Tomato: Important Facts, Health Benefits, and Recipes

Explore the health benefits of tomatoes, their nutritional information, and various cuisines that include them, along with storage tips and potential side effects.

What Is a Tomato?

The tomato is a fruit from the nightshade family and is native to South America. It is considered a fruit because fruits are formed from flowers and have seeds. Tomatoes are usually red when ripe, but can also come in a variety of colors, including yellow, orange, green, and purple.

Are Tomatoes Good For You?

Tomatoes are very good for you! Tomatoes provide antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

8 Health Benefits Of Tomatoes

1. Tomatoes are a good source of several vitamins and minerals:

  • Vitamin C: an essential nutrient and antioxidant.
  • Potassium: beneficial for blood pressure control and heart disease prevention
  • Vitamin K1: is important for blood clotting and bone health
  • Folate (vitamin B9): is important for normal tissue growth and cell function. It’s particularly important for pregnant women to prevent neural tube issues with the baby

2. Tomatoes are a good source of lycopene (a plant compound)

  • Lycopene provides the red pigment to a tomato and is an antioxidant
  • Lycopene is found in the highest concentrations in the tomato’s skin

3. Tomatoes may be good for heart health

  • ​​Lycopene also may help lower your levels of LDL , or “bad” cholesterol, as well as your blood pressure, which may lower your chances of heart disease.
  • Other nutrients in tomatoes (vitamins B and E) and flavonoids (antioxidants), may boost your heart health, too.

4. Tomatoes may help with the immune system

  • Lycopene (antioxidant) attacks free radicals that can damage our cells and affect our immune system.

5. Tomatoes may help with eye health

  • Tomatoes have beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin that help protect our eyes from diseases like macular degeneration and eye strain from computer screens

6. Tomatoes may help keep our blood vessels healthy

  • Studies suggest that tomatoes may ease inflammation, boost our immune system, lower our cholesterol levels, and keep our blood from clotting, which all may help prevent strokes

7. Tomatoes may help our skin health

  • Tomato-based foods may protect our skin against sunburn because of the lycopene

8. Some studies have shown links between tomatoes and reduced risk of prostate cancer

History, Background About General Facts Tomatoes

  • The exact date of tomato domestication is unknown; by 500 BC, it was being cultivated by the Aztecs in southern Mexico .
  • The wild ancestor of the tomato is native to western South America. These wild versions were the size of peas. Aztecs were the first to have domesticated the fruit and used in their cooking.
  • The Pueblo people are thought to have believed that those who witnessed the ingestion of tomato seeds were blessed with powers of divination .
  • The Spanish first introduced tomatoes to Europe, where they became used in Spanish food.
  • In France, Italy and northern Europe, the tomato was initially grown as an ornamental plant.
  • Tomatoes were regarded with suspicion in Northern Europe because botanists recognized it as a nightshade , a relative of the poisonous belladonna . Tomatoes also reacted with pewter plates, causing a chemical reaction that made people ill.
  • People who ate food from plates made of wood did not experience the toxic reaction that people who ate from pewter, and therefore did not have an aversion to tomatoes.
  • There is a story that there was a pizza created by one restaurateur in Naples to celebrate the visit of Queen Margarite, the first Italian monarch since Napoleon conquered Italy. The restaurateur made the pizza from three ingredients that represented the colors of the new Italian flag: red (tomato sauce), white (cheese), and green (basil): Pizza Margarite
  • With people traveling, the tomato was adopted in many other countries like India, China, Philippines, and the Middle East.
  • It appears though that tomatoes have had the largest impact on American eating habits, as we eat over 12 million tons of tomatoes each year.

What Are The Cuisines That Regularly Include Tomatoes?

  • Italian - pasta sauce, Caprese salad
  • Mexican - salsa, salad
  • Spanish - pan con tomate (bread with tomato), gazpacho
  • French - tomato omelette
  • American - ketchup, pizza sauce, fried green tomatoes
  • Indian - biryani, saag paneer, umpa
  • West African - stews
  • Nigerian - chicken stew
  • Middle Eastern - shakshouka
  • Portugese - arroz de tomato (tomato rice)
  • Chinese - stir-fried tomatoes and eggs

What Is The Best Way To Store Tomatoes?

Tomatoes keep best if unwashed at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. Refrigerating them could decrease the flavor and quality. Tomatoes that are not yet ripe can be kept in a paper bag until they become ripe.

Toxicity and Side Effects Of Tomatoes

Tomatoes are generally regarded as safe to eat and tomato allergy is very rare. People allergic to grass pollen are more likely to be allergic to tomatoes. Some people are sensitive to plants in the nightshade family, which tomatoes are part of. If you have a sensitivity to this family, then maybe avoid or limit tomatoes.

Are Tomatoes a Fruit or a Vegetable?

Tomatoes are technically classified as a fruit. Botanically speaking, a fruit is the mature ovary of a flowering plant, typically containing seeds. In the case of tomatoes, they develop from the ovary of the tomato flower and contain seeds. Therefore, from a botanical standpoint, tomatoes qualify as fruits.

However, tomatoes are often referred to as vegetables in culinary contexts and everyday language. This is because they are commonly used in savory dishes and have a lower sugar content compared to other fruits. In 1893, a Supreme Court ruling in the United States even classified tomatoes as a vegetable for the purposes of taxation, further solidifying the colloquial classification.

So while tomatoes are scientifically classified as a fruit, they are often regarded and used as a vegetable in cooking and general conversation.

Nutritional Facts
1 medium whole
Amount per serving
4.8 g
0.2 g
1.1 g
Saturated Fat
0 g
6.2 mg
1.5 g
3.2 g