Often considered a vegetable and identified with Italian food, the tomato actually is a fruit in the citrus family. Botanically, it is known as Lycopersicon Esculentum. Native to the western coast of South America, tomatoes originated in the Andes region of Chile, Colombia, Bolivia and Peru. Then the tomato plant was introduced to Europe when Spanish colonists returned from their discovery of the New World in the early 1600s. Nowadays, the typical American eats plenty of this fruit and it is commonly found in home grown gardens. The tomato can be used in salads, dressing recipes, juices, sauces or veggie dishes. It is often used to dress up sandwiches. Adding it to salads or sandwiches is an easy way to get more vitamins into your system.
Tomatoes are a powerhouse of special flavonoids and phytonutrients that Mother Nature has outfitted to possess many curative benefits, including anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties. They also happen to be a potent source of phytochemicals such as lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Promotes optimal health
The tomato exhibits strong antioxidant characteristics. An antioxidant is a molecule that hinders a chemical reaction of other molecules called oxidation. Oxidation produces free radicals that can damage or kill a cell. Consuming fresh tomatoes on a regular basis will help give you a healthy level of antioxidants. Don’t forget to eat the peel, too. It contains plenty of valuable bioflavonoids and other anti-cancer agents. It’s amazing to think there is medicine in your food!
One very effective bioflavonoid that acts like medicine is called naringenin. This substance can be found in all citrus fruits, including the tomato peel. Mike Adams of naturalnews.com shares that studies conclude naringenin from citrus flavonoids has the ability to repair DNA damage that may lead to cancer. A study in the Journal of Diabetes found this bioflavonoid can fuel the liver to burn more fat and has returned obese mice to their normal weights. The research team is interested in performing clinical trial tests to learn if naringenin has the same effects on humans.
Another significant phytochemical found in tomatoes is lycopene. This cartenoid typically is responsible for the bright colors of fruits and vegetables and gives the tomato its deep red shade. The phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin found in tomatoes are cartenoid antioxidants responsible for plant pigmentation and keeping the eyes protected from oxidative stress.
This essential nutrient keeps us healthy as it accounts for about 300 biochemical reactions in the body and helps absorb phosphorous. The benefits of magnesium are endless. Magnesium plays an essential role in the body, from proper transmission of nerve impulses and regulation of body temperature and detoxification to energy production. It also is vital for the healthy formation of bones and teeth. Magnesium intake can relieve symptoms of PMS and aids in the body’s assimilation of calcium. Magnesium also works to prevent osteoporosis, insomnia, constipation, heart attacks, hypertension, migraines, kidney stones and gallstones. Eat tomatoes to get some magnesium into your system and reduce the risks of these ailments.
Calcium is the most familiar mineral in the body but it also can be lost every day via urine and feces. The body replenishes the lost calcium easily from your diet, so eat your tomatoes for a good source of this nutrient. Calcium is necessary for building and maintaining strong bones. It is essential for blood clotting, muscle contraction, and nerve impulse transmission. The heart’s nerves and muscles also require ample calcium supplies to carry out their tasks properly.
Calcium cannot build strong bones and tissues without the help of phosphorous. Phosphorus is an abundant mineral in the body, found mostly in the bones. Its main function is building strong bones and teeth. However, this mineral is drawn upon by almost every cell in the body for protecting and strengthening cell membranes. Health experts understand proper amounts of phosphorous can help boost energy levels and make you more alert.
Potassium to Protect Heart and Kidney Functions
Potassium is a mineral fundamental for many organs in the body to work properly — especially the heart and kidneys. Low levels of potassium consumption are linked with a risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, cancer, digestive orders and infertility. Luckily, potassium can be derived naturally from foods such as bananas, avocados, nuts, leafy green veggies, potatoes, oranges and, of course, tomatoes.
Contains Trace Mineral Copper
Copper is a trace mineral that is the most abundant in the body next to zinc and iron. Copper’s antioxidant properties remove free radicals hence, protecting damage to cells. Copper has many benefits for the body, including a prominent role in cardiovascular health. From regulating cholesterol levels to controlling blood clot formation, copper is necessary to create an enzyme that prevents hardening of the arteries. Copper aids the body in manufacturing melanin, a skin pigment that gives color to skin, eyes and hair. According to vitaminstuff.com, using copper supplements may reverse the hair graying process.
Rich in Vitamins A, B, C, E and K and Fights Free Radical Damage
The tomato is a good source of many vitamins that are beneficial to your immune system. Vitamin A works hard to battle the free radicals that cause illnesses ranging from colds to even cancer. Vitamin A fights at the cellular level, allowing the skin and mucous membranes to stop viruses and bacteria from entering the body. Vitamin A also is effective at regulating the immune system and keeping skin infections at bay.
Vitamin B commonly is known as thiamin. It is responsible for turning carbohydrates into the daily energy we need. It also is important for nervous system and muscle functions. Vitamin B in the appropriate amounts will alleviate stress, treat anxiety and depression, help memory, relieve PMS and reduce heart disease risk! The Vitamin B complex has 11 components.
Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, protecting your body’s skin cells from free radical damage. Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant in the body that deactivates free radicals and prevents damage both inside and outside the cells. Free radical damage can result in excruciating inflammation. Vitamin C strives to prevent free radical damage that triggers this inflammation. Vitamin C is associated with relief from inflammatory conditions such as asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Regular consumption of vitamin C delays the development of hardening of the arteries. It also boosts the production of two of the skin’s most important proteins, collagen and elastin.
Vitamin E is not naturally occurring in the body and must be obtained by diet or supplement. Most of its health benefits stem from its antioxidant properties that improve skin, hair and the immune system. Vitamin E also reduces cholesterol, reduces cancer risk, prevents blood platelets from clumping and reduces heart disease risk.
Vitamin K is crucial for maintenance of your bones’ density and strength.
It’s imperative to note that eating tomatoes may increase your overall levels of the above nutrients, but it’s not likely to cure a disease when consumed on its own. However, incorporating tomatoes into your regular diet will promote the outlined curative effects of the nutrients found in them by strengthening and boosting the body’s own natural defense mechanisms.
Try These Delicious Tomato Recipes from Mimi’s Organic Corner
Because I love organic food and pursue an eco-friendly lifestyle, I suggest using certified organic ingredients in all of your food recipes, when available, to maximize flavors and nutrition. It also will minimize your risk of exposure to pesticides, chemicals and preservatives.
Grilled Tomatoes with Basil Vinaigrette — This recipe combines red and orange tomatoes along with olive oil, salt pepper, balsamic vinegar, and basil. Cut the tomatoes and thread them onto skewers, alternating the colors. Grill at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, then brush with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Combine oil and vinegar, chopped basil and drizzle over the skewer.
Tomato and Herb Crostini — A French baguette works best with this recipe, cut into ¼ inch slices. Combine olive oil, crushed garlic cloves, lemon juice, salt, pepper, finely chopped tomatoes and green onions along with parsley, mint and crumbled feta cheese. Spread this mixture over toasted French baguette slices, garnish with fresh mint and serve cold.
Chopped Israeli Salad — Go Mediterranean! Chop cucumbers and tomatoes, top with hemp oil, cumin salt and pepper and garnish with mint leaves, cilantro or basil.
Garlic & Herbs Baked Cherry Tomatoes — Slice a bunch of cherry tomatoes in half. Toss in coconut oil, salt, pepper, chopped fresh garlic and basil. Sprinkle with dried Italian herbs and bake on a greased baking dish at 375 degrees for one hour. Use this to top quinoa, orzo or pasta. Use in omelettes, on a sandwich or as a side to poultry meat or fish.