18 Amazing Health Benefits Of Fresh Tomatoes That You Never Knew
Table of Contents
1. Tomatoes Help Prevent Cancer
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, lycopene in tomatoes could be responsible for the fruit’s cancer prevention properties. Lycopene is an antioxidant in the carotenoid family. Its potent antioxidant properties have been found to neutralize free radicals that are generated in our bodies due to various reasons. Even laboratory studies show that tomato components have prevented the proliferation of several cancer cell types.
More importantly, one can enhance the cancer-fighting potential of tomatoes by taking them in a processed form – like the sauce, juice, or paste of tomatoes. Doing so allows the natural compounds in tomatoes to be more easily absorbed by the body. Also, processed forms of tomatoes have higher concentrations of lycopene.
However, it is important to consume a variety of foods (and not just tomatoes) to combat cancer, or any disease for that matter.
A study has also revealed the efficacy of tomatoes in preventing prostate cancer. But then, we don’t know if lycopene supplements have the same effect. And not just tomatoes in the processed form, but even those that are cooked can have better health effects.
Given their high antioxidant levels, tomatoes are a great choice for combating breast cancer. Adults with cancer participating in studies showed signs of cancer regression post lycopene supplementation. Higher lycopene intake has also been linked to a lower risk of lung, colon, oral, and cervical cancers.
Cancer cells can remain dormant for years until some chemical reaction triggers them and they attach themselves to the body’s blood supply. Lycopene was found to disrupt this linking process, thereby preventing the cancer cells from growing further.
Another reason tomatoes help fight cancer is adiponectin, a potent compound in the fruit.
2. Tomatoes Regulate Blood Pressure
The lycopene in tomatoes has also shown to reduce blood pressure.
Tomatoes are also rich in potassium, a mineral known to lower blood pressure levels. This is because potassium reduces the effects of sodium. In fact, the more potassium you consume, the more sodium you lose through urine, thus helping maintain low sodium levels in the body. Apart from this, potassium eases the tension in the walls of your blood vessels – further reducing blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, the recommended intake of potassium for an average adult is 4,700 mg per day. But be careful not to consume too much of potassium as it might lead to kidney stones.
As per an Israeli study, short-term treatment with tomato extract can help lower blood pressure in patients.
Lycopene is also known to improve the functioning of blood vessels in general, which can help reduce blood pressure. Further research shows that though lycopene can help lower high blood pressure levels, it has no effect on normal blood pressure levels. Studies have concluded that lycopene supplements can have beneficial effects towards blood pressure.
Tomatoes are also highly rich in vitamin C that has been found to reduce blood pressure.
If they are not entirely ripened, you can store your tomatoes at room temperature. Once ripe, you can keep them in the refrigerator for up to three days. Beyond that, you can preserve them by freezing or canning. But the best option would be fresh tomatoes – as they are the richest in potassium and can have the best blood pressure-lowering effects.
3. Tomatoes Aid Weight Loss
As per a Chinese study, tomato juice can significantly reduce body weight, body fat, and waist circumference. It can also help in cholesterol reduction which can contribute to weight gain. Apart from being a great source of antioxidants, tomatoes are also rich in fiber and are low in calories. Hence, they promote satiety and even reduce calorie intake, thereby helping with weight loss.
4. Tomatoes Improve Skin And Hair Health
Tomatoes are an important ingredient in most beauty treatments. They help cure large pores, treat acne, soothe sunburn, and revive dull skin. The antioxidants in tomato, especially lycopene, fight cellular damage and skin inflammation.
Tomatoes also work wonderfully well as an astringent and improve facial texture. They remove excess oils from your skin and keep your face fresh for longer. All you need to do is mix the juices of fresh tomatoes and cucumber. Using a cotton ball, apply the juice to your face regularly.
Studies have shown that eating tomatoes also protect the skin from the ill effects of sun exposure. Other studies have found an improvement in the skin’s ability to protect itself from the UV radiation in women who ate tomato paste.
According to one Boston study, antioxidants like lycopene help enhance skin health to a great extent. As per one report, lycopene is one of the few antioxidants with incredible photoprotective properties. The vitamin C in tomatoes can also improve hair health.
5. Tomatoes Are Good During Pregnancy
Vitamin C is one of the nutrients any woman needs during pregnancy to keep herself and her baby healthy. It aids the formation of healthy bones, teeth, and gums. This vitamin also assists in the proper absorption of iron in the body, another vital nutrient during pregnancy. Though taking iron supplements during pregnancy is advisable, eating tomatoes can have its benefits.
The lycopene in tomatoes offers protection against cell damage. Though the safety of lycopene supplements for pregnant women is still under question, the antioxidant from natural sources is very much safe for the women in need.
Including tomatoes in your diet can improve the bioavailability of iron. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vitamin C in tomatoes helps protect both the woman and the baby.
