Originated in the highlands of Peru, tomatoes were first cultivated by Aztecs and were small and yellow. Tomatoes arrived in Europe at the beginning of the 16th century; however, they were mainly used as ornaments. People believed that the fruit was poisonous. It was at the beginning of the 18th century that tomatoes were introduced into cooking. By the mid of 18th century, tomatoes were mentioned in the Encyclopedia Britannica as a ‘’daily use’’ food. However, tomatoes were still not of wide usage and were mainly part of Italian and Jewish cuisine. It was not until a century later that tomatoes gained worldwide popularity, and people started to use them not only cooked but also raw.
Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene - a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage, reduce the risk of heart diseases and cancer and keep bones strong. It is a natural compound found in several vegetables and fruits such as grapefruit, papaya, watermelon, carrot, etc. In fact, this is due to this antioxidant that tomatoes get their characteristic red color as lycopene is also a natural pigment. The redder is the tomato, the higher is the amount of lycopene. Processed tomato products contain higher levels of lycopene as its amount increases when heating.
The water content of the ripe tomato is 93-95%. The remaining 5-7% are mainly fiber and carbohydrates.
1 medium-size tomato contains 18 calories of which:
Tomatoes are also packed with the following vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds:
Vitamin B9 /Folate/
Did you know that heart diseases are one of the main causes of death worldwide? Study shows that daily intake of tomatoes decreases the risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases. This is due to the exceptional antioxidant lycopene. Other essential nutrients that help protect heart health are beta-carotene, folate, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin E. These nutrients also reduce the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Thus tomatoes are a valuable component of a cardioprotective diet.
Tomatoes contain a compound called lutein, a type of vitamin related to beta-carotene and vitamin A. This vitamin is often called an “eye vitamin.” A study has shown that lutein, due to its antioxidant effect, has a beneficial effect on eye health, and its consumption helps to fight eye diseases. This vitamin also helps to protect your eye from age-related eye diseases. Together with lutein, zeaxanthin is another powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes and is good for eye health. They help to protect your eye from free radicals, blue light of computers and smartphones, as well as sunlight damage. In fact, lutein and zeaxanthin are not only found in vegetables and fruits but are also located in our retinas and lenses.
Lycopene is not only an excellent heart-protecting nutrient. This antioxidant is also associated with improving lung health. Everyday intake of tomatoes may help people with asthma and diseases related to lung function decline due to smoking. A study carried out by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health proved that adults who consume more than two tomatoes or more than three portions of fresh fruit a day had a slower decline in lung function.
Tomatoes are ranked high in the list of prebiotic foods. The fiber and antioxidants in tomatoes help increase the amount of good or healthy bacteria in the gut and fight constipation. Scientists found that tomatoes have a better effect on gut health if consumed cooked as it boosts the beneficial effect of lycopene.
Fruits and vegetables are most of the time advised consuming raw to maintain all their nutritional benefits. However, this is not always true when we are speaking about tomatoes. A study carried out by researchers from Cornell University in the US has shown that although the amount of Vitamin C in tomatoes decreases while cooking, the percentage of super-powerful antioxidant lycopene increases rapidly during the cooking process. This is because raw tomatoes have thick cell walls, and most of the lycopene is located there. During thermal processing, the walls are broken and lycopene releases, making it easier for our bodies to absorb it.
Are you looking for an easy-to-cook side dish? 5 ingredients, 30 minutes of cooking, and a delicious oven-roasted tomato dish is ready. Eat it with crusty bread or add it to pizzas, sandwiches, pasta, and salads.
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