Tomatoes are often considered a vegetable, though in actuality they are a citrus fruit. Tomatoes are an incredibly versatile food. They are delicious eaten raw, in salads or on sandwiches, and take on a wonderful sweetness when cooked. Their high acid content makes them a perfect food for canning. Tomatoes are such an important part of the American diet that it’s hard to believe that they were once considered toxic. It wasn’t until the mid 1800’s that they became a staple food in the U.S.
One medium whole tomato contains around 22 calories, 0 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 gram of protein and 6 milligrams of sodium. It also provides 40 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, 20 percent of the RDA of vitamin A, 2 percent of the RDA of iron, and 1 percent of the RDA of calcium. Here are some of the health benefits of tomatoes.
1. Ward off Cancer
Numerous studies have concluded that the more tomatoes people eat the lower their risks of certain cancers, especially lung, stomach and prostate cancers. A substance called lycopene, which is responsible for tomatoes red color, is thought to be the reason for this cancer protective effect. Processed tomatoes contain even more lycopene than raw ones. The process of cooking breaks down the cell walls, helping to release the lycopene. Eating tomatoes with a little bit of fat, such as olive oil, helps lycopene to be better absorbed by the body.
2. Prevent DNA Damage
Tomatoes are high in important antioxidants such as vitamin C and Vitamin A. These vitamins work to fend-off DNA damage from free radicals. Consequently, tomatoes may help to ward off age related diseases such as atherosclerosis and diabetes.
3. Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease
Tomatoes contain important nutrients, such as niacin, folate and vitamin B6 that are associated with the reduction of heart disease risk. One study found that women who ate 7 to 10 servings of tomato products per week had a 29 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease than women who consumed less than a serving and a half of tomato products each week. Results were even more impressive when the women ate oil-rich tomato products.
4. Protect Against Thrombosis
Another study showed that drinking 8 ounces of tomato juice daily reduced platelet aggregation significantly, among study subjects. Those drinking a placebo showed no benefit. It’s important to drink low-sodium tomato juice if you are trying to protect against thrombosis (blood clots in the blood vessel), as high sodium levels can cause negative effects for this type of disease.
5. Ward off Inflammation
A double blind study found that drinking a glass of tomato juice a day can reduce blood levels of TNF-alpha by 34 percent. TNF-alpha causes inflammation. High levels have been found in individuals with most chronic, degenerative diseases such as heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s.