Tomato nutrition facts
Tomato, a nutritious fruit commonly used as vegetable, is another wonderful gift of Mayans. The vegetable has grabbed the attention of millions health seekers for its incredible phyto-chemical properties. Interestingly, it has much more health benefiting qualities than that in an apple!
Botanically, the vegetable belongs to Solanaceae or nightshade family, which also includes chili peppers, potato, eggplant...etc and named scientifically as Lycopersicon esculentum. This exotic vegetable of all seasons is native to central America and was cultivated by the Aztecs centuries before the Spanish explorers introduced it to all over the world.
Many hundreds of cultivar varieties with different type and size, either organic, hybrid or genetically modified are being in use. Most cultivates produce red fruit; but a number of cultivates with yellow, orange, pink, purple, green, or white colors are also available.
Heirloom tomatoes are becoming increasingly popular, particularly among organic producers. Heirloom varieties tend to produce more natural and flavorful fruits. Tomatoes are now grown worldwide as front line vegetable like onions, chili, potato ... etc.
Cherry tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum var. cerasiforme) are small, round, cherry sized fruits of the same Solanaceae family. The fruits are popular in Mediterranean regions.
Health benefits of Tomato
Tomatoes are one of the low calorie vegetables containing just 18 calories per 100 g. They are also very low in any fat contents and have zero cholesterol levels. Nonetheless, they are excellent sources of antioxidants, dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Because of their all-round qualities, dieticians and nutritionists often recommend them to be included in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.
The antioxidants present in tomatoes are scientifically found to be protective against cancers including colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic tumors.
Lycopene, a flavonoid antioxidant, is the unique phytochemical present in the tomatoes. Red varieties are especially concentrated in this antioxidant. Together with carotenoids, it has the ability to protect cells and other structures in the body from harmful oxygen free radicals. Studies have shown that lycopene prevents skin damage from ultra-violet (UV) rays and offers protection from skin cancer.
- Zeaxanthin is another flavonoid compuond present abundantly in this vegetable. Zeaxanthin helps protect eyes from "age related macular disease" (ARMD) in the elderly persons by filtering harmful ultra-violet rays.
The vegetable contains very good levels of vitamin A, and flvonoid anti-oxidants such as ? and ß-carotenes, xanthins and lutein. Altogether, these pigment compounds are found to have antioxidant properties and are take part in vision, maintain healthy mucus membranes and skin, and bone health. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in flavonoids is known to help protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
In addition, they are also good source of antioxidant vitamin-C (provide 21% of recommended daily levels per 100 g); consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful free radicals.
Fresh tomato is very rich in potassium. 100 g contain 237 mg of potassium and just 5 mg of sodium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure caused by sodium.
They contain moderate amounts of many vital B-complex vitamins such as folates, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin as well some essential minerals like iron, calcium, manganese and other trace elements.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.2 g||0.7%|
|Dietary Fiber||1.2 g||3%|
|Vitamin A||833 IU||28%|
|Vitamin C||13 mg||21.5%|
|Vitamin E||0.54 mg||4%|
|Vitamin K||7.9 µg||6.5%|
Selection and storage
Fresh ripe fruits feature attractively bright red color and have rich fruity flavor. In the markets, buy fresh, firm, uniform sized fruits. Avoid those with wrinkle surface, discolored spots, cuts and too soft and mushy.
Firm, yellow fruits can be placed in cool, dark place at room temperature for 2-3 days. However, ripe tomatoes are one of the easily perishable vegetables and should be stored in the refrigerator. Use them while they are fresh to obtain full benefits of vitamins and antioxidants.
Preparation and serving methods
Pests are common in tomatoes. Hybrid varieties are usually subjected to insecticide spray. Therefore, wash them thoroughly in the cold running water in order to remove dust, soil and any residual insecticide/fungicides.
Tomatoes are generally cut in to small cubes after discarding stem and top calyx end.
Here are some serving tips:
They are used extensively in cooking especially in Mediterranean, Greek, Italian, Southeast Asian, and East European cuisine.
Raw ones have extra acidic taste, but when mixed with other ingredients while cooking gives wonderful flavor and rich taste.
Regular as well as cherry tomatoes are one of the popular items in salad preparations.
Fresh tomato juices as well as its soup are increasingly becoming popular health-drinks all across the world. Organic varieties contain 3 times as much lycopene as non-organic.
Unripe green tomatoes are used much similar way like other raw vegetables to prepare curry, stews and to make "chutney" in some Indian subcontinent region.
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