It is easy to grow tomatoes from seeds though they do require a warm climate, therefore are grown mostly in greenhouses. The Tomato is technically a berry fruit but because of its savoury taste is mostly classed as a vegetable. Pizza, pasta, curry, salads, sandwiches. They are everywhere. Tomatoes provide us with few calories but significant amounts of precious nutrients. 100g which equals quite a large tomato contains just 18 kcal whereas surprisingly (or maybe not) canned tomatoes have fewer nutrients and more calories (on average 30kcal for 100g). This is due the heating process of tomatoes and the degradation of nutrients. Chopped and conserved tomatoes both produced at home and a factory carry also risks of Botulism, which is caused by the bacteria called Clostridium botulinu. There is no doubt that a fresh tomato is safer and more nutritious therefore we will focus the benefits of eating tomatoes on the properties of the fresh produce.
Lycopene is probably the most known substance carried by tomatoes and increases its bio-availability when exposed to heat. This carotene provides the pigments which bring tomato its typical red/orange colour. In humans lycopene is not involved in vitamin A production like beta-carotene which is one of the benefits of eating carrots. It is present also in guava, grapefruits and papaya, but none of these can even beat tomato ketchup. This carotene has been said to protect against the ultraviolet light thus skin aging. Although vitamin E is also present in tomatoes, lycopene is a 100 times more effective antioxidant. Also the lack of conversion to vitamin A makes it more available in the body as a free substance and a possible fighter of cancer. Different studies surely show different benefits of tomatoes but of course we can’t conclude that the findings apply to humans 100%.
Most researches regarding lycopene have concentrated to its ability to prevent cancer. It is able to protect the lymphocytes from NO2 damage thus might allow an individual to resist lung cancer. It has also been proven to remove carcinogens from cells in the body in general. The best effect it will have though on the stomach, prostate and breasts. It has shown to inhibit even the formation of cataracts. It has to been said though that officially there are doubts on the actual effectiveness of lycopene as the scientific evidence is limited. There are speculations that another substance, yet undiscovered, might be responsible for the benefits which are associated with lycopene intake. However because of the ability to decrease oxidation it also decreases the reabsorption of bones, therefore reduction of the bone mass. This is a strong property associated with prevention of osteoporosis in older population. The substances which might interact with lycopene and produce the benefits like prevention of prostate cancer are phytoene and phytofluene.
Vitamins & Minerals
Unlike lycopene who benefits from the heating of tomatoes, vitamin C is highly destroyable. In fresh tomatoes there is around 21% of the daily requirement of vitamin C. It has long known properties of being antioxidant and coenzyme in many metabolic activities. There has been no evidence though for its ability to prolong life and it is still no clear how it interacts with the immunity. Despite it already for some time now people have been accepting vitamin C as a tool for boosting their health. There are theories suggesting that vitamin C might enhance the production lymphocytes and mediate activities of phagocytosis. Vitamin C alongside with A also prevents DNA damage. This natural antihistamine also stops the inflammation due to release of histamine. Different histamine receptors are responsible for decreasing the release of neurotransmitters, cause vasodilation, stimulate the production of gastric acid and most importantly play role in allergies, sickness and sleep regulation. All these effects of histamine might be prevented by vitamin C. Vitamin C theoretically has many drug-like properties thus carry within also side-effects. Most commonly – indigestion, diarrhoea and even iron poisoning as C enhances absorption of this metal. One rather fun fact though – 100g of garlic provide more than half the amount of vitamin C that tomatoes do (see the benefits of eating garlic).
A recent Japanese study has discovered very beneficial properties of a compound 9 oxo-octadecadienoic which is derived from tomatoes. It has proved to reduce lipid levels in blood thus causing blood vessel clotting with fats. It increases the fat metabolism which is essential for preventing diabetes and other obesity related diseases though further research in living species has been required. Drinking tomatoes juice has also a preventative effect of thrombosis as it changes the aggregation of platelets but still allows them to clot. All of the benefits might improve blood circulation thus reduce risk of cardiovascular illnesses.
The wide usage of tomatoes has initiated the Genetic Modification of this vegetable. Although there is a large controversy around GM, scientists have been trying to boost the benefits of tomatoes rather than trying to harm us. For example new purple variety developed by Oregon University contains many more anthocyanins than other fruit in the whole world. These are flavonoids which have long known effects of being anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic and antioxidative. On other hand organically grown tomatoes have been proven in general to have higher amounts of flavonoids in them due to different fertilization methods of the soil. The nutritional importance is still to be confirmed. In general it should be noted the term ‘organic’ applies to sustainability and not necessarily to greater health benefits.
Benefits of Eating Tomatoes
- Enhances the skin health
- Might prevent various cancers and help the fight against them
- Prevent cardiovascular disease
- Improve blood circulation
- Might boost immunity
- Protect against DNA damage
- Might prevent diabetes II
- Increase metabolism
- Prevent thrombosis
- Help against inflammation
- Might reduce allergies
- Prevent osteoporosis