Tomatillo Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Tomatillo, annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Tomatillos might seem like mini-tomatoes, but they're actually a different fruit altogether. Tomatillos impart a bright, citrus flavor to many traditional South American dishes. If you're wary of nightshades or trying new things, you may wonder whether tomatillos are worth adding to your grocery cart. With lots of benefits to offer, tomatillos bring variety and a spark of nutrition to your plate.

Tomatillo Nutrition Facts

The following information is provided by the USDA for one medium (34g) tomatillo. Two medium diced tomatillos are equivalent to about 1/2 cup serving.

  • Calories: 11
  • Fat: 0.3g
  • Sodium: 0.3mg
  • Carbohydrates: 2g
  • Fiber: 0.7g
  • Sugars: 1.3g
  • Protein: 0.3g

Carbs

Tomatillos are low in carbohydrates with just under 4 grams total per 1/2 cup serving. Of this, 1.3 grams come from fiber and 2.6 grams are natural sugars.

Fats

Tomatillos are almost fat-free with less than 1/2 gram in one medium-sized tomatillo.

Protein

There's also less than 1/2 gram of protein per tomatillo.

Vitamins and Minerals

Tomatillos are a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium. They provide several other micronutrients in smaller doses.

Health Benefits

Tomatillos are a nutritious fruit with their own set of health benefits and protective effects to offer.

Supports Heart Health

Like many fruits and vegetables, tomatillos fit perfectly into a heart-healthy dietary pattern. Their naturally low sodium and high potassium content keep blood pressure levels down. Tomatillos also provide vitamins A and C, which both act as antioxidants against free radicals.

The fiber in tomatillos helps lower blood cholesterol. For numerous reasons, it's no surprise that the American Heart Association recommends eating a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables every day—and tomatillos can make a great addition.

May Help Reduce Cancer Risk

Tomatillos have several antioxidants with cancer-preventing properties. Specifically, tomatillos are a source of phytochemicals called withanolides. These natural plant compounds have been shown to induce apoptosis, or cell death, in colon cancer cells.

Dietary patterns high in fruits and vegetables have long been associated with lower risks of cancer. Tomatillos make a great addition to a high-antioxidant eating plan focused on cancer prevention.

Improves Arthritis Symptoms

In addition to antioxidant effects, withanolides are anti-inflammatory. For this reason, Ayurvedic medicine commonly uses withanolides in the treatment of arthritis. In Western medicine, research on withanolides demonstrates clinical benefits in the alleviation of symptoms for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Although they're not a cure-all, eating tomatillos might make living with arthritis more manageable.

Prevents Vision Loss

Tomatillos are a good source of several key nutrients for eye health. Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that concentrate in the retina and help protect against environmental damage. Additionally, tomatillos provide beta carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C, copper, and zinc, which is a proven combination for slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration, a common cause of vision loss.

Supports Weight Loss

Tomatillos are a low-calorie whole food ingredient, with just 21 calories per 1/2 cup serving. Because of their high water content, it's possible to fill up on a large portion of tomatillos without packing in excess calories. Unlike many other condiments, fresh salsa made with tomatoes or tomatillos is a healthy, flavorful choice that's virtually free of added sugars.

Allergies

Cases of tomatillo allergies have been reported. Although rare, serious reactions (including anaphylaxis) are possible even if the person shows no signs of a tomato allergy. If you suspect an allergy to tomatillos, see an allergist for testing.

Adverse Effects

Tomatillos are part of the nightshade family. While there is no conclusive evidence confirming any harmful effects of nightshades, some people report experiencing sensitivity to them. For the majority of people, nightshades offer more nutritional benefits than costs. If you believe you are sensitive to tomatillos, meet with a registered dietitian to pinpoint the root of the issue and determine ways to improve your tolerance.

Varieties

Different varieties of tomatillos are found in yellow, green, and purple. Rendidora is a green variety that grows upright and produces a high yield. Gulliver Hybrid, Tamayo, Gigante, and Toma Verde are also green but grow in a more sprawling pattern. Some purple varieties include Purple Hybrid, Purple De Milpa, and Purple Coban.

When It's Best

Choose tomatillos that are still firm and green but large enough to fully fill up their husks. When tomatillos are left to ripen on the vine for too long, their flavor becomes bland so you'll want to avoid overripe tomatillos. While you may also find them canned in the supermarket, getting tomatillos from your local farmers market will let you experience them fresh.

Storage and Food Safety

The ideal conditions for storing tomatillos is in 60% humidity at 50–60 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep tomatillos in their husks and spread one-layer deep. As long as the area is well-ventilated, tomatillos can last for months in storage.

If you're going to use them sooner, tomatillos can be kept in a paper bag in the refrigerator for no more than 2 weeks. Don't store tomatillos in plastic, as this causes rapid spoilage.

For extended storage, tomatillos may also be frozen or canned. Remove the husks, wash, and dry tomatillos before eating them or preparing them for long-term storage.

How to Prepare

Although tomatillos are related to tomatoes, they cannot be used interchangeably in recipes. Tomatillos have a distinct flavor and firm texture. Tomatillos can be eaten whole, no need to seed or core them.

Incorporate tomatillos in Mexican-inspired dishes like this beans and greens healthy chicken burrito recipe. Make your own salsa, bruschetta, or chop tomatillos into a salad or stew. Tomatillos add an interesting twist and a boost of nutrition to savory dishes.

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Article Sources
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