6. Tomatoes Reduce Cholesterol And Promote Heart Health
It’s lycopene, again! Including lycopene-rich tomatoes regularly in your diet for a few weeks can cut down your LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) levels by as much as 10%. To be more precise, you need to take at least 25 mg of lycopene a day. This could be about half a cup of tomato sauce. Also, 100 grams of tomato puree will give 21.8 mg of lycopene.
As per studies, individuals who consume fresh tomatoes or tomato juice can lower their bad cholesterol levels and increase the levels of good cholesterol. According to another Mexican study, consumption of raw tomatoes (14 servings a week for a month) can have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels in overweight women.
One article by the Harvard Medical School includes tomatoes as one of the must-have foods for lowering cholesterol. And as per another study, the intake of lycopene every day can have similar effects as statins (any group of drugs for reducing cholesterol) in patients with elevated cholesterol levels.
Tomatoes are also rich sources of beta-carotene, folate, and flavonoids – all of which are beneficial for cardiovascular health. The nutrients in tomatoes also help reduce homocysteine and platelet aggregation, two phenomena that can have undesirable effects on heart health.
In another study by the University of Connecticut, tomato juice was found to possess cardioprotective abilities, which weren’t related to lycopene in any way (the revelation was made for the first time). Though the results are conflicting with what we have seen about lycopene so far, tomatoes still are one of those foods important for heart health.
Another study published in a report by Tufts University had found that men with high blood lycopene levels were found to be 55% less likely to suffer from a stroke. The findings remained consistent even after considering other factors like age, BMIi , LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, and smoking.
Lycopene is fat-soluble, which is why it is recommended to consume it with a little fat – as that is when it will be better absorbed by the body. Also, vine-ripened tomatoes are richer in lycopene than tomatoes ripened off the vine. So, pick your tomatoes wisely.
7. Tomatoes Counter The Effects Of Cigarette Smoke
According to the National Institutes of Health, if non-smoking men and women regularly need 90 mg and 75 mg of vitamin C respectively, smokers need 35 mg more. Around 100 grams of raw tomatoes contain about 13.7 mg of vitamin C.
If you are a pregnant woman who smokes (which shouldn’t be the case in the first place), you have a higher need for vitamin C. Talk to your doctor for more information.
A report published by Cornell University found that the lycopene in tomatoes can scavenge up to 90% of the free radicals in the body.
8. Tomatoes Improve Vision
Tomatoes are rich in vitamin A, which is one reason they are excellent for maintaining eye health. The retinas of your eyes rely on vitamin A, and deficiency of the vitamin can, with time, cause blindness.
Lycopene in tomatoes counters free radical damage, which can otherwise affect your eyes. A study conducted in 2011 discovered that people with higher lycopene levels had a lower risk of age-related macular degenerationi . Lycopene also protects the eyes from sun damage.
Other eye-beneficial nutrients in tomatoes are vitamin C and copper. While the former might fight age-related cataractsi , the latter helps produce melanin – the important black pigment in the eyes.
Lutein in tomatoes is to be talked about as well. It is a phytochemical, which is a carotenoid that is helpful for vision health (29). The beta-carotene in tomatoes, upon consumption, is converted into retinol – and this compound is essential for optimal vision.
A quick tip – if you are choosing tomatoes in the cooler months, go for the canned variety. This includes diced tomatoes, tomato juice, tomato paste, or whole peeled tomatoes. Canned tomatoes are richer in nutrients, and since it’s winter, might cost less as well. While shopping for canned tomatoes, go for the low-sodium variant.
9. Tomatoes Enhance Digestive Health
This health benefit of tomato is attributed to its chloride content, which is an essential component of digestive juices. One report also talks about the efficacy of lycopene in tomatoes in preventing gastric cancer. The fiber in tomatoes helps here too – 100 grams of tomatoes give you 2 grams of fiber (both soluble and insoluble fiber), further promoting gut health.
Eating antioxidant-rich foods like tomatoes can also help you deal with gastritis, a condition in which the stomach lining is inflamed.
10. Tomatoes Help Manage Diabetes
According to the American Diabetes Association, tomatoes are an important part of the diabetic diet. This is because they are rich in iron and vitamins C and E – all of which help relieve diabetic symptoms. Tomatoes also have a low glycemic index (the ability of a particular food to increase blood sugar levels), which can be a bonus for diabetics.
As per an Indian study, long-term supplementation of tomatoes was linked to beneficial effects in patients with diabetes mellitus. Though further research is warranted in this regard, the finding is promising. An Iranian study concluded that consuming 200 grams of raw tomatoes every day had a favorable effect on the blood pressure levels in type 2 diabetes patients.
