Health

15 Health Benefits of Tomatoes According to Science (+8 Delicious Tomato Recipes)

Tomatoes. The most vegetable-y fruit there is.

Tomatoes are in fact classified as fruit because they grow on a vine. But for most people, the taste and texture is more vegetable.

And if you live in the United States there is a law stating that tomatoes are a vegetable. (1)

There are a number of different kinds of tomatoes. Smaller versions, called cherry or grape tomatoes. And the larger tomatoes that most people think about when they think, “tomato”.

The really great thing about tomatoes is that they are a base in many recipes. This makes it very easy to get the benefits from tomatoes into your body.

Apart from being so confused, tomatoes have plenty of health benefits.

Here are 15 scientifically backed facts about the healthfulness of tomatoes.

1. Tomatoes Are High in Nutrients

Tomatoes are a great natural source of vitamins A, C and K. Additionally, tomatoes have a lot of folate, potassium, Omega 6 fatty acids, fiber and manganese.

Plus they are high in water content, low in calories and have no cholesterol.

In just one serving of tomato (1 cup of cherry tomatoes) there are (2) :

Vitamin A: 25% Daily Value (DV)

Vitamin C: 32% DV

Vitamin K: 15% DV

Vitamin B6: 6% DV

Folate: 6% DV

Potassium: 10% DV

Omega-6 Fatty Acids: 119 mg

Fiber: 7% DV

Manganese: 8% DV

Water: 141 grams

Calories: 1% DV

In addition, tomatoes also have iron, copper, niacin, phytosterols, fluoride, magnesium, and vitamin E.

Take away: Tomatoes contain a wealth of vitamins, minerals and other things that are great for your body

2. Tomatoes Have Lycopene

Lycopene is probably THE most important nutrient in a tomato.

Lycopene is found in many other fruits and vegetables like grapefruit and papaya. It is credited with causing the bright color in the fruit. (3)

Lycopene is a micronutrient. Typically, micronutrients are damaged and become less nutritious after being cooked.

But lycopene does not diminish when cooked. It is enhanced especially when a fat, like olive oil is added.

In fact, lycopene is more readily available for absorption into the body when it is cooked or processed. (3)

Take away: Lycopene fights cancer, aids in eye and skin health, helps keep inflammation away, and can even reverse the damage of smoking.

3. Tomatoes Improve Eye Health

Tomatoes have 1/4 of the daily recommended value of vitamin A.

Vitamin A is key to eye health.

Eyes are particularly vulnerable to free radical damage. Because of vitamin A’s ability to counteract free radicals, it’s keeps the eye healthy and fights night blindness. (4)

Additionally, tomatoes have lycopene which prevents retinal damage. Olive oil can aid in the absorption of lycopene.

Vitamin C is also beneficial for the eye. (5)

4. Tomatoes Are Beneficial for Pregnant Women

Because everything that the mother eats the baby gets too, tomatoes are a great food to eat when pregnant and breastfeeding.

On average, a mother-to-be will need an additional 300 calories per day plus all the additional nutrients she can get. (6)

Vitamin C helps a fetus grow strong bones. It also creates healthy gums, which provides a solid base for healthy teeth to grow in.

Vitamin A and iron are also very beneficial for both baby and mother.

Vitamin A is a great antioxidant and ingesting iron can stave off anemia. (7)

Finally, folate is key in preventing birth defects. Tomatoes have 6% DV of folate. (8)

Take away: Be kind to your eyes and eat a tomato.

5. Tomatoes Can Help You Lose Weight

Being a fruit, tomatoes are a healthy alternative to greasy, fatty snacks.

Tomatoes have almost no caloric value and are filled with water and fiber to make you feel fuller longer. (2)

Tomatoes can be eaten raw, or cooked. If prepared with a healthy oil, like olive oil, you get that much more health benefit.

In addition, tomatoes boost energy for working out and detoxify the bad things out of your body to make room for the good, aiding in weightloss. (9)

Because tomatoes have such low calories, you can eat even more than 1 serving and still be able to stick to a diet.

