Let us speak “tomatoes”: The health benefits of tomatoes
The only things that seem to be ambiguous about tomato are the pronunciation of its name (is it toh-mah-toh or toh-may-toh? You decide!); and the bid to classify it as either a fruit or vegetable (can’t it be both?).
The tomato is a red (or yellow or green) berry-like, succulent fruit which bears its origin from South America.
The precise country of origin (which is mostly believed to be Mexico) is uncertain but where ever that is, we should be grateful that this fruit has made its way to our plates.
Despite the widespread popularity this fruit currently enjoys, you won’t believe that just 200 years ago, Americans would not eat tomatoes because they thought of them to be poisonous.
The antioxidant, lycopene, should be the first thing we mention when we speak “tomato”. I will tell you why, in the following sections.
But a tomato is a very rich source of this antioxidant. As a source of fibre, folate, vitamin D, vitamin K, folate, beta carotene (most red and yellow vegetables contain this) and potassium;
I will say tomatoes taste yummy (call me a cynic but I have come to conclude that the more nutrient-rich a fruit or vegetable is, the more horrible the taste!).
A hundred grams of fresh tomatoes contain 95% water, just 18 calories, 1.2g fibres, 3.9g carbohydrates, 0.9g proteins and 0.2g of fats.
Health benefits of tomatoes
For most of us, we started out consuming tomatoes because it was juicy and yummy and nothing beats tomato stew. But this wonderful fruit (or vegetable) goes beyond just another veggie slide in your bowl of salad.
Organic tomatoes (tomatoes grown without the addition of chemical fertilizers) seem to enjoy more consumer acceptability. Not just in the case of tomatoes, many fruits and vegetables are sprayed with loads of pesticides before they finally reach the market.
The extent to which these chemicals are claimed to be safe and harmless, is still up for debate. However, that still doesn’t take away from the fact that this vegetable, when prepared and consumed appropriately, has amazing health benefits.
From its anti-cancer benefits to its anti-diabetic properties, this wonderful vegetable will be discussed in greater light, as follows:
1. Tomatoes are loaded with antioxidants:
We earlier mentioned that tomatoes are a lycopene-rich delicacy. Lycopene contributes to the characteristic red color of tomatoes.
Lycopene is an antioxidant. It is one of the most powerful antioxidants found in foods. But what do antioxidants do? We cannot talk about antioxidants without mentioning free-radicals.
Free radicals could be considered as electron hungry chemical ions that have the ability to damage the body cells. The combined effect of this damage is seen as aging, skin disorders and cancers.
These ions scavenge for oxygen within our bodies in a competitive manner (competing with our oxygen-requiring cells). Antioxidants, on the other hand, scavenge these free radicals and remove them from the body. Now let me say it again, lycopene is one of the strongest antioxidants contained in foods!
Lycopene is oil soluble so a little heating of tomatoes with a little oil, releases more of the lycopene.
2. Anti-cancer properties of tomato:
It is a pretty obvious choice to talk about the anti-cancer attributes of tomato immediately after highlighting what lycopene is and what it does.
Scientific research has demonstrated a clear correlation between tomato consumption and a sharp decrease in the risk of developing breast, renal and prostate cancers. In fact, lycopene is already being used in the treatment of human papilloma virus (HPV) infection.
HPV is the major cause of cervical cancer.
Tomato consumption is not claimed to have the ability to cure cancer. It, however, is very preventive in that, it slows down the chemical pathways associated with the onset of cancer.
3. Tomatoes are rich in vitamins and minerals:
Tomatoes are very rich in vitamins C and A. Vitamin C has strong anti-oxidant properties and it is a water-soluble vitamin which also, is capable of boosting the body’s immunity against infections.
But the C vitamin is destroyed by storage especially once the fruit has been cut or sliced in a way that brings its content in contact with air. Tomatoes also contain vitamin K, potassium, zinc and iron.
4. Improves eye health:
You must have seen this coming. You didn’t think I was going to keep mentioning vitamin A without saying something about the eyes.
The beta carotene contained in tomatoes prevents the vitamin A deficiency that could result in nigh blindness. But it is worth mentioning that proper nutrition is only one aspect of visual health.
Protecting the eyes from bright or dim lighting is still important. Just avoid all forms of strain on the eyes.
5. Management of hypertension and heart conditions:
tomatoes are rich in potassium. Potassium ions act as vasodilators.
What this simply means is that they are capable of dilating the blood vessels to ensure freer and smoother blood flow. The opposite of this is what results in hypertension: when the heart has to work extra hard to pump blood through constricted blood vessels.
Tomatoes have also been reported to decrease the level of “bad” cholesterol in the blood. By bad cholesterol, I am referring to low-density lipoprotein.
This reduces the blockage of blood vessels by fat deposits thereby, improving heart health.
Diabetic patients are always advised to consume lots of tomato juice. This is because tomato consumption has been linked to lowering of blood glucose levels and also, alleviating the outcomes and symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes.
7. Kidney and urinary tract health:
Apart from the high water content of tomatoes (over 90%), they have anti-diuretic properties. They enhance waste removal from the body through the urinary tract and skin.
They help prevent the development of kidney stones by removal of the salts that would have, otherwise, caused it. A healthy waste removal from the body greatly impacts skin health and appearance.
The clearer the urinary system, the clearer the skin.
Raw or cooked?
Green tomatoes, yay or nay?
You May also Like:
- 1 Let us speak “tomatoes”: The health benefits of tomatoes
- 1.1 Nutritional facts
- 1.2 Health benefits of tomatoes
- 1.3 1. Tomatoes are loaded with antioxidants:
- 1.4 2. Anti-cancer properties of tomato:
- 1.5 HPV is the major cause of cervical cancer.
- 1.6 3. Tomatoes are rich in vitamins and minerals:
- 1.7 4. Improves eye health:
- 1.8 5. Management of hypertension and heart conditions:
- 1.9 6. Anti-diabetes:
- 1.10 7. Kidney and urinary tract health:
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