One of the original wonder fruits – and not just because so many people wonder how it can be considered a fruit – tomatoes are actually packed to the brim with healthful vitamins, minerals and nutrients that keep us looking and feeling as cherry as they do.
But just what is it about them that makes tomatoes so wonderful?
What Do They Have?
We’re glad you asked!
Indeed, tomatoes are considered one of the most nutrient-dense fruits out there, with just a few of the their most helpful, healthy contributors including:
It’s no wonder the wonder fruit would contain this wonder compound.
Vitamin C is considered an essential nutrient and antioxidant. Inside the body, it’s a workhorse, helping out with everything from boosting the immune system to boosting energy levels. And it’s also responsible for a suite of beautifying benefits, including healthier hair and skin, as well as better bone, joint and teeth health.
Technically a mineral, potassium works inside our bodies as an electrolyte. That gives it access to the human electrical grid otherwise known as the nervous system, where potassium helps keep signals—and, subsequently, muscles—moving.
Potassium is also a key player in regulating fluid balance, which might not sound like a big deal but can have a number of helpful effects on the way our internal systems work.
With the official name of phylloquinone, we’re pretty glad this compound got the nickname vitamin K1.
But no matter what you call it, it remains a crucial substance for a number of important functions, including blood clotting and bone health.
When it comes to the body, folate is a bloody good thing to have around – and we mean that literally.
The nutrient is a boon to blood health, helping manufacture red blood cells and maintain DNA. It also plays a key role in tissue growth and overall cell function.
A more uncommon plant compound, lycopene is something called a carotenoid, and it’s responsible for turning tomatoes – or any food it’s found in – red.
But inside the human body, it does so much more than offer a splash of color.
Indeed, the carotenoid plays the role of a powerful antioxidant when consumed, helping in everything from sun protection to heart health to a lowered risk of certain types of cancer.
Another color-boosting agent inside a tomato (giving off more of an orangey-yellow hue), beta carotene actually gets converted into vitamin A inside the human body.
And that’s pretty good news for humans, since the nutrient offers aid in everything from better vision to reproductive health to developing stronger hearts, lungs and kidneys to immune system boosts. Whew!
Primarily located in a tomato’s skin, this flavonoid—a type of plant compound typically responsible for helping create colors, scents and tastes—is useful in a number of biological functions, including fighting inflammation and helping protect against certain diseases.
Also found in stimulating drinks like green tea and coffee, chlorogenic acid has a number of helpful side-effects, including a boosted metabolism, reduced blood pressure and help warding off type 2 diabetes.
What Does That Do?
Technically a fruit but typically prepared like a vegetable, tomatoes find themselves involved in any number of dishes, ranging from sweet to savory.
And it’s a good thing they taste good with everything, because they’re nearly as versatile when it comes to the types of health benefits they can help cultivate, including:
Better Heart Health
The tomato’s claim to heart health fame is thanks in no small part to the one-two punch of lycopene and beta carotene.
The combination of these powerful antioxidants works to help keep levels of LDL—otherwise known as “bad” cholesterol—low. But that’s not all!
The compounds have also been linked to anti-inflammation and protection from oxidative stress, along with help maintaining the inner walls of blood vessels, that help reduce to risk of blood clotting – and, therefore, heart attack or other episodes of heart disease.
Again, lycopene can get lots of extra-credit, thanks to its ability to keep our skin protected against damaging UV rays.
But tomatoes also get a big dose of skin health magic from their substantial levels of vitamin C. The nutrient is crucial in the formation of collagen, which keeps our skin hydrated, healthy looking and plump. (It’s also good for keeping joints lubricated, hair strong, and bones and teeth healthy.)
By this point we’re starting to think that tomatoes should just be renamed: Lycopene Carriers.
The all-important carotenoid once again comes into play in a huge way, with links to a reduction in the incidences of prostate, lung, stomach and breast cancer in some preliminary tests.
Research is still ongoing, but scientists believe the connection may have to do with lycopene’s role in preventing DNA damage and supporting enzymes in the body that are known to break down certain cancer-causing products.
What Does That Mean?
While tomatoes are universally loved, and can be nearly universally used in the kitchen, the little red treats may make especially helpful ingredients for anyone who is pregnant, thanks to their high levels of folate, which is often recommended to pregnant women.
The fruits are also good for anyone trying to naturally build up better skin, anyone particularly wary of heart health – or, really, just anyone with taste buds.