Tomatoes are good for replacing high calorie foods and snacks, but it is also recommended to replace starchy foods with tomatoes to really benefit.

(10)

Finally, tomatoes have chromium which removes fat and increases healthy tissue growth after exercise. It can even help fight your cravings. (11)

Take away: Use common sense and eat tomatoes if you are trying to lose weight.

6. Tomatoes Can Reverse The Damage of Smoking

If you have smoked, do smoke, or anything in between, you might be concerned about lasting lung damage from cigarettes.

But not to worry!

Tomatoes, specifically in juice form, have been applauded for their antioxidant properties.

Lung damage from smoking is nothing but a collection of free radicals.

Free radicals are cell destroying factors that are introduced to our bodies everyday. Sometimes we can control them (choosing not to smoke) and sometimes we cannot (breathing air).

Antioxidants not only stop the damage but studies have shown that tomato juice will reverse damage from smoking. (12)

Take away: Just because tomatoes can reverse damage from smoking, doesn’t mean you should keep smoking.

7. Tomatoes Can Improve Kidney Function

Tomatoes are a diuretic. That combined with their high water content help increase the amount of urine processed through the kidney.

This helps move toxins out of the kidneys. (13)

While tomatoes do provide benefits for kidneys, not all those with kidney disease should eat tomatoes. Doctors should always be consulted before adjusting a diet. (14)

Since tomatoes are high in antioxidants, they can help prevent painful kidney stones. Some suggest that eating the tomato without the seeds is most beneficial. (15)

Some studies suggest that adding garlic to your tomato sauce will add an extra benefit. (16)

Take away: While the results are mixed about whether or not tomatoes are good for kidney disease, they have plenty of benefits for a high functioning kidney.

8. Tomatoes Can Prevent Certain Types of Cancer

Because of their lycopene, beta-carotene, fiber and antioxidants, tomatoes are believed to prevent prostate, lung and colorectal cancers, to name only a few. (17)

The antioxidants in tomatoes protect your cells from the damage of cancer cells and cancer causing free radicals. (18)

Tomatoes can even slow the formation of a previously existing tumor. (1)

In the case of the tomato, some studies suggest that processed tomato based foods are a better way to get the naturally available lycopene. (19)

It is suggested that adding olive oil to any tomatoes you are cooking will increase the cancer fighting abilities. (1)

Take away: Tomatoes are a great cancer fighting tool.

9. Tomatoes Are a Natural Anti Inflammatory

Previously, we have noted that in order to get the most nutritional benefit out of your tomato, like lycopene, is to cook it with a fat, like olive oil.

Unfortunately, while that increases the availability of some nutrients, cooking a tomato can reduce value of other nutrients.

One benefit that is reduced after cooking are some of the anti inflammatory traits.

In tomatoes, and other bright colored fruits, the anti inflammatory allstars are zera-carotene, phytofluene and phytoene. (1)

Foods that are high in fat or sugar can increase inflammation in your body. Tomatoes have neither of those, making it a wise choice. (20)

Tomatoes not only reduce inflammation but they can repair damage done by inflammation. (21)

Take away: Tomatoes are a great natural anti inflammatory.

10. Tomatoes Are Beneficial for Your Skin

Again, we give credit to lycopene. Lycopene is added to many facial creams.

You can even do your own tomato facial! (22)

Lycopene protects your skin from damaging effects of the sun. It also encourages your skin to absorb oxygen, is anti aging and prevents wrinkles. (23)

Direct application of tomato to your face will reduce the size of pores.

Adding avocado or cucumber to your face treatment will add moisture while the tomato removes the oil. Giving your skin a healthy glow. (24)

But you can still get skin benefits if you eat the tomatoes and not just apply them topically.

Eating tomatoes will still give your skin the ability to protect itself from the sun, as a sunscreen.

But it will also put the antioxidants into your body so that your skin cells are not impacted by free radicals.

