We often wonder why the Mediterranean diet is considered the healthiest. But the simple answer lies in the fact that it contains a bulk of tomatoes. These are considered a rich source of Vitamin K and antioxidants, but there is a long list of its benefits that can add to your daily health regime and protect you from a number of diseases. The substance called lycopene present in tomatoes gives them their bright red colour and helps to protect them from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. In much the same way, it can help protect your cells from damage. Tomatoes also have potassium, vitamins B and E, beside other major nutrients.
Lycopene is a powerhouse nutrient because it’s an antioxidant that has been shown to fight chronic disease. In the body, lycopene is mostly stored in the liver, adrenal and prostate glands, and can also be found in other parts of the body like the brain and skin. As we age or develop chronic diseases, lycopene bioavailability decreases. It is important to continually consume foods that are rich in lycopene such as tomatoes to supply our body with a steady source. Lycopene has been proven to have anticancer, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antidiabetic properties. Additionally, canned tomatoes are shown to have a higher lycopene content than their fresh counterparts. This is due to the heating process that tomatoes undergo during the canning process, as it activates the lycopene and allows your body to absorb and use it more readily.
Tomatoes are also widely popular for their many antioxidant properties because of beta carotene, lutein, flavonoids, phenolic acids and tannins.
There are different types and sizes of tomatoes, and all over the world they are prepared or cooked in widely different ways. The benefits may also depend on its form of consumption as well. So, while tomato soup, juices and purees can help you in managing weight, raw tomatoes can help you with dehydration. The health benefits can vary between types of the vegetable also. For example, cherry tomatoes have higher beta-carotene content than regular tomatoes. But the overall nutritional quotient can be summarised as follows:
Carbohydrates: 4.86 g
Fat: 0.25 g
Protein: 1.1 g
Vitamin C: 17.1 mg
Potassium: 296 mg
Vitamin K: 9.88 mcg
Folate: 18.8 mcg
Water: 95 per cent
A VITAMIN-PACKED SUPERFOOD
Vitamin C in tomatoes acts as an antioxidant and is important for skin, bones and connective tissues. It also promotes healing and helps the body absorb iron. Vitamin K is required for blood to clot and maintain strong bones in older adults. Folate helps produce DNA, the building block of the human body. It also helps form red blood cells to prevent anaemia and works with vitamins B12 and C to help the body break down, use and create new proteins and tissues. Tomato is rich in potassium, a mineral needed to build proteins in the body, including muscle; break down and use carbohydrates; and regulate heart rhythm and pH balance.
HOW MUCH TOMATOES SHOULD YOU HAVE?
The amount of potassium you can have each day will depend on your stage of kidney disease or the type of dialysis you receive. Tomatoes contain oxalates, which are responsible for the formation of kidney stones. What generally people fail to understand is this quantity of oxalates in tomatoes is not enough to cause kidney stones because 100 g of tomatoes contain only around 5 mg of oxalates. Also, people diagnosed with kidney stones are advised to limit and not completely stop tomatoes from their diet.
Blood Pressure: Low sodium intake helps keep your blood pressure in control. Since tomatoes are rich in potassium, they lower the amount of sodium in the body by facilitating removal of extra amounts through the kidneys.
Heart Disease: Tomatoes are high in fibre, potassium, vitamin C and choline, all of which are beneficial to heart health. An essential dietary reform to minimise cardiovascular disease risk is raising potassium consumption and decreasing salt intake.
Diabetes control: According to studies, people with Type 1 diabetes, who have a high-fibre diet, may experience lowered blood glucose levels. At the same time, people with Type 2 diabetes may experience better blood sugar, lipid and insulin levels. You can find about two grams of fibre in a cup of cherry tomatoes. In addition, they have a GI of less than 15, making them a low GI food and an excellent choice for diabetes. People with diabetes should eat foods with a GI score of less than 55. They are low in calories and can maintain a healthy weight.
Prevents constipation: Tomatoes are a laxative fruit. Consuming meals heavy in water and fibre, like tomatoes, may aid hydration and promote regular bowel movements. Insoluble fibres carry food particles out of the body by adding more bulk to the stool. They provide about 10 per cent of the daily fibre intake, resulting in improved digestion and bowel movement.
Gut health: In a new study, researchers examined the effects of a tomato-heavy diet on the gut microbiome using an animal model. Researchers fed piglets a tomato-supplemented diet for 14 days and found that the balance of their gut bacteria shifted toward a healthier, more favourable profile.
Skin Benefits: Tomatoes have acidic properties and are high in potassium and vitamin C. These nutrients improve dull skins and bring radiance. They treat skin disorders associated with ageing and UV exposure, making tomatoes an excellent skin rejuvenator.
WHO SHOULD LIMIT TOMATO USE?
CKD/Transplant: Most people with early-stage CKD or a kidney transplant do not have to limit tomatoes because of potassium. Only if your potassium is high, then it needs to be restricted.
Haemodialysis (3 times/week): Potassium can be a concern depending on the amount you eat. For example, one or two slices of raw tomato has a much smaller amount of potassium than a cup of cooked tomatoes.
Kidney Stones: Eating tomatoes will not have an effect on formation of kidney stones.
HOW TO EAT TOMATOES?
Cooking tomatoes, such as in spaghetti sauce, is the best as it makes it heart-healthier and boosts its cancer-fighting ability. All this, despite a loss of vitamin C during the cooking process, say Cornell food scientists. Cooking substantially raises the levels of beneficial compounds called phytochemicals.
WHY REMOVE THE SKIN?
Removing the skin is recommended to remove lectins, which are usually difficult for the body to digest, often causing gut irritability issues. Research also indicates that lectins may lead to digestive disorders, stomach pain, discomfort and vomiting, hence best avoided.
SHOULD WE DE-SEED THEM? CAN I HAVE THEM IF I HAVE URIC ACID?
Tomato seeds are small yet powerful as they are packed with the goodness of Vitamin C and dietary fibres. Much like the fruit, the seeds are also beneficial for skin, heart, weight management and immunity. Apart from that, tomato seeds are good for digestion and are loaded with digestive fibre and amino acids, which help in better absorption of nutrients, improve metabolism and gut health.
But people suffering from gastrointestinal issues must avoid the intake of raw tomatoes or tomato seeds as their acidic nature may trigger heartburn and have adverse effects on the digestive system.
Tomatoes are low in purine so you can have them if your uric acid is high but sometimes it causes inflammation among some people. That group may go low on tomatoes.