A tomato is a fruit from a tomato plant known scientifically as Lycopersicon esculentum. It belongs to the botanical family called Solanaceae. Tomatoes have a brightly colored outer coating and are often round in shape but may vary in both in shape and size. They have a thick fleshy inner part. Surrounding the small seeds of tomatoes is a watery matrix that gives it the juicy taste. Tomatoes do not usually have the sweetness of a fruit because it has a slightly bitter and acidic in taste and is often served with other vegetables and thus not treated as such.
Tomatoes can be washed and eaten raw as a salad or placed in a sandwich. It enhances that crunchy feeling and taste of the sandwich. It can also be cooked and eaten. Overcooking the tomatoes will result in loss of the acidic and bitter properties in them responsible for bringing out their warm, rich sweetness. One will lose the nutritional value of the tomatoes due to overcooking. It is advisable to first wash the tomatoes then cut rather than vise versa because one will lose water soluble vitamins such as vitamin C.
Once eaten the nutrients in tomato tomatoes are absorbed into the blood stream.
The 7 Top Benefits of Tomatoes
Tomatoes are rich in beta carotene, vitamin C and phytonutrients such as flavonols, glycosides, fatty acid derivatives and hydroxycinnamic acids. These are powerful antioxidants. Accumulation of reactive oxygen species in cells leads to covalent changes of lipids, proteins and nucleic acids found in most cell membranes e.g. plasma membranes and lipid membranes. This leads to increased permeability resulting to cell injury and necrosis. Tomatoes prevent this process from occurring by enhancing the activity of enzymes.
Tomatoes contain carotenoids. Carotenoids give the bright red pigmentation to tomatoes known as lycopene. Beta carotenoids are quickly converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is involved in many cellular processes which include reproduction, proper development and vision. In reproduction, vitamin A in the form of retinoic acid is important for gene transcription. For proper development, retinoic acid is a key hormone-like growth factor for epithelial cells. Vitamin A is required for the maintenance of normal vision. Vitamin A in the form of retinal combines with opsin forming the photoreceptor rhodopsin which promotes good vision under low light as one can detect very small amounts of light. It also promotes color vision.
Tomatoes contain both vitamin A and C that have an immune-enhancing role in the body. Retinol, an active form of vitamin A is required for the maintenance of the skin and mucous membranes of the respiratory, urinary and digestive system that form the primary barrier against disease causing microorganisms. Deficiency of vitamin A leads to increased predisposition to infections on the mucosal surfaces mentioned. Vitamin C is needed by the body to make collagen and its deficiency leads to scurvy which may manifest as bleeding of the gums. To prevent the above mentioned deficiencies is to eat fruits and vegetables which include tomatoes.
This is an area still under research due to the antioxidant properties of tomatoes that appear to help reduce cancer growth. A number of studies have shown that low doses of beta carotene found in tomatoes play a role in inhibiting the proliferation of certain tumors and cancers through scavenging of reactive oxygen species. However, studies have shown that high doses of beta carotene are toxic.
Reduces the risk of heart diseases
Tomatoes contain vitamin A, C, potassium and choline that play a significant role in the maintenance of heart health. Vitamin A and C have an antioxidant property that prevent lipid peroxidation in the heart decreasing the process of atherosclerosis; which is deposition of fat to blood vessels. This decreases the risk of cardiovascular events. Tomatoes are a rich source of Potassium. Potassium plays a role in every heartbeat by facilitating the contraction of heart muscles. An increase in the level of potassium and a sodium decrease reduce the risk of heart diseases. Choline promotes the normal autonomic processes such as sleep and muscle relaxation. Choline also aids in transmission of nerve impulses and reduces inflammation.
In addition to the above five top benefits of tomatoes, there are other benefits of tomatoes that are still under research include;
Improved bone strength
Studies have shown that lycopene; an antioxidant, found in high concentrations in fresh tomatoes plays an important role in bone strength. To prove this, postmenopausal women were deprived foods rich in lycopene of which tomatoes is one of them, for a duration of four weeks. Later after the study period, there were increased signs of oxidative stress in their bones predisposing them to osteoporosis. This is a condition in which the bones become weak and are easily fractured.
Reduced risk of artherosclerosis
Tomatoes have shown to lower the “bad” cholesterol also known as low density cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides which when deposited to blood vessels and the heart causing artherosclerosis.
Studies are still ongoing on the effects of tomatoes on role it plays in neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and the antioxidant effect by blocking cancer cell growth in prostate and colorectal cancer.