Vitamin Expert

The nutritional benefits of tomatoes

It’s British Tomato Fortnight at the end of the month, celebrating the exceptional quality and flavours of British homegrown tomatoes. And the timing also aligns with the peak tomato-growing season. The event hopes to raise awareness of British growers but it’s also the perfect time to acknowledge the amazing nutritional benefits of tomatoes.  Interestingly, they are technically a fruit not a vegetable and are also known as the ‘Apple of Love’.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares four great reasons to love tomatoes.

Nutritional powerhouses

In a time when we know that nutrient deficiencies are widespread across all sectors of the population, the need for nutrient dense foods has never been greater. Tomatoes completely fit the bill in that respect.

They are a very good source of immune-boosting vitamin C, one of our busiest vitamins. They also contain the B-vitamin biotin, often called the beauty vitamin because of its beneficial effects on hair and skin, plus heart loving vitamin E and potassium. Additionally, tomatoes are rich in vitamin K, needed to prevent blood clots. Indeed, they have a wide and varied nutritional profile.

Tomatoes come in a range of colours – red, orange, or yellow – and whilst all colours have nutritional merits, it’s red tomatoes that deliver on all fronts.

Rich in antioxidants

Whilst tomatoes are rich in conventional antioxidants including vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and manganese, it’s the carotenoids that really deliver antioxidant power. There has been much research carried out on the carotenoids that are abundant in tomatoes, namely lycopene, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

It is specifically lycopene that has been found to have wonderful benefits for heart health. It appears that lycopene can help reduce levels of harmful fats in the blood, a major cause of cardiovascular issues.  Tomatoes can help reduce levels of cholesterol, an accumulation of which is a major cause of atherosclerosis, where the arteries become blocked and harden.

Lycopene has also been much studied in relation to male prostate health, again with very positive outcomes. Huge quantities of tomatoes don’t need to be consumed to gain some real benefits.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are relative newcomers in research terms, but they have both been found to be very protective of eye health, specifically, macular degeneration.

May help prevent sun damage

It seems the health benefits of tomatoes just keep on coming. Whilst eating plenty of tomatoes doesn’t negate using sun cream, it seems that lycopene does have a protective effect against UV sun damage.

As a powerful antioxidant, lycopene

will most likely help prevent the ageing effects of the sun rather than stopping actual sun burn.  Either way, anything that helps prevent skin damage is going to be welcomed.

They are delicious!

The carotenoids are fat-soluble nutrients which are best absorbed with other fats, and the Italians certainly know how to get the best out of tomatoes by eating them with olive oil.  Interestingly, lycopene is very well absorbed when tomatoes are made into a sauce or paste that contains some olive oil.

So, why not give a nod to the Italians by cooking a delicious tomato risotto? It contains chopped tinned tomatoes together with cherry tomatoes, olive oil, vegetable stock, risotto rice, Parmesan cheese, garlic, onions, and rosemary.  Indeed, everything that is wonderful and deliciously nutritious about the typical Italian diet.

Let’s celebrate the nutritional benefits of tomatoes and also the amazing British growers that provide this healthy food for us all!

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