THOUGH tomatoes are referred to as vegetables, botanically they are classified as fruits! And whether you call them to-ma-toes or tomae-toes, this natural food is packed with a whole lot of vitamins, minerals and compounds than you can imagine. And the best part is, whether you eat them raw or cooked, they are extremely nutritious, both ways. So have tomatoes in your gravy, salads, sandwiches and the good old ketchup.
Health benefits of Tomato
- Tomatoes are one of the low-calorie vegetables containing just 18 calories per 100 g. They are also very low in any fat contents and have zero cholesterol levels. Nonetheless, they are excellent sources of antioxidants, dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Because of their all-round qualities, dieticians and nutritionists often recommend them to be included in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.
- The antioxidants present in tomatoes are scientifically found to be protective of cancers, including colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic tumors. Total -ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) in this vegetable is 367 µmol TE/100 g.
- Lycopene, a flavonoid antioxidant, is the unique phytochemical present in the tomatoes. Red varieties are especially concentrated in this antioxidant. Together with carotenoids, it can protect cells and other structures in the body from harmful oxygen-free radicals. Studies have shown that lycopene prevents skin damage from ultra-violet (UV) rays and offers protection from skin cancer. We like to stress here the Lycopene properties in relation to Anti Ageing.
- Zea-xanthin is another flavonoid compound present abundantly in this vegetable. Zea-xanthin helps protect eyes from "age-related macular related macular disease" (ARMD) in the elderly persons by filtering harmful ultra-violet rays.
- The vegetable contains very good levels of vitamin A, and flavonoid anti-oxidants such as α and ß-carotenes, xanthins and lutein. Altogether, these pigment compounds are found to have antioxidant properties and take part in vision, maintain healthy mucus membranes and skin, and bone health. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in flavonoids is known to help protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
- Additionally, they are also good source of antioxidant vitamin-C (provide 21% of recommended daily levels per 100 g); consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful free radicals.
- Fresh tomato is very rich in potassium. 100 g contain 237 mg of potassium and just 5 mg of sodium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure caused by sodium.
- Fortified with the mineral chromium, this is especially beneficial for diabetics to keep their blood sugar levels in control.
- Further, they contain moderate levels of vital B-complex vitamins such as folates, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin as well some essential minerals like iron, calcium, manganese and other trace elements.
More about Lycopene
Lycopene is a bright red carotene and carotenoid pigment and phytochemical found in tomatoes and other red fruits and vegetables, such as red carrots, watermelons and papayas (but not strawberries or cherries). Although lycopene is chemically a carotene, it has no vitamin A activity.
Lycopene may be the most powerful carotenoid quencher of singlet oxygen, being 100 times more efficient in test tube studies of singlet-oxygen quenching action than vitamin E, which in turn has 125 times the quenching action of glutathione (water soluble). Singlet oxygen produced during exposure to ultraviolet light is a primary cause of skin aging. Given its antioxidant properties, substantial scientific and clinical research has been devoted to a possible correlation between lycopene consumption and general health. Early research suggested some amelioration of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and even male infertility.
There have been several studies produced that analyze the anti-cancer properties of lycopene, although research has been primarily inconclusive. Evidence for lycopene’s benefit was strongest for cancers of the lung, stomach, and prostate gland. Lycopene is not modified to vitamin A in the body so can be accessible for other benefits such as antioxidation. Lycopene is also the most efficient oxygen and free radicals quencher and is the prime carotenoid in plasma and other tissues.
To maintain healthy bones, include tomatoes regularly in your daily diet as they contain vitamin K and calcium.
Smokers rejoice! Tomatoes help in reducing the damage done to your body by smoking. Chlorogenic and coumaric acid help fight against the carcinogens due to smoking.