Tomatoes are delicious and healthy, which is probably why they’re one of the most popular fruits in the world. (Despite what many people think, tomatoes are a fruit, not a vegetable.) Tomatoes are grown and consumed on every continent, and a staple in many dishes and diets. But apart from being tasty, tomatoes are also healthy! Learn about the humble tomato’s health benefits and rethink dinner tonight—you might craving spaghetti when you finish reading!
#1: Tomatoes are full of antioxidants.
Tomatoes are the biggest dietary source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants prevent cancer-causing cell damage, and eating lycopene from tomatoes has been linked to lower rates of certain cancers, most notably prostate cancer. Unlike many other antioxidants, lycopene is actually easier to digest after being cooked or processed. This means that you’ll get the highest amount of lycopene in foods like canned tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, and ketchup! Agricultural experts are even experimenting with creating new high-lycopene tomato varieties, which we might find in our supermarkets in the near future.
#2: Tomatoes reduce your risk of heart attack and blot clots.
Lycopene has been shown to reduce blood levels of LDL cholesterol, also known as “bad cholesterol.” Lowering cholesterol can lead to improved heart health and lower risk of heart attack and blod clots. Several studies have found that lycopene’s cholesterol-reducing powers may be similar to the effects of low-level statin medications—up to a 10% reduction in blood serum cholesterol levels. In fact, lowering your cholesterol by just 1% will reduce your risk of heart disease by 2%!
#3: Tomatoes help lower your blood pressure.
Tomatoes are low in sodium and high in potassium citrate. Sodium and potassium are the two main players in regulating water in the body. Sodium makes the body retain water, which is why some sodium is necessary in the body. However, too much water in the body contributes to high blood pressure, which is why people with high blood pressure need to watch their sodium and salt intake. (Table salt contains high levels of sodium.) Potassium works opposite of sodium, letting water leave the body via the kidneys. Potassium compounds, such as potassium citrate, are more easily digestible by the body and can help lower blood pressure. Instead of taking pills, why not lower your blood pressure naturally and deliciously with tomatoes?
#4: Tomatoes make your bones strong.
Lycopene has been shown to contribute to strong bones and the prevention of osteoperosis. Studies have shown that women who consume higher amounts of lycopene exhibit fewer signs of oxidative bone stress than women who consume little lycopene. A high-lycopene diet also correlates with lower amounts of NTX, a byproduct of bone degradation, suggesting that a diet high in lycopene helps prevent bone loss.
#5: Tomatoes can protect your skin from the sun.
Eating lycopene regularly may also contribute to protecting the skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation, like a natural edible sunblock. In a 2001 study, researchers found that eating tomato paste daily over a long period of time produced a sunblock effect, leading to a 30-40% reduction in sunburns after exposure to UV light. This effect took more than a month to achieve, so you’d need to eat tomatoes or take lycopene supplements daily to protect your skin. (And remember to keep wearing sunblock, no matter how many tomatoes you eat!)