Tomatoes are often considered a vegetable, though in actuality they are nightshades. Tomatoes are an incredibly versatile food. They are delicious eaten raw, in salads or on sandwiches, and take on a wonderful sweetness when cooked. One of the most well known tomato eating benefit is its’ Lycopene content. Lycopene is a vital anti-oxidant that helps in the fight against cancerous cell formation as well as other kinds of health complications and diseases.
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.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF TOMATOES:
Abundant Source of Antioxidants: Tomato contains large amount of lycopene, an antioxidant highly effective in scavenging cancer causing free radicals. This benefit can be obtained from even heat-processed tomato products, including ketchup. The lycopene in tomato fights against cancer.
Reduces Cholesterol and Protects Heart: The lycopene in tomato prevents serum lipid oxidation, thus exerting protective effect against cardiovascular diseases. The regular consumption of tomato has proved to decrease the levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. These lipids are the key culprits in cardiovascular diseases and lead to deposition of fats in the blood vessels.
Rich Source of Vitamins and Minerals: A single tomato can provide about 40% of daily vitamin C requirement. Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant which acts against cancer-causing free radicals. It also contains abundant vitamin A and potassium as well as iron. Potassium plays a vital role in maintaining nerve health and iron is essential for maintaining normal blood health. Vitamin K which is essential in blood clotting and controls bleeding is abundant in tomatoes.
Counters the Effect of Cigarette Smoke: The two main components of tomatoes, coumaric acid and chlorogenic acid, fight against nitrosamines which are produced in the body and are the main carcinogens found in cigarette smoke.
Improves Vision: Vitamin A, present in tomato aids, aids in improving vision & preventing night-blindness.
Keeps Gut Healthy: Tomato keeps the digestive system healthy by preventing both constipation and diarrhea. It also prevents jaundice and effectively removes toxins from the body.
Lowers Hypertension: Daily consumption of tomatoes reduces the risk of developing hypertension.
Alleviates Diabetes: A study conducted by Journal of the American Medical Association shows that daily consumption of tomatoes reduces the oxidative stress in type 2 diabetes.
For Healthy Skin: Tomato aids in maintaining healthy teeth, bones, hair and skin. Topical application of tomato juice is known to cure severe sunburns. Tomato ranks high in preparation of anti-aging products.
Prevents Urinary Tract Infections: Tomato intake reduces the incidence of urinary tract infections as well as bladder cancer.
Prevents Gallstones: Regular consumption of tomato can also dissolve gallstones.
HOW TO SELECT AND STORE TOMATOES:
Choose tomatoes that have rich colors. Deep reds are a great choice, but so are vibrant oranges/tangerines, brilliant yellows, and rich purples. Tomatoes of all colors provide outstanding nutrient benefits. Tomatoes should be well shaped and smooth skinned with no wrinkles, cracks, bruises, or soft spots. Ripe tomatoes will yield to slight pressure and will have a noticeably sweet fragrance.
Tomatoes are sensitive to cold. Cooler temperatures impede their ripening process, store them at room temperature and out of direct exposure to sunlight. They will keep for up to a week, depending upon how ripe they are when purchased. To hasten the ripening process, place them in a paper bag with a banana or apple. If the tomatoes begin to become overripe, but you are not yet ready to eat them, place them in the refrigerator (if possible, in the butter compartment which is a warmer area), where they will keep for one or two more days.
Removing them from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before using will help them to regain their maximum flavor and juiciness. Whole tomatoes, chopped tomatoes and tomato sauce freeze well for future use in cooked dishes. Sun-dried tomatoes should be stored in an airtight container, with or without olive oil, in a cool dry place.
QUICK TIP: Add tomato slices to sandwiches and salads. To keep things colorful, use yellow, green and purple tomatoes in addition to red ones.
Eric and Maleka Beal are health coaches and co-founders of BetterChoices, a health & wellness company and social community focused on educating, advocating, and promoting better health and wellness through lifestyle, nutrition, and fitness education.