Known scientifically as Solanum lycopersicum, the tomato is the berry of a plant of the family of the lovers of the night, native of South America.
Although it is technically a fruit, the tomato is generally classified as a vegetable.
Tomatoes are the main dietary source of the lycopene antioxidant, which has been linked to many health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.
They are also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin K.
They are usually red when they are ripe, but they can come in a variety of colors, including yellow, orange, green and purple.
Then there are many subspecies of tomatoes, with different shapes and flavors.
The water content of tomatoes is around 95%. The other 5% is mainly composed of carbohydrates and fiber.
A medium-sized tomato (123 grams) contains only 22 calories.
The following table contains detailed information about the nutrients found in tomatoes (1).
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Carbohydrates make up 4% of raw tomatoes, which is equivalent to less than 5 grams of carbohydrates for an average-sized tomato (123 grams).
Simple sugars, such as glucose and fructose, make up almost 70% of the carbohydrate content.
Tomatoes are a good source of fiber, since they provide approximately 1.5 grams per average-sized tomato.
Most fibers (87%) in tomatoes are insoluble, in the form of hemicellulose, cellulose and lignin (2).
Bottom line: Fresh tomatoes are low in carbohydrates (4%). The carbohydrate content consists mainly of simple sugars and insoluble fibers.
Vitamins and minerals
Tomatoes are a good source of various vitamins and minerals.
- Vitamin C: An essential and antioxidant nutrient. A medium-sized tomato can provide approximately 28% of the recommended daily intake.
- Potassium: An essential mineral, beneficial for the control of blood pressure and the prevention of cardiovascular diseases (3).
- Vitamin K1: Also known as phylloquinone, vitamin K is important for blood clotting and bone health (4, 5).
- Folate (B9): One of the B vitamins, important for normal tissue growth and cell function (6). It is particularly important for pregnant women (7).
Bottom line: Tomatoes are a good source of several vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, potassium, vitamin K and folate.
Other plant compounds
The content of vitamins and plant compounds can vary a lot between the different tomato varieties and the sampling periods (8, 9, 10).
Here is a list of the main vegetable compounds in tomatoes.
- Lycopene A red pigment and an antioxidant, which has been widely studied for its beneficial effects on health (11).
- Beta-carotene: A yellow antioxidant, which is converted into vitamin A in the body.
- Naringenin: Found in tomato skin, this flavonoid has been shown to decrease inflammation and protect against various diseases in mice (12).
- Chlorogenic acid: A powerful antioxidant compound, which can lower blood pressure in patients with high blood pressure (13, 14).
Chlorophylls and carotenoids are responsible for the color of tomatoes.
When the maturation process begins, chlorophyll (green) is degraded and carotenoids (red) are synthesized (15, 16).
Bottom line: The main plant compound in tomatoes is lycopene. They also contain beta carotene, naringenin and chlorogenic acid.
Of all the plant compounds found in tomatoes, lycopene is particularly remarkable.
Lycopene is the most abundant carotenoid in mature tomatoes and is found in the largest amount in the tomato rind (17, 18).
The general rule is that the more red the tomato is, the more lycopene it contains (19).
Tomato products, such as ketchup, tomato juice and tomato-based sauces, are the richest dietary sources of lycopene and provide more than 80% of dietary lycopene in the USA. UU (20, 21).
The amount of lycopene in processed tomato products is often much higher than in fresh tomatoes (22, 23).
Ketchup, for example, contains 10-14 mg / 100 g, but fresh tomatoes contain only 1-8 mg / 100 g of lycopene (24).
Other foods in the diet can have a strong effect on the absorption of lycopene from the digestive system. Consuming it with fat can increase absorption up to 4 times (25).
However, here there is some individual variability and not all absorb lycopene at the same rate (26).
Although processed tomato products are richer in lycopene, it is recommended to consume fresh and whole tomatoes whenever possible.
Bottom line: Lycopene is the most abundant plant compound in tomatoes. It is found in the highest quantities in tomato products, such as tomato sauce, tomato juice and tomato-based sauces.
Benefits for the health of tomatoes
The consumption of tomatoes and tomato-based products has been linked to many benefits related to heart disease, cancer prevention and skin health.
Cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes, is the most common cause of death in the world.
A study in middle-aged men showed that low levels of lycopene and beta-carotene in the blood are related to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes (27, 28).
Increasing evidence from clinical trials shows that lycopene supplementation is effective in reducing LDL cholesterol (29).
Clinical trials of tomato products have also shown benefits against inflammation and markers of oxidative stress (30, 31).
They also show a protective effect on the inner layer of our blood vessels and can reduce the risk of blood clotting (32, 33).
Cancer is a generic term for the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that spread beyond their normal limits, often invading other parts of the body.
Observational studies have found links between tomatoes, tomato products and a lower incidence of prostate, lung and stomach cancers (34, 35).
It is believed that high lycopene content is the main cause of these protective effects, but high quality human trials are needed to confirm this (36, 37, 38).
A study in women shows that high concentrations of carotenoids, which are found in high amounts in tomatoes, may protect against the development of breast cancer (39, 40).
Tomatoes are considered beneficial for the health of the skin.
Tomato-based foods rich in lycopene and other plant compounds can protect against sunburn (41, 42).
According to one study, there was 40% less sunburn after ingesting 40 grams of tomato paste (which provided 16 mg of lycopene) with olive oil, every day for 10 weeks (43).
Bottom line: Studies show that tomatoes and tomato products can reduce the risk of heart disease and several types of cancer. They are also considered beneficial for the health of the skin and can protect against sunburn.
From harvest to the store
When the tomatoes begin to mature, they begin to produce a gaseous hormone called ethylene (44, 45).
Tomatoes produced by traditional methods are harvested and transported when they are still green and immature. To make them red before selling them, artificial ethylene gas is used.
The disadvantage of this is that it does not lead to the development of natural flavor, and can result in unflavored tomatoes (46).
Therefore, local tomatoes may taste better, because they are allowed to mature naturally.
Bottom line: Tomatoes are often harvested and transported when they are still green and immature, and then matured with artificial ethylene gas. This can lead to less flavor development, resulting in unflavored tomatoes.
Tomatoes are generally well tolerated and tomato allergy is very rare (47, 48).
Although tomato allergy is rare, they cause allergic reactions in people allergic to grass pollen.
This condition is called pollen allergy syndrome or oral allergy syndrome (49).
In the oral allergy syndrome, the immune system attacks the proteins of fruits and vegetables that are similar to pollen, which causes allergic reactions such as itchy mouth, sore throat or swelling of the mouth or throat (50).
People with latex allergy may also experience cross-reactivity with tomatoes (51, 52).
Tomatoes may contain higher levels of fluoride if they are exposed to fluoride or fluoride gas in the soil (53).
Bottom line: Tomatoes are generally well tolerated, but can cause allergic reactions in people allergic to grass pollen. Tomatoes grown in contaminated soils may contain higher levels of fluoride.
Tomatoes are juicy and sweet, are full of antioxidants and can help fight various diseases.
They are especially rich in lycopene, a plant compound that has been linked to improving heart health, preventing cancer and protecting against sunburn.
Tomatoes can be a valuable part of a healthy diet.
Reference: https: //www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/tomatoes