Additionally, tomatoes have shown to increase procollagen. Procollagen gives the skin its structure and increases elasticity of the skin. Keeping skin looking younger longer. (25)

Take away: You don’t have to eat tomatoes to get the full benefits.

11. Tomatoes Keep Bones Strong

For bone health, vitamin K and calcium are the heroes. (22)

Tomatoes have 15% DV of vitamin K.

While the calcium amount in tomatoes is not impressive, it is there. Bones need plenty of calcium to stay dense and healthy. (2)

Osteoporosis is devastating. Causing fractures that could be prevented by simply adding tomatoes to a diet.

Studies show that by just adding two servings to tomato a juice a day to your diet can add enough vitamin K and lycopene to keep bones from fracturing. (26)

Yes, lycopene again. Since it is such a strong antioxidant it keeps cells from being damaged, therefore keeping bones strong.

Take away: Tomatoes may not have the impressive calcium content, but they do have the vitamin K to save they day, and your bones.

12. Tomatoes Can Help Manage Diabetes

Most vegetables, fruits, dairy and meat have some amount of chromium.

Tomatoes only have 4% DV of chromium, but they are still very valuable in keeping blood sugar levels balanced.

Chromium, in the form of brewer’s yeast, has been used for hundreds of years to balance blood sugar.

It wasn’t until the 1950’s that scientists really began studying the impact of chromium on blood sugar. (27)

Chromium is very sensitive to cooking and typically gets cooked out. This has led to a general chromium deficiency in the collective diet.

But it is chromium that facilitates certain functions of the body, outside of diabetes, and it is imperative to get as much of 120 mcg recommended daily value as possible. (11)

Take away: While chromium is not a cure for diabetes, a well functioning body sure helps.

13. Tomatoes Are Good for Your Heart

Tomatoes are great for your entire cardiovascular system.

Lycopene reduces the chance of heart disease by almost 30% and reduces the chance of having a stroke.

The phytonutrients are credited for keeping blood clots from happening. (28)

Tomatoes also reduce bad cholesterol which hardens the arteries and can lead to heart issues.

There is also a link between lower blood pressure and tomatoes.

It is also suggested that tomatoes can help with the healing process after a heart attack. While not studied in humans, lab tests were promising.

In another study, this time with humans, it was shown that lycopene was instrumental in higher survival rates in those with heart failure. (29)

Take away: Tomatoes are beneficial for your entire body, but it is important to think about adding them to your diet for on the most important parts of your body.

14. Tomatoes Keep Your Digestive System Regular

Tomatoes are considered a diuretic.

They also have a high concentration of water which aids in digestions. Without water, the digestive system slows to a crawl. (30)

Because of the high fiber content, tomatoes help with constipation. Fiber also keeps the muscles in the digestive system moving. (4)

The liver is also helpful in digestion. Tomatoes keep the liver healthy which keeps you regular. (31)

Take away: Eat tomatoes regularly to stay regular.

15. Tomatoes Help Your Hair Grow Strong

With all the naturally occurring nutrients, it should come as no surprise that tomatoes are great for hair. Specifically iron and vitamin A. (32) ; (33)

Tomatoes keep the hair shiny and the scalp moisturized. And it can be applied directly to the scalp and hair for maximum results. (32)

For stronger hair, tomatoes should be your go-to option because of the iron and vitamin K.

Even the acid in tomatoes can benefit you. By balancing out the acidity in the hair, the true, natural color is able to shine.

But be careful! Too much tomato applied directly to your hair will cause dryness. (33)

The hair is a representation of the body’s overall health. If the rest of the body is healthy, which the tomato will help with, the hair will be healthy. (34)

Take away: Take care of your body and your hair will show it.

Tomatoes and tomato based products are very good for you. More importantly, they are very easy to get into your diet!

8 Delicious Tomato Recipes

Tomatoes can be used as the star of the show, or a lovely supporting piece in a recipe. They can easily be added as a salad topper or to sandwich, but if you are looking for something more exciting, here are 8 delicious recipes to get more tomatoes in your diet!

