Native to South America, tomatoes belong to the nightshade family and grow on sprawling plants (vines). It is the most cultivated plant world over for its fruit; a vegetable to us. Presently there are about a thousand cultivars that suit different growing conditions. Tomato sizes can vary from 5mm to 6cm in diameter. They come in varied colors too, to enliven a platter; yellow, red, orange, green, and some ornamental colors of black, white pink, and purple, with patterns. Of all these, it's mostly the red, yellow, green, and orange ones that are commonly consumed. Unlike other fruits, tomatoes are slightly bitter and acidic in taste that gets tempered during cooking. They are not used in food preparation for their taste, flavor, and color alone, but for their enormous health benefits.

Nutrition Facts

The table mentioned below is for one cup of chopped tomatoes, equivalent to 180g.

Nutrient Nutritional Value
Calories 32.4 calories
Protein 1.6 g
Carbohydrates 7.1 g
Potassium 427 mg
Calcium 18.0 mg
Magnesium 19.8 mg
Phosphorous 43.2 mg
Fluoride 4.1 mcg
Vitamin A 1499 IU
Vitamin C 22.9 mg
Vitamin K 14.2 mcg
Folate 27.0 mcg

Health Benefits

Lycopene, the carotenoid found in tomatoes is believed to help in cancer prevention as it is a potent antioxidant. Lycopene helps protect cells and other structures in the body from the oxidizing linked damages and free radicals known to damage the white blood cells. More than raw, it's the cooked form of tomatoes that breaks down cell walls (of tomatoes) releasing large amounts of concentrated carotenoids. A regular consumption with some fats enables lycopene to be better absorbed. Organic ones and their products have more cancer-fighting properties than conventionally grown varieties. Lycopene also helps to lower the risk of other forms of cancer, especially prostate, stomach, rectum, and lung cancers.

It also has antioxidant properties. Antioxidants play a major role in preventing heart diseases too, as they reduce the risk of developing atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries and veins). As this vegetable is rich in potassium, niacin, vitamin B6, and folate, it helps to lower high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, substantially reducing the risk of heart-related conditions.

A rich source of vitamin K helps in maintaining blood clotting and prevents hemorrhages. Foliate found in the vegetable reduces the risk of potential brain defects in an unborn baby. Tomato juice and pulp is found in many anti-aging and sunscreen products, hence, a regular consumption will protect the skin against the harmful UV rays, reduce pre-mature wrinkles, heal and soothe sunburns, and improve overall skin texture and tone. As a natural blood purifier, it helps detox the system of all impurities and keeps the digestive system healthy, by preventing the occurrence of diarrhea and constipation. Studies indicate that its regular intake also helps in reducing the risk of developing urinary tract infections, bladder cancer, and dissolve gallstones. Consuming it without seeds, lowers the risk of forming kidney stones and gallstones.

Tomatoes are versatile fruits or vegetable (as you please), one can eat them raw, cooked, as dried powder found in ready-made soup packets, and even as fresh juice. Available throughout the year, and at an inexpensive price, fresh or canned, enjoy them everyday to get the maximum health benefits.