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The health benefits of Tomatoes

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By: Mohammad Hanief

Tomatoes have a wide range of beneficial effects due to the presence of a number of nutrients. They are rich in anti-oxidants that have anti-carcinogenic properties. Consumption of tomatoes helps to improve digestion and blood circulation, reduce cholesterol levels in blood, detoxify body, prevent premature aging, improve fluid balance and reduce inflammation. This vegetable also prevents diabetes, skin problems and urinary tract infections and helps to improve eyesight and stomach health. It even works to reduce blood sugar levels.

Tomatoes are grown in abundance both in the summer and winter seasons in India. The crop grown in the winter is of superior quality because they contain more total solids. The tomato paste retains all of the flavour, sweetness, and nutrients in the fresh fruits. The tomato processing industry in India is equipped with state of the art manufacturing facilities and advanced technology.

Around 80% of the tomatoes are consumed fresh and 20% are employed in the processing to make tomato paste, puree, ketchup, pickles, juices and sauces. Tomato paste is a smooth thick substance manufactured by processing fresh and ripened tomatoes. Tomato paste is a raw material for manufacturing tomato processed products. The sauce and ketchup sector is the major user of tomato paste.

There are more than 1500 varieties of tomatoes cultivated in India. Only a few varieties are commercially cultivated. India is the second-largest producer of tomatoes, producing 20 million tomatoes every year. India contributes to 11% of the world’s total tomato production.  However, India processes only 150000 tonnes of tomatoes annually. India’s demand for tomato processed products has surged by 40%. India’s annual ketchup consumption is estimated to be 150000 tonnes with a valuation of 1.8 billion.

Though many countries produce tomato paste, the ten largest producing countries account for 83% of the world’s yearly production. China is the largest producer of tomatoes followed by India, Turkey, and the United States. The tomato is also cultivated in the Northern hemisphere and processed in the months of July and December. The southern hemisphere region’s production is between January and June. Brazil is the only country in the Southern hemisphere that processes one million tons per year at the same season as the Northern hemisphere.

Tomato or Solanum lycopersium is generally categorized as a vegetable even if technically it is a fruit. It is the berry of a plant from the nightshade family and is native to South America. Tomatoes not only add flavor to your food but also benefits your health due to the presence of essential nutrients. It grows in clusters of small to moderate size and round, red fruits. The flesh of this vegetable is soft and pinkish red and it tastes a bit sweet. It is a pertinent part of the cuisine of different cultures across the world and particularly so in the Mediterranean region.

Tomatoes also contain several essential vitamins and minerals that support body systems, including the immune system and your bones and blood. Small amounts of fluoride, folate, vitamin A, vitamin K, and beta-carotene can be found in raw tomatoes.

The water content in tomato is 95% while the rest 5 % consists of carbohydrates and fiber. Tomatoes contain good quantities of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin K while other vitamins like vitamin B6, folate and thiamine are also present. Minerals like potassium, manganese, magnesium, copper and phosphorus are present in tomatoes. This vegetable also contains dietary fiber and protein and a number of other organic compounds like lycopene which are extremely beneficial for our health.

Tomatoes are rich in Vitamin C and other anti-oxidants that act against the harmful free radicals in our body that can cause cancer. Tomatoes contain polyphenol which is a plant compound and it is effective in preventing prostate cancer. The beta-carotenes in tomatoes also have anti-carcinogenic effects.

Smoking can cause lung cancer. Including tomatoes in your diet plan will help to prevent this dangerous illness due to the abundance of Vitamin A. Nitrosamines are the main carcinogens that are present in cigarettes. Coumaric acid and chlorogenic acid, found in tomatoes, help to offset the harmful effects of these carcinogens.

Consumption of tomatoes is good for your heart due to the presence of fiber, choline, Vitamin C and potassium. Maintaining a high potassium to sodium ratio is instrumental in prevention of cardiovascular diseases. The fiber content in this vegetable regulates the homocysteine levels in blood. Excess homocysteine can lead to higher risks of heart attacks and strokes. Regular intake of tomatoes helps to reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol in blood and thus protect us from cardiovascular diseases.

Vitamin A is a powerful anti-oxidant that acts against the harmful free radicals which can cause damage to our eyes. Thus Vitamin A helps to guard against macular degeneration and night blindness and improves our vision in general.

A deficiency of Vitamin C can be bad for your skin as it becomes vulnerable to damage from sunlight, pollution and smoke. Your skin might develop wrinkles, or you may have sagging skin full of blemishes. Vitamin C prevents these conditions from developing as it facilitates the production of collagen which is an essential component of skin, hair, nails and connective tissue.

Tomatoes contain healthy amounts of fiber which add bulk to the stool and thereby ensures its smooth movement through the digestive tract. This prevents constipation and other complications. The fiber content helps to release gastric and digestive juices and even helps to stimulate the peristaltic motion in the smooth digestive muscles. This helps to regulate bowel movements and prevent conditions like colorectal cancer.

The effect of tomatoes on diabetes is two-fold. People suffering from Type-1 diabetes have lower blood sugar levels when they consume high fiber products like tomatoes. On the other hand, people with Type 2 diabetes experience an increase in blood sugar, insulin and lipids on consuming the same vegetable.

Tomatoes contain potassium which is a vasodilator which reduces pressure in blood vessels and arteries. This helps to increase blood circulation and this lowers stress on your heart and so eliminates the risks of hypertension.

Tomato has diuretic properties which facilitate the formation of urine in our body. This helps to eliminate the toxic substances as well as excess water, salts and uric acid. This reduces the incidence of ailments like urinary tract infections and bladder cancer.

Incorporating tomatoes in your diet will help prevent occurrence of gallstones. This is due to the presence of a number of essential vitamins, minerals and proteins in this vegetable.

The fruit, leaf and vine of tomato are used to make to medicine. Tomato juice acts as an astringent and helps improve facial texture. Application of tomato juice on your skin helps to make it oil-free and helps to keep it fresh for longer. This vegetable is also an important ingredient in beauty treatments and can treat acne, sunburn and dull skin. Tomatoes also help to improve hair health. Tomatoes are pertinent fixtures in the cuisines of many countries. They can be had raw or cooked in a wide variety of ways. They are widely used in the preparation of salads and sauces.

Too much consumption of tomatoes can cause tomato leaf poisoning in some people. A few symptoms of this poisoning are irritation of throat and mouth, dizziness and it may sometimes even cause death. Due to their acidic nature, too much consumption of tomatoes might cause acid reflux. Tomatoes not grown organically might have the high levels of pesticide residue. Tomatoes contain potassium and high potassium levels in blood can impair kidney function. So it is advisable to consume tomatoes in moderation.

(The author can be mailed at [email protected])

 


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