Your body loves the immense health benefits of tomatoes—even if the only way you’re enjoying them is in a hearty tomato sauce or refreshing juice. Tomatoes help keep your heart healthy and prevent cancer.
“A world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins.” Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking
Six Tomato Health Benefits
The red color of the tomatoes is what makes them so good for us. Scientists have found that what makes tomatoes beneficial is their high quantity of lycopene, the phytochemical that creates tomatoes’ ruby red complexion. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that inhibits free radicals, which are a destructive substance in the body. It binds to free radicals, keeping them from creating cell damage that can result in diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
Tomatoes’ strongest health benefit is their ability to reduce the risk of heart disease. You can also find lycopene in other red foods like watermelon, apricots, red grapefruit, guava and papaya.
1. Helps Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
• The highest average intake of lycopene were linked to almost a 30 percent reduction in the incidence of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease.
• “We’ve shown quite clearly that lycopene improves the function of blood vessels in cardiovascular disease patients. It reinforces the need for a healthy diet in people at risk from heart disease and stroke,” says Dr Joseph Cheriyan from the University of Cambridge.
• Lycopene concentrations in the blood have been found to be protective in the early stages of narrowing of the arteries. When your arteries are narrowed, blood flow to the heart slows down. Research found that people with high levels of lycopene in their blood have lower rates of heart disease.
• A diet rich in tomatoes was found to increase “good” HDL cholesterol levels by 15.2 percent.
• A diet high in tomato products reduced “bad” LDL cholesterol levels by 13 percent in one Finnish study.
• In one study observing people with an average age of 54 years from 10 European countries, lycopene may be at the root of the cardio-protective power of a diet rich in vegetables.
• Tomatoes are high in potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure.
2. Lowers Risk of Cancer
Tomatoes are rich in beta-carotene and lycopene, help lower some types of cancer and slow down the rate of other types of cancer.
• Tomatoes reduce breast cancer due to high amounts of carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene and total carotenoids), according to research from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
• Tomatoes may help prevent prostate cancer. This study found that men who ate more than 10 portions of tomatoes or tomato products per week have an 18 percent reduced risk of prostate cancer compared to men who ate less than ten.
• Consuming tomatoes and tomato-based products have been shown to lower the risk of a variety of cancers. The cancers that lowered the most were lung, stomach and prostate cancer. Research also indicated that tomatoes may help prevent cancers of the breast, cervix, oral cavity, colorectum, esophagus and pancreas. “It is critical to recognize that the current evidence regarding dietary intake and lycopene blood concentrations reflects consumption of tomatoes and tomato products rather than purified lycopene supplements,” notes the Oxford Journals.
3. Increase Fat Burning
• Tomatoes help produce the amino acid carnitine, which helps speed the body’s fat-burning capacity by more than 30 percent.
• Tomato juice has been found to reduce weight, body fat and size of the waist.
4. Supports Healthy Skin and Hair
• Tomato components help fight acne and prevent damage to skin cells. “The protective effect of eating tomatoes on our mitochondria is important as they are the energy producers in all our body cells including skin. Therefore being kind to our mitochondria is likely to contribute to improved skin health, which in turn may have an anti-aging effect,” says Professor Mark Birch-Machin, dermatology scientist at Newcastle University.
• Drinking tomato juice rich in vitamin K strengthens the hair and promotes hair growth.
5. Increases Bone Health
• Tomatoes help keep bones healthy by enhancing the ratio of calcium in the body. “Subjects with higher lycopene intake had lower risk of hip fracture.”
6. Reduces Inflammation
• Tomato juice reduces inflammation in overweight women and obese females.
• Cherry tomatoes are among the “Dirty Dozen“ fruits and vegetables with high pesticide residues.
• Tomatoes are from the nightshade family, which includes bell peppers, eggplant, and potatoes. For those who are sensitive to nightshades, they could trigger inflammation in the body and contribute to arthritis. Grapefruit and watermelon are good sources of lycopene that are not nightshades. There are no scientific studies to confirm this, but many health professionals have made the observation that some are sensitive to nightshade produce. It has been suggested that this sensitivity to nightshades is a unique sensitivity to solanine, or, in the case of tomatoes, the alkaloid tomatine.