Tomato Talk: The Health Benefits of Tomatoes

By on June 2, 2014
picture of tomatoes

By Justin Doochin−

One of the many perks of cooking with tomatoes is their flexibility and versatility to an array of dishes.  This fruit (often mistaken as a vegetable) is not only delicious raw (maybe with a pinch of salt), but is also great on salads, sandwiches, and offer a delightful sweetness when steamed or cooked.  While their consumption versatility is convenient, the health benefits of these plump red juicy balls of goodness offer far more than you might imagine.

Skin Protection

Tomatoes contain a red-orange pigment called beta-carotene, which is most likely found in other fruits and vegetables with similar color pigmentation. While beta-carotene is actually not an essential nutrient, the human body converts beta-carotene into Vitamin A, which is absolutely especially to our bodies. This Vitamin A precursor has a plethora of health benefits. In regards to skin protection, beta-carotene is known to have advantageous affects against sun damage and UV lighting.

Lycopene, another bright red pigment in the carotenoid family found in tomatoes, has been proven to reduce skin sensitivity to UV light when consumed. Recent studies have shown that 85% of lycopene in our diets are attributed to tomato consumption. So, next time you go to the beach or plan on being in direct sunlight for long periods, be sure to include plenty of tomatoes into your diet beforehand. While this is by no means an alternative to sunblock, it’s nice to know that there’s a natural remedy against damaging UV light.

Healthy Bones

When I think of things in my fridge that promote healthy bones, I usually think milk. But incorporating tomatoes into your diet is another great way to keep your bones healthy and strong. These fruits contain vitamin K and Calcium, both known to promote bone strengthening and repairing. Lycopene, as well as skin protection, also has been shown to increase bone mass. Thus, tomatoes is believed to be a great remedy for osteoporosis, a bone disease that is characterized by the diminishing of bone mass and density leading to fractures.

Reduces Risk of Cancers

The three musketeers of cancer fighting agents in tomatoes are vitamin A, vitamin C, and lycopene. In order to prevent the build of free radicals, the body attacks with antioxidants. Antioxidants such as vitamin A, C, and beta-carotene are all found in tomatoes, and are great defenses against free radical build up. While eating raw tomatoes is great for you, cooking them incorporates even more lycopene into your body because the heat breaks down its cell walls, releasing more lycopene.

The most researched type of cancer in relationship to tomato consumption is by far prostate cancer. The result stands that tomatoes can lower risk of prostate cancer through the nutrient alpha-tomatine.

Lowering Risk of Stroke

Recent studies suggest that tomatoes can now be placed in the “brain food” category. A new population based follow up study looked at 1,000 men to see if high levels of lycopene in their blood stream reduced their risk of stroke. The conclusion was that men with higher levels of the antioxidant in their blood lowered the risk of stroke up to 59%.  Because tomatoes are human’s main source of lycopene, there’s now a direct relationship between reducing strokes and tomato consumption.

Regulates Blood Sugar Levels

Due to being a good source of chromium, many studies suggest that tomatoes can help regulate blood sugar levels.  Chromium is a mineral that our bodies need to help move blood sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream into the cells. 1 cup of raw tomatoes is approximately 4% DV of chromium.  While this is not a particular large amount compared to our recommended daily value, you can add broccoli (which is very high in chromium), and have a chromium rich dish.

Helping with Chronic Inflammatory Pain

If you’re someone who has chronic back pain or arthritis, tomatoes could be a great natural pain relieving remedy. Chronic pain is usually caused by inflammation, and reducing inflammation will automatically help with the pain. Since tomatoes are high in anti-inflammatory agents like bioflavonoids and carotenoids, tomatoes can be a smart natural alternative to fight chronic pain through anti-inflammatory relief.

Vision

Since tomatoes are a good source of vitamin A, studies have shown that tomato consumption directly improves vision, especially in the dark. The pigments in the retina of our eyes are produced by retinol, also known as vitamin A.  More recent studies have shown that vitamin A, as well as other antioxidant vitamins in tomatoes; reduce the risk of macular degeneration, an irreversible eye condition.

How to Incorporate Tomatoes into Your Diet

As noted earlier, tomatoes are extremely versatile fruits that can easily be added to your everyday diet. Here are a few ideas of how you can integrate tomatoes into your daily diet:

  • Slice tomatoes on a sandwich
  • Tossed into salads
  • Use canned diced tomatoes in soups, salsas or pasta sauces
  • Add a slice of a tomato over mozzarella with balsamic vinegar and a pinch of basil
  • Use cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes to dip into hummus or ranch
  • Chop up a tomato and add to scrambled eggs
  • Tomato soup

Easy and Delicious Tomato Recipes

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

picture of eggplant parmesan

Total time: 25 min Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
  • 1 large eggplant, peeled if desired
  • Original No-Stick Cooking Spray
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 can (14.5 oz each) Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic and Oregano, undrained
  • 1 can (8 oz each) Tomato Sauce with Basil, Garlic and Oregano

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place bread crumbs in shallow dish; set aside.
  2. Cut eggplant into 12 slices, about 1/2-inch thick. Spray each side of slices with cooking spray. Coat with bread crumbs on both sides and place on baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes or until tender, turning once. Top slices evenly with cheese; bake 1 minute more or until cheese has softened.
  3. Meanwhile, combine undrained tomatoes and sauce in small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Spoon tomato mixture evenly into 4 shallow bowls. Place 3 eggplant slices over sauce in each bowl.

Creamy Tomato Potato Soup

Prep time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 485 min Serves: 8

picture of tomato soup

Ingredients:

  • Original No-Stick Cooking Spray
  • 1 pkg (11 oz each) creamy potato soup mix
  • 1 can (14.5 oz each) Diced Tomatoes-No Salt Added, undrained
  • 1 can (10 oz each) Original Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies, undrained
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 pound small red potatoes, scrubbed, cut into bite-size pieces

Directions:

  1. Spray inside of slow cooker with cooking spray. Combine soup mix, undrained tomatoes, water and potatoes in slow cooker.
  2. Cover; cook on LOW 8 hours or on HIGH 4 hours or until potatoes are tender

 

Author Bio: Justin writes about food and healthy living on behalf of Ro*tel, known for their original diced tomatoes and green chilies. For more tomato based recipes and tips, visit their site at Ro-tel.com.

About lb50

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tomato Talk: The Health Benefits of Tomatoes