bowl.
Check out these healthy, vegan recipes that use tomatoes. And if you are allergic to this fruit, talk to your doctor about taking a lycopene supplement and get nutritional testing to see if you have any nutritional deficiencies.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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