Guacamole

This is one of my favorite snacks. It can be eaten on its own or added to salads or sandwiches. And it is SO easy to make! The really neat thing about this, is you can add or subtract the amount of ingredients to customize the guacamole to your personal preference. Then add it to any meal! The added bonus is that avocados have a number of health benefits too.

2 Avocados

1/2 Cup Feta (or other cheese)

1/4 Cup cilantro (more or less depending on preference)

1/2 Lime, juice of

1 Cup store bought salsa

OR (instead of the store bought salsa)

1 Tomato, diced

1/2 White onion, diced

1-2 Cloves garlic, crushed (depending on preference)

1/4 Cup diced green pepper (you can also add red and yellow pepper)

Salt and pepper to taste

  • Dice all ingredients

  • Add avocado to bowl and smash, leaving some larger bits if desired or continue until avocados are smooth

  • Add salsa or tomato, cilantro, onion, garlic, peppers, juice of lime, 1/4 cup Feta, and salt and pepper and combine

  • Taste and add ingredients as desired

  • Top with remaining Feta

  • Serve with tortilla chips or pita chips or add to salad, burrito, eggs or sandwich

*To help keep guacamole from turning brown, place a pit from the avocado in with the guacamole

Salsa

You almost can’t have guacamole without salsa. But in this dip, the tomatoes are the center of attention. Again, you can add or subtract ingredients as you see fit. And I prefer my salsa smooth, so I blend it. But you can make this however you like!

3 Large tomatoes

1 White onion

1/2 Cup cilantro (more or less if desired)

1 Lime, juice of

3-4 cloves of garlic

1/2 Green pepper

1/2 Cup carrot (trust me on this)

1/4 Teaspoon each, salt and pepper

1/2 Cup Feta (or any other cheese you like)

Option 1:

Place all ingredients into blender and blend until desired consistency

Option 2:

Dice tomato, onion, green pepper and put into serving dish/bowl

Chop cilantro and add to bowl

Crush garlic cloves and add to bowl

Finely shred carrot and add to bowl

Add the lime juice and salt and pepper

Mix together until desired consistency

Serve with tortilla chips or pita chips or add to almost any dish

One Pot Pasta

You can't talk about tomato recipes without including one for a pasta sauce. Here is a one pot pasta meal from Martha Stewart.

1 Package spaghetti noodles (the wider the noodle, the better the sauce will stick to it, but you can add any variety you like)

2 Cups tomatoes (either halve cherry or grape tomatoes, or dice whole tomatoes)

4 Cloves garlic, crushed or minced

1/4 Cup chopped basil

2 Tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin is ideal)

1/4 Teaspoon each salt and pepper

1 Tablespoon oregano

1/4 Cup parmesan cheese, plus more to garnish

4 1/2 Cups water

  • Dice onion (or sliver if you prefer) and tomato

  • Chop Basil and crush or mince garlic

  • Put all ingredients to a large pot and bring to a boil

  • Turn pasta occasionally for about 10 minutes until al dente

  • Add more salt or pepper to taste

  • Add parmesan cheese and mix in

  • Serve

  • Add additional basil and parmesean for garnish

*If sauce is too tart, add some sugar

Caprese Salad

This sounds much more fancy than it is. It is easy to make and it is very good! Here is a great recipe from The Pioneer Woman.

2 Mozzarella cheese (get the hunks, ball or blocks, not the slices or shredded)

4 Tomatoes

1 Handful of fresh Basil leaves

1/4 Cup olive oil (approximately, you might need more. Just bring the whole bottle)

Salt and pepper

Balsamic glaze (you can either make it yourself, or buy it. No judgement)

Balsamic Glaze

  • Put as much or as little Balsamic Vinegar into a saucepan and heat (10-20 minutes) until reduced, but still saucy

  • Remove from heat and allow to cool

Caprese

  • Thickly slice (1/4 -1/3 inch thick) tomatoes and mozzarella

  • Place tomato slice, then basil leaf, then mozzarella slice, then basil leaf on a serving platter and repeat until you run out of plate space or ingredients

  • Drizzle olive oil over everything

  • Drizzle balsamic glaze over everything, but don't drown it

  • Add salt and pepper to taste

*You can make this as is or on a smaller scale and put a hunk of mozzarella, grape tomato and basil on a toothpick or on a slice of bruschetta and drizzle with the balsamic for a lovely appetizer.

