FOOD FOR THOUGHT: HEALTH FUNCTIONS OF TOMATOES

Tomatoes: One of the World's Healthiest Food


Description
The tomato is the fruit of the plant Lycopersicon lycopersicum and is a member of the Solanaceae, or Nightshade family. The name that this fruit was given in various languages reflects some of the history and mystery surrounding it. Lycopersicon means "wolf peach" in Latin and refers to the former belief that, like a wolf, this fruit was dangerous. The French call it pomme d'amour, meaning "love apple," since they believed it to have aphrodisiacal qualities, while the Italians call it pomodoro or "golden apple," owing to the fact that the first known species with which they were familiar may have been yellow in color.
Regardless of its name, the tomato is a wonderfully popular and versatile food that comes in over a thousand different varieties that vary in shape, size and color. There are small cherry tomatoes, bright yellow tomatoes, Italian pear-shaped tomatoes, and the green tomato, famous for its fried preparation in Southern American cuisine.
Only the fruits of this plant are eaten since the leaves contain toxic alkaloids. Tomatoes have fleshy internal segments filled with slippery seeds surrounded by a watery matrix. They can be red, yellow, orange, green, purple, or brown in color.
Although tomatoes are fruits in a botanical sense, they don't have the dessert quality sweetness of other fruits. Instead they have a subtle sweetness that is complemented by a slightly bitter and acidic taste. They are prepared and served like other vegetables, which is why they are often categorized as such. Cooking tempers the acid and bitter qualities in tomatoes and brings out their warm, rich, sweetness.
Canned, bottled tomatoes and tomato products are available year round. "Processed Tomatoes" are minimally processed. The tomatoes are picked at peak ripeness, and then cooked and canned or bottled, much like our grandmothers used to do. The variety of tomato used in tomato products is a Roma tomato.
Like other varieties, Roma tomatoes have fleshy internal segments filled with slippery seeds surrounded by a watery matrix.  Although tomatoes are fruits in a botanical sense, they don't have the dessert quality sweetness of other fruits. Instead, they have a subtle sweetness that is complemented by a slightly bitter and acidic taste. Cooking tempers the acid and bitter qualities in tomatoes and brings out their warm, rich, sweetness.
Nutritional Profile
Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin K. They are also a very good source of molybdenum, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, chromium, and vitamin B1. In addition, tomatoes are a good source of vitamin B6, folate, copper, niacin, vitamin B2, magnesium, iron, pantothenic acid, phosphorous, vitamin E and protein. In addition, tomatoes are a very good source of fiber, which has been shown to lower high cholesterol levels, keep blood sugar levels from getting too high, and help prevent colon cancer. A cup of fresh tomato will provide you with 57.3% of the daily value for vitamin C, plus 22.4% of the DV for vitamin A, and 7.9% of the DV for fiber.
More good news for those at risk of atherosclerosis, or just trying to avoid it, is that tomatoes are a very good source of potassium and a good source of niacin, vitamin B6, and folate. Diets rich in potassium have been shown to lower high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. Vitamin B6 and folate are both needed by the body to convert a potentially dangerous chemical called homocysteine into other, benign molecules.  All of these nutrients work together to make tomatoes a truly heart-healthy food. In a cup of tomato, you'll get 11.4% of the daily value for potassium, 5.6% of the DV for niacin, 7.0% of the DV for B6, and 6.8% of the DV for folate.
Helping You Bone Up
Tomatoes are a very good source of vitamin K. The 17.8% of the daily value for vitamin K that is found in one cup of raw tomato is important for maintaining bone health. Vitamin K1 activates osteocalcin, the major non-collagen protein in bone. Osteocalcin anchors calcium molecules inside of the bone. Therefore, without enough vitamin K1, osteocalcin levels are inadequate, and bone mineralization is impaired.
More Help against Colon Cancer, Diabetes, and Migraines
So how else can tomatoes help? The folate in tomatoes can also help to reduce the risk of colon cancer. In addition, tomatoes are a good source of riboflavin, which has been shown to be helpful for reducing the frequency of migraine attacks in those who suffer from them. A good intake of chromium, a mineral of which tomatoes are a good source, has been shown to help diabetic patients keep their blood sugar levels under control. In addition to the 6.8% of the daily value for folate already mentioned above in relation to its protective actions against cardiovascular disease, a cup of tomatoes contains 5.3% of the DV for riboflavin, and 7.5% of the DV for chromium.
Tomatoes are a great vegetable loaded with a variety of vital nutrients. They also make a wonderful addition to a heart-healthy and cancer-preventing diet. So whether it is by tomato soup, tomato sauce, tomato chunks in salad or tomato slices on a sandwich, increasing your intake of tomatoes is an excellent step towards excellent health.
Health Benefits
  • Tomatoes and Broccoli or Green Tea Team Up to Fight Prostate Cancer
  • Tomato Juices May Reduce Blood-Clotting Tendencies
  • Tomatoes have been shown to be helpful in reducing the risk of prostate cancer.
  • The lycopene in tomatoes may also provide cardiovascular benefits.
  • Tomato Juice is a Natural Anti-Inflammatory
Other health benefits of tomato include:
  • Improved pancreatic health
  • significant anti-oxidant protection
  • protection due to synergy of tomato's nutrients, not just lycopene
  • reduction in heart disease risk
A Few Quick Serving Ideas
  • Tomatoes are a great addition to bean and vegetable soups.
  • Enjoy a classic Italian salad – sliced onions, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese drizzled with olive oil.
  • Combine chopped onions, tomatoes, and chili peppers for an easy to make salsa dip.
  • Purée tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and scallions together in a food processor and season with herbs and spices of your choice to make the refreshing cold soup, gazpacho.
Allergic Reactions to Tomatoes
Although allergic reactions can occur to virtually any food, research studies on food allergy consistently report more problems with some foods than with others. It turns out that tomatoes are one of the foods most commonly associated with allergic reactions. Other foods commonly associated with allergic reactions include: cow's milk, wheat, soy, shrimp, oranges, eggs, chicken, strawberries, spinach, peanuts, pork, corn and beef. These foods do not need to be eaten in their pure, isolated form in order to trigger an adverse reaction. For example, yogurt made from cow's milk is also a common allergenic food, even though the cow's milk has been processed and fermented in order to make the yogurt. Ice cream made from cow's milk would be an equally good example.
Some of the most common symptoms for food allergies include eczema, hives, skin rash, headache, runny nose, itchy eyes, wheezing, gastrointestinal disturbances, depression, hyperactivity and insomnia. Individuals who suspect food allergy to be an underlying factor in their health problems may want to avoid commonly allergenic foods.
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