Tomato Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Tomatoes

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman  

Have you ever wondered if a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable? Botanists classify tomatoes as fruit because they develop from the ovary of flowering plants and contain seeds. However, because tomatoes are prepared and served as vegetables, they're generally thought of as a vegetable from a culinary perspective.

Either way, tomatoes are a delicious and nutritious food that makes a good addition to most healthy eating plans. Tomatoes contain several nutrients and compounds important for health, such as vitamin C, lycopene, potassium, and vitamin K, among others.

Tomato Nutrition Facts

One small (2 2/5" in diameter) tomato (91g) provides 16 calories, 0.8g of protein, 3.5g of carbohydrates, and 0.2g of fat. Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, and vitamin K. The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 16
  • Fat: 0.2g
  • Sodium: 5mg
  • Carbohydrates: 3.5g
  • Fiber: 1.1g
  • Sugars: 2.4g
  • Protein: 0.8g
  • Vitamin C: 12.5mg
  • Vitamin K: 7.2mcg

Carbs

A small tomato (91g) contains 3.5 grams of carbs. Of the carbohydrates, 2.4 grams are from naturally occurring sugars, and 1.1 grams come from fiber. Tomatoes are considered a low glycemic index food.

Fats

Like most fruits and vegetables, tomatoes contain very little fat.

Protein

There is just under 1 gram of protein in a small, fresh tomato.

Vitamins and Minerals

Tomatoes are a great source of potassium and vitamin C. Several beneficial forms of vitamin A are also present in tomatoes, including lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene.

Calories

One small tomato (91g) provides 16 calories, 73% of which come from carbs, 18% from protein, and 9% from fat.

Summary

Tomatoes are a low-calorie, low-fat hydrating fruit with a low glycemic index. Tomatoes are high in vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium.

Health Benefits

Tomatoes offer several health benefits related to their phytonutrient content.

May Reduce Risk of Prostate Cancer

Lycopene is an antioxidant in tomatoes that has been associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Lycopene acts on various biochemical pathways that help prevent cancer cells from developing and spreading. Lycopene is higher in processed tomato foods (such as ketchup or canned tomatoes) because the processing involves removing water and leaving a more concentrated tomato product.

Supports Heart Health

The lycopene in tomatoes works synergistically with other antioxidant vitamins (like vitamins A, E, and C) to provide compounding benefits for heart health. Some studies demonstrate a relationship between the lycopene in tomatoes and an oxidized LDL and arterial plaque reduction. Tomatoes also contain potassium, which is well-known to reduce blood pressure.

Aids Eyesight

Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A, and more specifically, tutein and zeaxanthin. These two forms of vitamin A accumulate in the retina and prevent age-related macular degeneration. Consuming tomatoes as a part of dishes that include some fat (such as in a salad with olive oil) improves absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins, which are crucial for good eyesight.

Protects Against Sun Damage

The phytonutrients in tomatoes are protective against some of the effects of UVB damage. Although tomatoes alone aren't enough to prevent skin cancer, including tomatoes in your meal plan may improve your body's resilience to the dangers of certain types of sun rays.

May Reduce Risk of Diabetes Complications

Tomatoes have been associated with antihyperglycemic effects in rodents but not in humans. Nonetheless, tomatoes are still beneficial for people with diabetes. Tomatoes have been shown to reduce the oxidative stress that's caused by diabetes. They also reduce inflammation, accelerated atherosclerosis, and tissue damage, all common complications of the disease.

Allergies

If you have seasonal allergies to grass pollen, you may experience an oral allergy after eating tomatoes. Symptoms may include itchy mouth, ears, or throat or swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, and throat. Talk to your doctor if you suspect you may be allergic to tomatoes.

Adverse Effects

Tomatoes are naturally acidic. If you suffer from acid reflux or heartburn, you may want to limit your intake of tomatoes and tomato products.

Varieties

There are hundreds of varieties of tomatoes. Tomatoes are available in many shapes (from tiny spheres to large ovals), colors (from green to red, yellow, and orange), and sizes (from small cherry tomatoes to large beefsteak tomatoes).

The level of sweetness and acidity vary depending on the growing conditions and ripeness at harvest. Some tomatoes have few seeds, such as the plum, whereas others have many.

In addition to fresh tomatoes, you can find canned tomatoes diced, crushed, or puréed, which often have additional ingredients like sodium. There are also a variety of tomato products like tomato paste (which is concentrated, cooked tomatoes), tomato juice (which is sold on its own or as part of vegetable juice blends), and sundried tomatoes (may be sold on their own or packed in oil).

Many condiments use tomato as a base, such as ketchup and salsa. When purchasing commercial tomato sauces, always read the label. Some brands of jarred tomato sauce contain lots of added sugar and sodium. Making your own with fresh or canned tomatoes is a good way to avoid these added ingredients.

When It's Best

Look for fresh tomatoes that are plump and firm with smooth, shiny skin. The color should be uniform. Avoid tomatoes with cuts, bruises, soft spots, or mold. Local tomatoes from the farmer's market are best during the summer season.

Storage and Food Safety

Contrary to popular belief, you should not store fresh tomatoes in the refrigerator. This can turn the flesh mealy and reduce the flavor—instead, store tomatoes in a cool, dry place.

Wash fresh tomatoes well before cutting into them. Once tomatoes are cut, store them in the refrigerator and use within a few days. Dishes with cooked tomatoes should be refrigerated and consumed within a week.

How to Prepare

Tomatoes are often used in salads, soups, dips, sauces, and casseroles. You can enjoy tomatoes raw or cooked.

To cook tomatoes, consider sautéing, grilling, or roasting. Roasting yields a juicy, concentrated flavor and texture. To roast, season tomatoes with olive oil, garlic, red pepper, and other herbs and spices. You can eat roasted tomatoes plain or puree them for a tomato sauce or as a topper for grilled, baked, or roasted meat, chicken, or fish.

You can also use tomatoes to make a simple marinara sauce or use tomato sauce and tomato products to flavor foods such as spaghetti squash, chili, and stews. Season your sauce however you'd like, using basil, oregano, parsley, or garlic. Large tomatoes can also be stuffed with meat and rice for a hearty dish.

Recipes

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Article Sources
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