Tomatoes are a versatile and delicious fruit. Though used more often in applications you would typically see reserved for a vegetable, there are truly countless ways you can consume tomatoes—from raw to a component used in pastes, sauces, juices, and more!
Let’s take a closer look at tomato nutrition—the ins and outs of what this fruit contains, how it benefits your overall health, any risks you should be aware of when consuming them, and more!
Fun Facts About Tomatoes
- Tomatoes are the world’s most popular fruit! There are over 60 million tons of tomatoes produced in any given year to meet this high demand, spread across the more than 10,000 tomato varieties—which ranks them well above bananas, apples, oranges, and other popular fruits.
- The tomato is the State Fruit of Ohio, but the State Vegetable of New Jersey—and in Arkansas, it’s both. Talk about confusing! While tomatoes are of the nightshade family and are botanically a fruit, in the late 1800s, the United States Supreme Court declared them a vegetable so they could raise taxes on the growth and export of tomatoes.
- Even after they have been harvested, tomatoes will continue to gain weight as they ripen (and we have an article where you can learn all about how long it takes to ripen tomatoes!).
Tomato Nutrition Facts
Tomato nutrition content will vary slightly based on any tomato variety, with some being a bit fleshier and others less firm, etc. However, overall, you will find that tomatoes have a water content of about 95% total, with the other 5% of their makeup being mostly simple carbohydrates (5 grams, divided between simple sugars and raw carbohydrates) and fiber (1.2 grams). Additionally, they contain a nominal amount of protein and fat (less than 1 gram of each).
Tomatoes are considered a low-carbohydrate food. In general, raw tomatoes are comprised of about 4% carbohydrates, and of that, 70% is simple sugars such as fructose and glucose. An average medium-sized tomato contains roughly 5 grams of carbohydrates.
Tomatoes are considered a great source of fiber, with an average of about 1.5 grams of fiber in your typical medium-sized tomato. Of those 1.5 grams of fiber, about 87% are insoluble and come in the form of lignin, cellulose, and hemicellulos. This is one of the most popular facets of tomato nutrition, as fiber is often at a deficit in the standard person’s diet.
Vitamins and minerals
Tomatoes of all different varieties tend to be a fantastic source of vitamins and minerals, a key component to fantastic tomato nutrition. Generally speaking, your average medium-sized tomato will provide a great amount of Vitamins A, C, K1, and B9 (also known as folate, which is crucial to tissue growth and cell function and is a necessary vitamin for pregnant women to ingest for the health of their growing baby).
In terms of minerals, tomatoes provide a wonderful source of potassium, iron, and phosphorous. They are also full of antioxidants, which help lower inflammation throughout the entire body.
When it comes to tomato nutrition, these lovely little fruits are perhaps best known for their high concentration of lycopene, a carotenoid that is bioavailable in ripened tomatoes and which gives many varieties their rich, red hue. Raw tomatoes and tomato products are thought to account for more than 80% of all dietary lycopene consumption in the United States.
It is recommended that lycopene, whether in a raw or processed tomato, be consumed with a source of healthy fat such as avocado, whole milk cheese, etc. to aid in the absorption of the lycopene compounds.
Some additional tomato nutrition components that can be vital to the body’s overall health include lutein, beta carotene, naringenin, zeaxanthin, and so many more. Each of these compounds plays a part in helping keep the human body in a state of balance, able to quickly care for and heal itself—an in general, these nutrients just help make you feel great!
Health Benefits of Eating Tomatoes
1. Cancer Prevention
Tomatoes are rich in such things as vitamins C and A, as well as an abundance of antioxidants—which are known to fight freed radicals throughout the body. Together, these components of tomato nutrition can all lead to a decreased risk of cancer. Free radicals tend to be a strong piece to forming cancer cells, with antioxidants combating these before they have the chance to mutate. In addition, beta-carotene and lycopene have both shown in studies to reduce the risk of prostate cancer in particular.
Of little surprise given their high fiber content, tomatoes are an excellent and natural way to help combat constipation! The regular ingestion of raw or prepared tomatoes can help keep bowel movements consistent and minimize the overall struggles one might otherwise face with obstruction, constipation, and other intestinal discomfort.
3. Blood pressure
It’s a well-known fact of tomato nutrition by now that these fruits are high in potassium and low in sodium, due to being mainly about 95% water. Because of this, they are nature’s perfect fruit for combatting high blood pressure! High sodium counts and low potassium intake are often associated with chronic high blood pressure. Consuming tomatoes, particularly while also sticking to healthy sodium intake with good salt content, can help keep these numbers a balanced range.
4. Eye Health
Two of the lesser-known substances included in tomato nutrition are the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Both of these can aid in protecting your eyes from potential damage caused by blue light from screens such as on TVs and smartphones, and can help minimize the sensations of overtiredness and head pain from eyestrain that come with long hours working on a computer. These carotenoids have also proven in some studies to aid in the prevention of macular degeneration over time.
5. Oral Health
The high concentration of lycopene in tomatoes can also have unexpected benefits in one’s oral health. Lycopene helps combat the sort of free radicals in the body that can cause gingivitis and periodontitis, which lead to overall compromise in teeth and gums and can affect the body negatively.
6. Heart Health
So much of what tomato nutrition hinges on in terms of vitamins and minerals—including potassium, fiber, vitamins K and C, and folate—all has a direct impact on the health of the human heart. Folate in particular helps regulate the presence of an amino acid called homocysteine, which forms as a result of protein breakdown. When running unchecked in the body, homocysteine can lead to an increased risk of heart attack. Potassium also helps regulate the cardiovascular system in general and keeps things balanced and running smoothly throughout the whole circulatory system.
Health Risks of Eating Tomatoes
While the benefits of tomato nutrition far outweigh the detriments, it should be noted that excessive consumption of tomatoes—particularly in their raw form—can lead to digestive issues. Due to the presence of citric acid and malic acid naturally occurring in tomatoes, ingesting too much can lead to an increased risk of acid reflux or heartburn. The presence of this acid can also cause breakdown in the enamel of your teeth, so it is recommended to brush your teeth about 30 minutes after consuming raw tomatoes in order to minimize this risk.
Wrapping Up The Tomato Nutrition Guide
The versatility of application and consumption of tomatoes is truly a great benefit, because there are few other fruits or vegetables that can compete when it comes to tomato nutrition. From the smallest varieties to the largest, from your standard red tomatoes to breathtaking beauties like the Wagner Blue Green Tomato, these fruits really pack a punch in every area when it comes to high nutritional content!
Excited by what you’ve learned about tomato nutrition and feeling eager to consume more of these powerhouse fruits? There’s lots of ways to grow and keep tomatoes! Visit our tomato page to find a variety you can grow, how to care for them, how to eat them, and so much more!