The lycopene in tomatoes, along with other compounds, was also found to have a positive effect on the oxidative stress in diabetes patients.
11. Tomatoes May Prevent Urinary Stone Formation
According to another Turkey study, fresh tomato juice might help in preventing urinary stone formation.
12. Tomatoes Help Prevent Gallstones
As per a report by the Michigan State University, consuming tomatoes can reduce the risk of gallstones as well as kidney stones.
A few ways to incorporate tomatoes into your diet for preventing gallstones could be adding the canned or stewed versions to your soups and stews. You can also make fresh salsa and add tomatoes as a topping on salads, meat, or eggs.
13. Tomatoes Strengthen Bones
As already discussed, tomatoes are rich in beta-carotene. This nutrient, when ingested, turns into vitamin A – the vitamin that is essential for bone growth and maintenance.
The vitamin C in tomatoes is also crucial for bone formation and the synthesis of connective tissue. A deficiency of vitamin C can lead to underdeveloped bones. The vitamin has been linked to reduced bone loss in postmenopausal women as well. Even the lutein in tomatoes promotes collagen formation, which helps boost bone health.
Tomatoes are also rich in vitamin K, which, along with vitamin D, plays a pivotal role in bone metabolism. It also increases bone mineral density, thereby reducing the likelihood of fractures.
14. Tomatoes Enhance Your Immune System
In one study, a tomato-rich diet had enhanced the functioning of the white blood cells in test subjects. The white blood cells, which are known for fighting infections, sustained 38 percent less damage from free radicals. As per experts, the lycopene (and its antioxidant ability) in tomatoes might enhance this ability of the white blood cells.
According to a German study, supplementing a low-carotenoid diet with tomatoes might enhance immune function.
15. Tomatoes Reduce Inflammation
Tomatoes also contain three other antioxidants called zeta-carotene, phytofluene, and phytoene – which are found together in most brightly-colored fruits and veggies. These antioxidants help fight inflammation and the associated diseases like cancer and arthritis.
But there’s a catch. Earlier, we had seen that cooking or processing tomatoes enhances lycopene bioavailability. At the same time, the process also destroys these other significant antioxidants. The best way to go about it is to consume cooked/processed and raw tomatoes on a regular basis, and not just stick to one form.
Consuming tomato juice is equally beneficial in fighting inflammation. According to an Italian study, lycopene was found to exhibit anti-inflammatory behavior. However, more research is warranted in this regard.
A study published by the United States Department of Agriculture states that tomatoes (especially tomato powder) also contain apolycopenoids and certain other bioactive components that are way more effective than lycopene in fighting inflammation.
Harvard Medical School ranks tomatoes as one of the best foods for combating inflammation, and a must-have in everyone’s diet.
Cherry tomatoes can be a good addition too (a serving has just 27 calories). They are rich in flavonols that treat inflammation. You can simply roast whole cherry tomatoes with a few garlic cloves and crush them. Add the mixture to a whole wheat toast for a healthy and tasty snack.
Besides lycopene, the vitamin C in tomatoes also helps fight inflammation.
16. Tomatoes Boost Men’s Health
The lycopene in tomatoes was found to boost male fertility by as much as 70%. The antioxidant can also reduce the number of abnormal sperms. And not just that, it also improves sperm movement and reduces the damage to it.
As per a Boston study, weekly consumption of 2 to 4 servings of tomato sauce was found to reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 35% and advanced prostate cancer by 50%.
According to one study, men with the highest lycopene concentrations in their diets were found to have 59% lower risk of ischemic strokei (the most common type of stroke).
17. Tomatoes Enhance Brain Power
The lycopene in tomatoes also helps prevent grave diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. According to an article published by the Western Governors University, tomatoes aid cognitive function and concentration.
A quick tip – when in the season, go for fresh tomatoes to reap the benefits of lycopene and other essential nutrients. And when not in the season (which is when the tomatoes appear pale and are tasteless), go for lycopene supplements.
18. Tomatoes Promote Liver Health
The lycopene in tomatoes scavenges the DNA-damaging agents, thereby promoting liver health. Tomatoes also contain certain B-complex vitamins that sustain liver health.
And here’s a super fact for you – the liver is the only organ in the human body that is capable of natural regeneration. It can regenerate lost tissue, and as much as 25% of the organ can regenerate into a whole liver if minor damage occurs. As we have seen, tomatoes protect the liver and help in liver detoxification.
According to one study, increased intake of tomato has been linked to a lowered risk of liver cancer. Tomato extract was also found to offer protection against liver inflammation caused by a high-fat diet. As per another Californian study, green tomato extracts containing tomatine (a toxic substance found in the stems and leaves of tomato plants) can inhibit the growth of liver cancer cells. Also, green tomatoes, like their red counterparts, are rich in vitamin K and B-complex vitamins that have similar benefits.