The Tomato and You

The tomato is one of the most pervasive fruits in the world. Native to Central America the tomato with hundreds of different varieties has become one of the most versatile types of produce to traverse the globe.

Tomatoes have become a base ingredient of different cuisines, and has been transformed into many items (ketchup, sauces, paste, juice, etc.) for cooking. Tomatoes are often consumed as fresh in salads, sauces, juices, and soups.

So what do you need to know about tomatoes?

Vegetable? Fruit? Berry?
Depending on who you ask, the tomato may be considered a fruit, a berry, or a vegetable. Botanists classify tomatoes as a fruit because it is seed-bearing, and or a berry because it is develops from one fertilized ovary. The US Department of Agriculture classifies the tomato as a vegetable in the National Nutrient Database in part because of the tomato’s savory taste, and in part because vegetables, and therefore tomatoes, are predominately associated with main meals.

Types of Tomatoes
Tomatoes come in a variety of colors, sizes, and flavors. They can be pink, orange, yellow, green, brown, purple, or black. They can be small,like cherry tomatoes, that are great for salads; or large like beef masters, great for burgers. Tomato varieties have multiplied by cultivation as a result of organic production, hybridization, genetic modification, or heirloom varieties shared in a particular region.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Like any fruit or vegetable, there are several different health benefits to consuming tomatoes.

Vitamins, Minerals, and Antioxidants 
Studies have linked the illustrious tomato to extraordinary amounts of vitamins A, C, K, B6, folate and thiamine. High in dietary fiber, tomatoes also provide a significant source of potassium, phosphorus, manganese, copper, and magnesium.

Further studies reinforce the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the tomato which contribute overall health in battling some specific health conditions. Often these antioxidant properties vary according to the pigment colors of the tomato skin. These benefits occur when the tomatoes are consumed raw, as well as in heat-processed products like ketchup, tomato paste, hot sauce, tomato juice, spaghetti sauce, barbecue sauce, salsa, and other.

The antioxidant lycopene has been identified as extremely effective in scavenging certain cancers, particularly those relating to the reproductive system (breast, prostate, and cervical cancers), the oral cavity (mouth, pharynx, and esophageal cancers), and the digestive tract (rectal and stomach cancers).

Heart Health
Lycopene has also identified as a defense against cardiovascular disease by decreasing levels of cholesterol within the heart.

While we have all heard about eating carrots with their high amounts of beta-carotene, which transforms into vitamin A to keep our eyes healthy, tomatoes also have contain significant amounts of vitamin A. The tomato can help improve vision as well as help prevent macular degeneration and night-blindness.

Digestion and Hydration
The tomato can help remove toxins from the body. As a good source of fiber, the tomato makes sure that foods move easily through your system and prevent discomfort that comes with diarrhea, constipation or jaundice. The high water content will also help eliminate salts, acids, excess water, and some fats, and reduce the incidences of urinary tract infections; as well as contributing to your overall daily hydration needs.

Healthy Skin and Bones
As a source of multiple vitamins and minerals as well as significant juicy fruit/vegetable, the tomato helps your body fight ultraviolet rays and oxidative stress (the stress caused by the body in producing more free radicals that leads to cellular degeneration).

Other Health Conditions 
Other health benefits of tomatoes have been linked to helping high blood pressure (hypertension), managing the oxidative stress associated with type 2 diabetes, and protecting the body from carcinogens produced by cigarette smoke.

The tomato is one of the most versatile produce items in the world. Adaptable and easy to grow, the tomato not only tastes good but also you maintain a healthy body to do all the things you want to do.

Consult the experts at your local Metabolic Medical Center to discuss how tomatoes fit into your daily nutrition.

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