Tomatoes: Health Benefits, Facts, Research
Whether you refer to a tomato as a fruit or a vegetable, there is no doubt that a tomato is a nutrient-dense, super-food that most people should be eating more of.
The tomato has been referred to as a “functional food,” a food that goes beyond providing just basic nutrition, additionally preventing chronic disease and delivering other health benefits, due to beneficial phytochemicals such as lycopene.
Despite the popularity of the tomato, only 200 years ago it was thought to be poisonous in the U.S., likely because the plant belongs to the nightshade family, of which some species are truly poisonous.
Possible health benefits of tomatoes
High fruit and vegetable intake is also associated with healthy skin and hair, increased energy and lower weight. Increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables significantly decreases the risk of obesity and overall mortality.
As an excellent source of the strong antioxidant vitamin C and other antioxidants, tomatoes can help combat the formation of free radicals known to cause cancer.
2) Prostate Cancer
Lycopene has been linked with prostate cancer prevention in several studies.7 According to John Erdman, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of the department of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois, “There’s very good, strong, epidemiological support for increased consumption of tomato products and lower incidence of prostate cancer.”7
3) Colorectal Cancer
Beta-carotene consumption has been shown to have an inverse association with the development of colon cancer in the Japanese population. High fiber intakes from fruits and vegetables are associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, some studies have shown that people who have diets rich in tomatoes may have a lower risk of certain types of cancer, especially cancers of the prostate, lung, and stomach. Further human-based research is needed to find out what role lycopene might play in the prevention or treatment of cancer.
4) Blood pressure
Maintaining a low sodium intake is essential to lowering blood pressure, however increasing potassium intake may be just as important because of its vasodilation effects. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, fewer than 2 percent of U.S. adults meet the daily 4700 mg recommendation.3
Also of note, a high potassium intake is associated with a 20 percent decreased risk of dying from all causes.3
5) Heart health
The fiber, potassium, vitamin C and choline content in tomatoes all support heart health. An increase in potassium intake along with a decrease in sodium intake is the most important dietary change that a person can make to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease, according to Mark Houston, M.D., M.S., an associate clinical professor of medicine at Vanderbilt Medical School and director of the Hypertension Institute at St. Thomas Hospital in Tennessee.3
In one study, those who consumed 4069 mg of potassium per day had a 49 percent lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease compared with those who consumed less potassium (about 1000 mg per day).3
High potassium intakes are also associated with a reduced risk of stroke, protection against loss of muscle mass, preservation of bone mineral density and reduction in the formation of kidney stones.3
Studies have shown that type 1 diabetics who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels and type 2 diabetics may have improved blood sugar, lipids and insulin levels. One cup of cherry tomatoes provides about 2 grams of fiber.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 21-25 g/day for women and 30-38 g/day for men.
Collagen, the skins support system, is reliant on vitamin C as an essential nutrient that works in our bodies as an antioxidant to help prevent damage caused by the sun, pollution and smoke, smooth wrinkles and improve overall skin texture.5
Eating foods that are high in water content and fiber like tomatoes can help to keep you hydrated and your bowel movements regular. Fiber is essential for minimizing constipation and adding bulk to the stool.
Adequate folic acid intake is essential for pregnant women to protect against neural tube defects in infants.
The folic acid in tomatoes may also help with depression by preventing an excess of homocysteine from forming in the body, which can prevent blood and other nutrients from reaching the brain. Excess homocysteine interferes with the production of the feel-good hormones serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which regulate not only mood, but sleep and appetite as well.4
7 reasons to start your day with lemon water: https://trib.al/NeBnZE4
The vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients found in fruits make them an essential part of a healthy diet. Lemons, in particular, are rich in vitamin C, which means they’re a great source of antioxidants. Research suggests that antioxidants can decrease the damaging effects of free radicals, which may help prevent certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and other illnesses.
A single lemon contains 51 percent of your daily vitamin C needs — and 1 ounce (oz) of lemon juice contains 23 percent. Consuming lemons and their juice can help boost your immune system, reduce your risk of asthma and eye diseases, like age-related macular degeneration and cataracts, and benefit your skin.
