Tomato may refer to both the plant (solanum lycopersicum) and the edible, typically red, fruit which it bears. While it is botanically a fruit, they don’t have the dessert quality sweetness of other fruits. Instead they have a subtle sweetness that is complemented by a slightly bitter and acidic taste, it is considered a vegetable for culinary purposes. Regardless of its name, the tomato is a wonderfully popular and versatile food that comes in over a thousand different varieties that vary in shape, size, and color, disease resistance and season of maturity grown for different purposes. Only the fruits of this plant are eaten since the leaves often contain potentially problematic concentrations of certain alkaloids.
It is used in diverse ways:
- Raw in salads
- Processed into ketchup or tomato soup
- Ingredient in many dishes
Tomatoes are now eaten freely throughout the world, and their consumption is believed to benefit the heart, among other organs. They contain the carotene lycopene, one of the most powerful natural antioxidants. Tomatoes are a rich source of several nutrients. They are well known for their high vitamin C content, but also contain significant amount of vitamin A, B vitamins including niacin and riboflavin, magnesium, phosphorous and calcium. Tomatoes are also a good source of chromium, foliate and fiber.
- The antioxidants present in tomatoes are found to be protective against many cancers including colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers.
- Fresh tomato is very rich in potassium. Potassium in an important component of cell and body fluids, helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure.
- Lycopene has also been shown to help prevent heart disease and may slow the development of cataracts and macular degeneration, an age related vision problem that can lead to blindness. Cancers such as prostate cancer, cervical cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer, and cancers of the stomach, mouth, pharynx, and esophagus have all been proven to be staved off by high levels of Lycopene.
- The vitamin B6, niacin, potassium and folate found in abundance in tomatoes are potent protectors against heart disease.
- The fiber in tomatoes also helps lower cholesterol levels, helps prevent colon cancer and helps to keep blood sugars at a low level.
- Tomatoes are a source of riboflavin which has been shown to be helpful for migraine sufferers by reducing the frequency of their headaches.