Tomatoes are staple vegetables in most of our homes, and for a good reason. If it isn’t for the unique flavour, it’s the sweet aroma and the beautiful colouring they give to food. But other than this, tomatoes are extremely beneficial to our health.
Tomatoes (Solanum Lycopersicum) originated in Central and South America, where the Aztec and Inca people were eating them as early as 700AD. Interestingly, when the tomato plant reached Europe in the 16th century, it was used as an ornamental plant as the fruit was believed to be poisonous, possibly because it belongs to a nightshade family, Solanaceae, which has many toxic species.
Here are some of the health benefits of tomatoes.
- Improves vision
Issues such as light-induced damage, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are common. Nobody wants to deal with issues related to the eyes, and that’s where tomatoes come in. Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene, which are powerful antioxidants that have been shown to protect the eyes. The lutein and zeaxanthin in the lens of your eye filter the light, removing blue light rays that would otherwise damage other tissues in your eyes.
- Regulate blood sugar levels
The normal blood sugar levels are less than 100 mg/dl after not eating (fasting) for at least eight hours, and they’re less than 140 mg/dl two hours after eating. Diabetes is a condition that impairs the body’s ability to process blood glucose, making it too high. It can cause damage to the large blood vessels of the heart, brain and legs, small blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, feet, and nerves. Tomatoes are diabetic superfoods because they have low carbohydrate content. Carbohydrates, especially the refined kinds, get metabolised quickly and causes blood sugar spike.
In one study, people with diabetes who supplemented their diet with cooked tomatoes for 30 days experienced a decrease in lipid peroxidation, a chain reaction in which substances called free radicals attack fat, leading to damage that ups the risk of heart disease.
- Good for your heart
If you slice open a tomato you’ll notice it has multiple chambers that resemble the structure of a heart. Perhaps the creator did this intentionally because tomatoes are actually good for the heart. Studies have shown that higher blood levels of lycopene, a compound found in tomatoes, are tied to lower death rates for people with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome raises the chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Tomatoes also show a protective effect on the inner layer of blood vessels and may decrease your risk of blood clotting.
- Regulating the blood pressure levels
A constant high or low blood pressure interferes with the working of the body and can lead to severe illnesses. To keep your blood pressure at the optimum levels, your diet is important. A study published in the journal Nutrients suggests that adding lycopene to your diet could help significantly reduce blood pressure to normal.
An Australian study found that by getting at least 25 mg of lycopene in your diet every day, you can lower your LDL (the ‘bad’ cholesterol) by up to 10%, and thereby dealing with blood pressure.
- Strengthen your bones
If you suffer from weak bones and related issues, then you might want to add more tomatoes to your diet. They contain beneficial amounts of calcium and Vitamin K, both of which are pivotal in strengthening and performing minor repairs on bones and bone tissue.
Two glasses of tomato juice a day strengthens bones and can ward off osteoporosis. Scientists have found that an ingredient in the drink, called lycopene, slows down the breakdown of bone cells, protecting against the disease.
- Digestive health
Tomatoes are good for your digestive health. Eating tomatoes daily can keep your digestive system healthy as it prevents constipation and diarrhoea. They contain high fibre and water content and therefore help with hydration and support normal bowel movements. Tomatoes are often described as a laxative fruit.
- Good for your skin
Most of us, if not all of us, are after good healthy, and clear skin. We spend a lot of time and money purchasing products in the hope that we will achieve our ‘skin goals.’ Tomatoes can do that too. Free radicals can damage the cells in your skin. This may increase your risk of wrinkles and signs of ageing. Tomatoes contain antioxidants, such as lycopene and vitamin C that help release oxidative stress and therefore deal with these free radicals.
They also contain a photo-protective effect. A study from 2006 found that after 10 to 12 weeks of ingesting lycopene or tomato products rich in lycopene, people demonstrated decreased sensitivity to UV radiation.
- Good for the hair
We might not all have the same hair goals but everyone wants healthy hair, and tomatoes can help with that. Tomatoes contain important vitamins like A, B, C, and E which are excellent stimulants for healthy hair. These vitamins help prevent hair loss, give a natural shine, and help treat scalp odour and dandruff.
- Cancer prevention
If someone were to come up with a cure for cancer, the whole world would celebrate. Research has shown that tomatoes can actually help in the prevention of this deadly disease. There has been a noted link between tomatoes and fewer incidences of prostate, lung, and stomach cancers. Another study in women showed that high concentrations of carotenoids, found in high amounts in tomatoes, may protect against breast cancer.