Early fall is for me all about tomatoes. It is when the summer heat has fully accumulated in the plants allowing the large heirloom tomatoes to get ripe. I am a huge fan of those flavours that explode in your mouth when you take a bite of a fresh garden tomato!
Botanically, they are fruits, as they contain seeds. However, from a nutritional standpoint, tomatoes are considered vegetables. They have been touted as the most popular vegetable in the world, considering production and use in cooking.
While classifications vary and statistics consider different criteria, what is extremely clear is that tomatoes are used a lot in any cuisine around the world. Their taste, aroma and texture, make them widely loved.
Tomatoes’ vibrant colours cover the entire rainbow spectrum and are a testimony of their nutritional content. The type of tomato matters, for instance, this is the chemical composition of one cup of cherry tomatoes (149 g):
94.6 % water
Vitamin A – 25% DV
Vitamin C – 32 % DV
Vitamin K – 15% DV
Potassium – 10% DV
Manganese – 8 %DV
Magnesium – 4% DV
Phosphorus – 4% DV
Sugars – 3.9 g
Protein – 1.3 g
Are tomatoes good for your health?
They are excellent! Here are the most important benefits of eating tomatoes:
- Source of a potent antioxidant, lycopene, a carotenoid linked to decreased incidence of cardiovascular disease, cancer and age-related diseases.
- Tomato juice intake lowers triglycerides, blood pressure and menopausal symptoms (i.e. anxiety) in middle-aged women, according to a 2015 article published in the Nutrition Journal.
- Potassium in tomato juice makes it an excellent electrolyte replenishment, useful after intense exercise.
- High in water and low in calories, fresh tomatoes help in obesity.
When consumed in excess or if certain conditions are already present, tomatoes may have some unwanted effects:
- May cause gastric reflux (heartburn) and are not indicated in GERD, because of their content of malic acid and citric acid.
- In the case of existing kidney stones, it is better to restrict tomatoes, as they contain some oxalic acid, which is linked to kidney stone production. When not concerned about the functionality of kidneys, there is no reason to avoid eating tomatoes.
Did you know?
a) The Aztec name for tomato means “the swelling fruit.” Their Italian name, pomodoro, meaning “golden apple”, may refer to yellow tomatoes.
b) La Tomatina is an annual Spanish festival, where about 40,000 people throw 150,000 tomatoes at each other.
c) Heinz Tomato Ketchup has a speed limit: if the sauce pours at more than 0.028mph when it’s in one of their factories, it’s considered too runny and rejected!
How to eat them?
Raw tomatoes are rich in vitamins C and K that are affected by heat.
Cooked tomatoes are approximately 2-3 times higher in lycopene than fresh tomatoes.
When in season, make them the star of your meals: let them shine in a bruschetta on garlic whole-grain toast, in a Greek salad or a raw salsa with tortilla chips.
It is so hard to decide which one I like the most!
Tomatoes are not only tasty, sweet and juicy but come with heart health, anti-ageing and antioxidant benefits. Have them both fresh and cooked to fully enjoy and take advantage of their vitamins A, C and K, minerals and lycopene.
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