Scientifically speaking, tomatoes are a fruit: They develop from the ovary of the base of the flower and contain the seeds of the plant. However, it is classified as a vegetable in the U.S., all because of a Supreme Court decision in 1893 that classified it as such to take advantage of import taxes applied to vegetables.
Regardless of its classification, its health benefits are well-known: It contains vitamins A and C, folate, potassium, carotenoids, and flavonoids. The skin, in particular, is exceptionally nutritious – it holds 98 percent of the flavonoids of the fruit, which fight inflammation, cardiovascular disease and even cancer.
Tomatoes also have minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, molybdenum, and calcium. Tomato-based products like tomato paste and tomato ketchup have these nutrients, albeit in varying degrees.
This healthy food is also teeming with carotenoids, including phytoene, phytofluene, zeta-carotene, beta-carotene, gamma-carotene, and neurosporene. (Related: Why you should eat more tomatoes.)
Tomatoes in modern research
Science has proven time and again that tomatoes – and their derivatives – are what you need to stay healthy and strong. Recent studies have identified lycopene in tomatoes as a powerful weapon against inflammation and oxidation.
Tomatoes also help overweight and obese people shed unwanted pounds. A study showed that overweight and obese women who drank 330 mL of tomato juice daily and maintained their usual diet had reduced inflammation after 20 days. This, in turn, lowered their risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.
Several studies revealed that including a lot of tomatoes and tomato products in the diet lowered one’s risk of developing gastrointestinal cancer. In the U.S., it reduced cancer mortality rates by as much as 50 percent. A review of 72 epidemiological studies confirmed that higher intake of tomatoes lowered the risk of developing various types of cancer by nearly 79 percent.
Consuming 10 or more servings of tomato a week led to a 35 percent decrease in developing the most aggressive types of prostate cancer. A survey of 51,529 male health professionals aged 40 to 75 showed that consuming over two servings of tomato products a week led to a lower incidence of prostate cancer. The risk reduction rose when tomato sauce was included in the diet.
Tomatoes are also a great help to the more than 70 million Americans suffering from cardiovascular disease, which has been responsible for 38 percent of deaths in the U.S. Higher amounts of tomato-sourced lycopene in fat tissue act as protection against cardiovascular disease.
A 2012 study revealed that 19 young, healthy people who consumed 70 grams of tomato paste every day for 15 days cut their chances of developing cardiovascular disease.
Some ways to spice up your tomatoes
Variety is the spice of life. You don’t have to eat tomatoes the same way every day. Here are some suggestions on how to enjoy this nutritious vegetable without getting tired of it.
Fresh Tomato Pasta Pepper
Put tomato slices on top of cheese ravioli. Add extra-virgin olive oil, basil leaves, and thin slices of red onion on top. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Roasted Tomato and Jalapeno Salsa
Roast sweet peppers, tomatoes, and jalapeno peppers until tender – loosely covering the peppers with foil while cooking. Let cool. Peel pepper skin and remove seeds. Chop the sweet peppers, jalapenos, and tomatoes. Combine in a bowl, then lightly coat with olive oil, and add salt and pepper to make a saucy mixture. Add freshly chopped cilantro to taste. Serve with tortilla chips or use crusty bread as a dip.
Braised Tomato Brekkie
Sauté sliced onion and peppers in a large frying pan until they soften. Cut tomatoes into wedges and drop into the frying pan. Continue cooking until everything is tender. Let everything simmer. Crack eggs. Cover and cook these until you get the kind of eggs you like. Enjoy with tortillas topped with shredded cheddar or mozzarella.
Millions of people who have relied on tomatoes to stay healthy for several years can’t be wrong. When it comes to health, this bright-colored vegetable is a keeper.