If you’re a woman, the vitamin C found in lemons and other citrus fruit may help reduce your risk of ischemic stroke, according to researchers at the American Heart Association.
It’s not just the vitamin C that makes lemons so good for you. They’re also high in soluble fiber and have a low glycemic index, which has inspired the American Diabetes Association to promote lemons and other citrus fruits as superfoods for people who have type 2 diabetes.
Tips for Reaping the Health Benefits of Lemons
Lemon juice, pulp, or zest can add a little zing to everything from sauces and dressings to meals, desserts, and drinks.
1. Whip up a simple dressing. Mix lemon juice with olive oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard, sea salt, and fresh chives. Pour it on green or grain salads, or use it as a dipping sauce for crudités.
2. Embrace a classic combo. Fish with lemon is a classic pairing, though we suggest passing on the fatty fried fish and chips and going for something healthier, like this Lemon Herb Tilapia With Zucchini instead. In this recipe you marinate the fish in lemon juice, garlic, and herbs. You could also use this marinade with other seafood, poultry, pork, and even beef.
3. Use lemons in your side dishes. This Lemon Lovers’ Asparagus dish features two whole lemons, which are thinly sliced and then roasted alongside spears of asparagus and seasoned with fresh oregano, salt, and ground black pepper. You could also roast lemon slices with other vegetables, like potatoes, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, or fennel. Another alternative is to spritz it onto fresh greens or grilled veggies.
4. Create lemony pasta. A quick one-pot meal can be made by tossing cooked pasta with olive oil, lemon juice, a little lemon zest, sea salt, black pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Consider adding spinach, kale, or parsley for an additional nutrient boost.
5. Add lemon juice to keep rice from sticking. A few drops of lemon juice in the cooking water of your rice can help keep the rice from getting sticky and clumpy. It’ll also brighten white rice. But why stop there? Lemon rice is delicious. Once your rice is cooked, toss with more juice, some lemon zest, and fresh herbs.
6. Make a refreshing dessert. With a little water and sugar, your lemons can be transformed into a mouth-watering sorbet. With The Kitchn’s lemon sorbet recipe, you don’t even need an ice cream maker. Shake things up by adding fresh rosemary, mint, or thyme. You can also use lemon (pulp, juice, and zest) to flavor fruit salads — the acid in the juice will also help keep apples, pears, and bananas from browning.
7. Give your drinks a lemon infusion. Try herb- and fruit-infused, fresh-squeezed lemonades. Add lemon slices or lemon juice to tea. Squeeze lemon juice into still or sparkling water — or ice cubes — to enhance flavor. Lemon juice is also a key ingredient in many cocktails; its acidity helps balance out the sweetness. We recommend skipping sugary cocktails in general, but adding 1 oz of lemon juice to a glass of sparkling wine can make an invigorating low-calorie libation. If you’re under the weather, mixing lemon juice with hot water and a little honey can help loosen congestion and prevent dehydration.
8. Try preserved lemons. If you aren’t familiar with them, preserved lemons are typically cured in salt, which basically transforms them into lemon “pickles.” They’re commonly used in Middle Eastern, North African, and Indian cuisines to make couscous dishes, stews, tagines, curries, and sauces. They can also liven up chicken dishes, bean salads, and hummus, and they make a great condiment.
Lemons and Your Skin
Lemons are often touted as a popular home remedy for acne, oily skin, and dandruff, as well as for skin-lightening and anti-aging effects. While consuming lemons and their juice can benefit your skin by contributing to healthy collagen, a key protein for skin and cartilage, dermatology experts like Jessica Wu, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, warn against using the fruit — or the juice — topically. In her book, Feed Your Face, Dr. Wu explains that lemon juice can cause rashes on your skin and scalp, and if it gets on your skin and then interacts with UVA rays from the sun, the coumarin compounds in lemons are likely to cause redness, swelling, and blistering. So stick with eating lemons and drinking their juice.