Tomatoes! They’re sweet, juicy, and delicious. Everyone knows they are good for you, right? Uh, yeah, sure. Does everyone know specifically why tomatoes are a healthful food? Ummm… They have vitamin C? They’re low in calories? They’re fat-free? Yes, yes, and yes, but that’s not all!
Let’s look at what makes the tomato an excellent healthy choice.
One serving of red, ripe, raw tomatoes (one cup or 150 grams) is a good source of Vitamins A, C, K, folate and potassium. Tomatoes are naturally low in sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories. Tomatoes also provide thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, all of which are necessary for good health.
On top of that, one serving of tomatoes gives you 2 grams of fiber, which is 7% of the daily recommended amount. Tomatoes also have a relatively high water content, which makes them a filling food. In general eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes, confers protection against high blood pressure, high cholesterol, strokes, and heart disease.
One tomato packs one powerful punch of nutrition, but there’s much more!
Tomatoes make your skin look great. Beta-carotene, also found in carrots and sweet potatoes, helps protect skin against sun damage. Tomatoes’ lycopene also makes skin less sensitive to UV light damage, a leading cause of fine lines and wrinkles.
Tomatoes build strong bones.The vitamin K and calcium in tomatoes are both very good for strengthening and repairing bones.
Lycopene also has been shown to improve bone mass, which is a great way to fight osteoporosis.
Tomatoes are a natural cancer fighter. Lycopene (again!) can reduce the risk of several cancers, including prostate, cervical, mouth, pharynx, throat, esophagus, stomach, colon, rectal, prostate and ovarian cancer. Tomatoes’ antioxidants (vitamins A and C) fight the free radicals which can cause cell damage
Tomatoes can keep your blood sugar in balance. Tomatoes are a very good source of chromium, which helps to regulate blood sugar.
Tomatoes can improve your vision. The vitamin A that tomatoes provide can improve vision and help prevent night blindness. Recent research shows that consuming tomatoes may help reduce the risk of macular degeneration, a serious and irreversible eye condition.
Tomatoes will even make your hair look better.The vitamin A found in tomatoes works to make hair strong and shiny. (Sorry, tomatoes cannot help much with thinning hair—but they will make the hair you have look better!)
Prevent Kidney Stones and Gallstones
Tomatoes can help prevent kidney stones and gallstones. Some studies suggest that kidney and gall stones are less likely to form in people who eat tomatoes without the seeds.
Tomatoes can reduce chronic pain. If you are one of the millions of people who deal with mild to moderate chronic pain (such as from arthritis or back pain), tomatoes may be a pain-buster. Tomatoes are high in bioflavonoids and carotenoids, which are known anti-inflammatory agents.
Chronic pain often involves chronic inflammation, so attacking the inflammation is a good way to fight the chronic pain. (Many commercial drugs that fight pain are actually anti-inflammatory drugs.)
Tomatoes can help you lose weight. If you are on a sensible diet and exercise plan, build lots of tomatoes into your everyday eating. They make a great snack and can be used to “bulk up” salads, casseroles, sandwiches and other meals. Because tomatoes contain lots of water and fiber, they are what Weight Watchers calls a “filling food,” one of those foods that fills you up fast without adding a lot of calories or fat.
Easy Ways to Eat More Tomatoes
· Add sliced tomatoes to sandwiches—from tuna to turkey
· Chop tomatoes in salad (leave them at room temperature, if possible)
· Use marinara or tomato sauces (canned, cooked, or homemade) on pasta; this can be big calorie savings when you swap out creamy sauces for tomato-based sauces
· Drink tomato juice or vegetable juice with tomatoes
· Tomatoes for breakfast? Top scrambled eggs with coarsely chopped tomatoes or add them to a breakfast taco
· Eat tomatoes as a mid-afternoon snack (my father used to eat them like an apple—but you can use a knife and fork)
· Make a tomato sandwich—this is a sandwich that stars the tomato. The classic dressing for this sandwich is mayonnaise, but I know some people who like tomatoes and mustard
· Add canned or stewed tomatoes to soups and stews, like vegetable soup or beef stew
· Serve stewed tomatoes over a baked potato (also great on mashed potatoes)
· Make your own salsa with lots of fresh tomato—salsa is a great replacement for high-fat salad dressings as well as being tasty on meats, fish, and eggs
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