7 Health Benefits of Tomatoes

7 Health Benefits of Tomatoes

You might be surprised to learn that the tomato on your kitchen counter is a low-calorie package chock-full of nutrients. To reap the benefits, you can incorporate tomatoes into your diet in a number of ways, such as fresh, dried or as sauce, salsa, or paste.

Try adding fresh tomatoes to omelets and salads, or serve them sliced, drizzled with balsamic vinegar, and garnished with fresh basil, sea salt, and cracked black pepper. Dress steamed veggies with sun-dried tomato pesto, or toss spaghetti squash or beans with tomato sauce. Add salsa to scrambled eggs or taco salad, or spoon onto cooked fish, black beans, or brown rice. Tomato paste adds rich texture and flavor to veggie chili, or you can mix it into hummus, with roasted garlic and harissa.

The good news? Tomatoes aren’t just tasty, they’re healthy too. Here are seven of their biggest benefits.

1. Tomatoes are a great source of vitamins.

A single tomato can provide about 40% of the daily recommended minimum of vitamin C. What’s more, tomatoes supply vitamin A, which supports immunity, vision, and skin health, and vitamin K, which is good for your bones. Tomatoes also provide potassium, a key nutrient for heart function, muscle contractions, and maintaining healthy blood pressure and fluid balance.

2. They protect heart health.

Tomatoes contain an antioxidant called lycopene (which also gives them their red color). Studies have shown that higher blood levels of lycopene are linked to lower death rates among people with metabolic syndrome (a cluster of risk factors that raise the chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, and stroke).

3. They support healthy vision.

Lycopene is good for your eyes, too. And that’s not the only peeper-protective nutrient in tomatoes; they contain lutein and beta carotene as well. These nutrients support vision and protect against eye conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

4. They boost digestive health.

The fluid and fiber in tomatoes may be helpful if you’re prone to constipation. (According to the USDA, one large tomato contains 6 ounces of fluid and 1.5 grams of fiber.) Just be aware that in some people, the acidity from cooked tomatoes may trigger or worsen acid reflux and indigestion.

5. They may help fend off diabetes complications.

Tomatoes may be a protective food for people with type 2 diabetes. In one study, people with diabetes who supplemented with cooked tomatoes for 30 days experienced a decrease in lipid peroxidation (a chain reaction in which substances called free radicals attack fat, leading to damage that ups the risk of heart disease).

6. They can contribute to skin health.

Research has found that the combination of tomato paste and olive oil protects against sun damage and boosts the production of pro-collagen, a molecule that gives the skin its structure and keeps it firm. Scientists believe that the lycopene in tomatoes is key: It’s at its highest concentration in cooked tomatoes (while olive oil boosts its absorption from your digestive system into your bloodstream).

7. They may help protect against cancer.

Observational studies have found links between consumption of tomato’s superstar compound, lycopene, and fewer incidences of prostate, ovarian, lung, and stomach cancers. What’s not to love?

(Health delivers relevant information in clear, jargon-free language that puts health into context in peoples’ lives. Online at www.health.com.)