Tomato: Health Benefits - Myths & Facts

Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) is termed as "the most popular vegetable fruit". Tomatoes are cooked alone either as vegetable dish or combined with potatoes or several other vegetables. These are eaten as raw when ripe.

It is a fruit of good nutritive value as it is fairly rich in vitamins (vitamin C), and contain moderate levels of vital B-complex vitamins such as folates, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and essential minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and iron.

Tomatoes contain 18 calories per 100 g of serving making them one of the low calorie vegetables. Cholesterol is absent and fats are in very low quantities in tomatoes.

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Fresh tomatoes are considered good for healthy heart since they contain just 5 mg of sodium and 237 mg of potassium known as an important constituent of cell and body fluids. Considering its low cost, it qualifies for inclusion in the daily diet of young and growing children. Tomatoes are used widely for sauce preparation, home made skin remedies and various other medicinal uses.

Tomato juice is used alone or in combination with lime, honey, buttermilk, yoghurt and avocado in several home made remedies to keep skin healthy. Acne are believed to disappear with the long term tomato juice and pulp application on face along with moisturizer.

Tomatoes make good face mask with avocado. Also, tomato is used in combination with cucumber to remove excess oil from the skin. It gives glowing effect to skin when used in combination with honey. Tomatoes have been used traditionally to treat several ailments. However, there is a disbelief associated with tomato consumption.

1. It is believed that tomatoes cause hypertension. However, there are no scientific evidences available to correlate the intake of tomatoes with hypertension.

<> In fact,tomatoes are high in gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), a compound that can help bring down blood pressure.

<>A recent study has confirmed that tomato and tomato sauce lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.

<>Effectiveness of tomatoes in lowering blood pressure is attributed to lycopene, a chemical present in tomato.

<> Tomato extract contains carotenoids such as lycopene, beta carotene, and vitamin E, (known as effective antioxidants) to inactivate free radicals, and to slow the progression of atherosclerosis.

Medicinal uses worldwide:

Traditionally different plant parts of the tomato as well as juice and extract are being used orally, externally and internally to treat several health related problems in several countries.

Literature review suggests use of fresh fruit juice to induce vomiting in children in case of food poisoning in Fiji. Here, people use fresh juice extract to stop excessive bleeding from wounds.

It is used externally in Greece to treat furuncles.

In Italy, it is used to cure scorpion and other insect bites. Here, people use tomato fruit as a caustic.

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Fresh tomato fruit is used for different purposes in several other countries. In Mexico, it is used externally as febrifuge whereas in Philippines, the fresh fruit is used to treat edema by pregnant women.

The fresh fruit is used by Americans orally for kidney and liver problems, as a cathartic and also to keep good digestion. .

2. Consumption of tomato may lead formation of gall bladder stones due to presence of purine and oxalic acid in the fruit.

<>Chemical analysis of tomato shows that it contains less purine (11 mg/100g) than carrots (17 mg), potatoes (16 mg), cabbages (32 mg) and other vegetables. Oxalic acid content of tomato is relatively less than beets, potatoes, cucumber and lettuce. Experts now recommend inclusion of tomatoes in the diets of gall bladder patients.

3. It may aggravate gout problems and uric acid diseases.

<>In fact, tomato is inclluded in the diet as it has uric acid lowering effect.

Other Health benefits:

Tomatoes are included in various diet charts (Weight loss, heart health) due to their characteristic of being one of the low-calorie vegetables, richness in anti-oxidants, dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins and presence of very low fat contents and zero cholesterol levels.

Tomatoes are considered to provide protection from skin cancer due to presence of phytochemical 'Lycopene' that prevents damage from u-v rays.

Another abundantly present flavonoid compound 'Zea-xanthin' helps protect eyes in the elderly persons by filtering harmful ultra-violet rays.

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