Tomato Soup

This is an oldie, but a goodie. Some people argue there is no better winter time comfort food than tomato soup. The great part? It can be served hot or cold and can be paired with about anything. Here is Rachel Ray’s tomato soup recipe.

30 oz chicken broth (typically, 2 cans with 15 oz each. Can use regular or low sodium, or you can replace with water)

1 Can crushed tomatoes (about 28 oz)

1 Cup cream, heavy

Handful basil, chopped

Salt and pepper

Ricotta cheese, for garnish

  • Add tomatoes and broth to large pot over medium heat until bubbling

  • Reduce heat and add cream

  • Add salt and pepper

  • Simmer for 15 minutes

  • Either crush tomatoes or blend with handheld blender

  • Add half of the basil and stir

  • Ladle into bowl

  • Add tablespoon of ricotta to middle of bowl and sprinkle with some basil for garnish or add additional garnishes

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a great compliment to most anything. But they are also great all on their own. You can eat the grape tomatoes like grapes or eat a regular tomato like an apple. But for those of us who think that is just a little bit extreme, here are some simple, yet delicious alternatives!

1 Cup grape or cherry tomatoes (either whole or halved)

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

1/2 Garlic clove, minced

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees

  • Line cookie sheet with tin foil

  • Spread tomatoes out

  • Drizzle with olive oil

  • Add salt and pepper and garlic

  • Using hands mix all ingredients to coat

  • Put in oven for 10 minutes, checking at 8 minutes

Alternative options include drizzling with balsamic, topping with parmesan, rosemary or basil

Can be served with chicken, fish, beef, over a fresh green salad or just on their own

Shrimp and Tomato Kebabs

There are no limits to how tomatoes can be prepared or what they can be paired with. In this recipe from Food and Wine.com, we see how well tomatoes can go with shrimp, for added health benefits.

2 Pounds shrimp (shelled, cleaned; about 40)

30 Cherry tomatoes (about 1 pint)

Marinade

1/4 Cup ginger

4 Cloves garlic

1/4 Cup (heaping) cilantro

2 Tablespoons fresh basil

1 Tablespoon fresh mint

1 Teaspoon cayenne

1 Teaspoon paprika

2 Tablespoons lime juice

2 Teaspoons honey

2 Teaspoons salt

2 Tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin)

  • Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth

  • Place into a bowl and add shrimp

  • Toss to coat

  • Chill for up to 4 hours, but for at least 30 minutes

Kebabs

  • Heat grill to high

  • Prepare grates by brushing with oil

  • Alternate one shrimp and one tomato on skewer leaving about an inch on either side of the skewer

  • Place skewers on grill and cook for 3 minutes per side

Bloody Mary

Because you can’t always be good, but you can always add tomato to your diet. Epicurious.com tells us how.

2 oz tomato juice

1 1/2 oz your favorite vodka

3-6 Dashes Worcestershire

1 Teaspoon horseradish sauce (less for less spice)

1-3 Dashes hot sauce

2 Dashes salt

1 Dash pepper

4-6 Ice cubes

1 squeeze fresh lemon juice

1 Wedge of lemon (garnish)

1 Celery stalk (garnish)

1 Dill pickle (garnish)

1 Green olive (garnish)

  • In an 11 oz glass add tomato juice, vodka, worcestershire sauce, horseradish, hot sauce, salt and pepper

  • Toss between second 11 oz glass 4-6 times until all ingredients are blended

  • Drizzle lemon juice over the top

  • Add whole stalk of celery

  • Put lemon wedge, dill pickle and green olive on a cocktail spear and garnish

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