Tomatoes are a common type of household produce that come in many varieties. They can be eaten plain or used in cooking, such as added to salads or sandwiches, used as a sauce or soup base, or in a number of other dishes. Tomato is a perennial plant, but it is often cultivated as an annual in temperate climates. It’s thought to originate from South America's Andean region but today is grown in a wide variety of areas, including parts of the United States. Tomatoes are both considered a fruit and a vegetable, and in some cases is even considered a berry.1 Tomatoes come in multiple sizes and colors and can be purchased at your local grocery store or consumed in a variety of tomato-based products.
Tomato Uses and Health Benefits
Tomatoes are packed with so many nutrients that they’ve been called a “superfood.”2 Just some of the nutrients tomatoes are rich in include vitamins A, C, B, and E, potassium, lutein, zeaxanthin, phosphorus, and manganese. Tomatoes also feature a carotenoid antioxidant called lycopene, which gives fruits and vegetables their red color. However, other colored tomatoes, such as orange tomatoes, also contain lycopene. Studies show that lycopene acts as a powerful antioxidant, which can reduce the risk of stroke and cancer. Lycopene has also been linked to bone health, and studies show that higher intake of tomato-based products may help in lowering cardiovascular disease risk.2,3,4 Other tomato benefits include for:
- Prostate Cancer - With their strong antioxidant properties, tomatoes can help in treating prostate cancer.
- Obesity - Several studies have shown that diets containing tomatoes have been linked to lower rates of obesity.
- Prostatitis - Prostatitis is another prostate-related medical issue that tomatoes may help fight.
- Scars - Topical application of tomatoes are believed to help reduce scars.
Tomato Side Effects and Precautions
The tomato fruit is generally considered safe. However, eating too many tomatoes can lead to tomato side effects like acid reflux, stomach pain, and gas.5 Do not eat the leaves of the tomato plant, and be sure to take special precautions when preparing or canning tomatoes. Tomato side effects can also include allergic reaction in some people, which can cause skin rash, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, coughing, or wheezing.6 Talk to your doctor about tomato uses if you plan to start on a tomato diet to treat a medical condition.