Tomatoes are a superfood that contain several vitamins and nutrients that promote health. Here are 5 key nutrients present in canned tomatoes that pack a powerful nutrition punch.
When you think of the word superfood what comes to mind? Is it a tomato? Tomatoes are such a commonly eaten food filled with so much nutritional power, yet you may not think of them as a superfood. Not only are tomatoes packed with flavor, but they are also filled with important nutrients that are vital for overall health. Let’s unpack what science has to say about some of these key nutrients.
- Lycopene. Lycopene belongs to a class of compounds called carotenoids, and are powerful antioxidants that promote skin health, protect against certain cancers, and decrease the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, but heat during the cooking process makes the lycopene even more bioavailable to our bodies, which makes canned and cooked tomato products an excellent choice.
- Beta-carotene. This is a phytochemical that is converted to retinol in the body which then becomes vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for supporting eye health and protects against cataracts and macular degeneration.
- Vitamin C. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is an antioxidant that can prevent oxidative stress. Additionally, it increases non-heme iron absorption from plant sources, while also preventing the iron inhibiting effects of calcium.
- Vitamin K. This is a fat soluble vitamin that is important for protein production. These proteins are necessary for the formation of blood clots, and the prevention of bone loss. Vitamin K has also been shown to protect against heart disease.
- Fiber. This nutrient has so many benefits, yet many people don’t get enough in their diets. Most know that fiber can promote bowel health and encourage regular bowel movements. However, it also can lower cholesterol levels, control blood glucose levels, and help maintain a healthy weight.
Tomato products should be a staple in every kitchen pantry. Not only are they quick and convenient, they contain many nutrients that promote health! So, what are you waiting for? The next time you’re at the store go ahead and grab a can (or three) of some canned tomato products to use in the kitchen this week.
Need some recipe inspiration? Try out some of our favorites:
Shakshuka Pita Pizzas
Curried Veggie Rice Bowl
Swiss Chard Pecan Lasagna
Tomatoes (and their canned varieties) are one of the most versatile produce items available, and while they are beloved by many, there may be some things that you didn’t know about them. From their origin to classification, here are some fun facts about tomatoes.
5 fun facts about tomatoes
Tomatoes originated in South America.
Researchers have recently discovered a tomato plant that originated 80,000 years ago. By using genetic testing, they were able to trace it back to Ecuador and determined it was a wild variety that produced a cherry sized fruit. Around 7,000 years ago the plant was domesticated and it evolved into the tomatoes we are familiar with today (1).
Tomatoes are technically a fruit.
While nobody would ever claim that tomatoes are as sweet a melon or berry, botanically they are classified as a fruit. Tomatoes contain seeds which puts them in the fruit category, along with cucumbers, peppers, squash, and many more. However, to make things more confusing, in 1893 the US Supreme Court ruled that they are in fact a vegetable (2).
There are more than 10,000 varieties of tomatoes.
Beyond the various sizes (grape, cherry, plum, and beefsteak), there are many different varieties that are grown in a wide range of conditions. Heirloom tomatoes have been around for a long time and are considered pure (ie. no crossbreeding). Others have been crossbred to grow in small spaces or regions that have shorter growing seasons (3).
Tomatoes aren’t always red.
With so many varieties, it should come as no surprise that there would be different colors of tomatoes. They can be yellow, purple, green, orange, or white. In fact, some of the first tomatoes to arrive in Europe were a yellow variety that were referred to as golden apples (3).
Tomatoes have been to space.
Scientists sent tomato seeds to the International Space Station to grow in the Advanced Plant Habitat. They wanted to determine if they could grow and thrive for longer space missions. Along with this study, NASA scientists created a program where students can grow seeds that have been to space and report their findings back to the researchers (4).
Can’t get enough of tomatoes? Check out some of these recipes:
Walnut and Mushroom Ragu
Sausage Tortellini Soup
Greek Style Braised Eggplant
- The history of tomatoes: How a tropical became a global crop. University of Illinois Extension. (2022). Retrieved from https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/garden-scoop/2020-07-25-history-tomatoes-how-tropical-became-global-crop.
- Is a Tomato a Fruit or a Vegetable?. The Spruce Eats. (2022). Retrieved from https://www.thespruceeats.com/tomato-vegetable-or-fruit-1807061.
- Vegetable Tomato Varieties. GardenersNet.Com. Retrieved from https://www.gardenersnet.com/vegetable/tomatovarieties.htm.
- Astronauts might soon grow SPACE tomatoes. Phys.org. Retrieved from https://phys.org/news/2019-04-astronauts-space-tomatoes.html.
Could the secret to glowing, healthy skin be sitting in your kitchen pantry? Read on to learn more about what science has to say about lycopene and skin health.
Canned (and jarred) tomatoes are full of bioactive compounds such as polyphenols, carotenoids (like lycopene), and other vitamins. While some can be isolated and taken as a supplement, they are most effective when they come directly from foods. In their most natural form, the compounds work together, and have been shown to protect and promote healthy skin (1).
Lycopene has antioxidative properties, and while tomatoes contain a high concentration of this carotenoid, heating them during canning increases the bioavailability. In the body, the highest concentration of lycopene is found in the skin tissues, and studies have shown that regular consumption of lycopene rich foods such as tomato products can increase the serum lycopene levels as well as procollagen I. These studies also indicated a decrease in mitochondrial DNA damage (1). Beyond lycopene, tomatoes also contain vitamins A, C, and E, which decrease inflammation and protect from UV light.
Looking for ways to get that healthy glow with tomato products? Check out these recipes:
Greek Style Braised Eggplant
Crockpot Chicken Burrito Bowl
One Pan Chicken Cacciatore
- Fam, V., Charoenwoodhipong, P., Sivamani, R., Holt, R., Keen, C., & Hackman, R. (2022). Plant-Based Foods for Skin Health: A Narrative Review. Journal Of The Academy Of Nutrition And Dietetics, 122(3), 614-629. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2021.10.024