There are many different factors to consider when deciding which type of tomato to grow. You can choose based on factors such as overall size, flavor and color, suitability for slicing, growing method and ease of maintenance. However, there is one consideration that is often overlooked – nutritional value.
If the nutritional content of tomatoes is a complete mystery to you, don’t worry! This handy guide will examine some of the nutritional components. This handy guide will look at some popular tomato varieties and help you understand the health benefits of specific tomato nutrients.
A Closer Look
Believe it or not, not all tomatoes are created equal. Each variety has its own nutritional profile and therefore different benefits. Here’s a closer look at nine popular heirloom varieties and one traditional grocery shop hybrid.
Deciphering the Color Wheel
Colour can be an important indicator of the nutritional content of a particular tomato variety. The color can give you a general idea of how dense certain nutrients are in the tomatoes you choose.
You may want to consider growing several different colors to take advantage of all the nutritional benefits that each color can provide – plus you can achieve a range of flavors by using them. There are four main categories of tomato color.
1. Red and pink tomatoes
Because they are the most common, you may think that red tomatoes have the best nutritional value. A popular belief is that the deep red color signifies that a tomato has high levels of lycopene; however, this isn’t always accurate. While the lycopene in these tomatoes may be high, it is not as effectively absorbed by our bodies because it is actually trans-lycopene. As for other nutrients, red and pink tomatoes have average levels compared to some other colors.
However, you shouldn’t avoid eating them. Red and pink tomatoes are still an excellent source of key nutrients such as lycopene, vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium.
and potassium. These colors are great for salads and sauces, as well as other dishes.
2. Yellow and orange tomatoes
As far as yellow and orange tomatoes are concerned, the theory of light versus dark colors definitely applies. Compared to their red cousins, yellow and orange tomatoes are less sweet and less acidic, and are characterized by a lower content of the compound lycopene. However, they are a rich source of vitamin C and potassium – similar to other colored tomatoes.
They are great to add to soups and salads due to their signature sweetness.
3. Green tomatoes
Green tomatoes are unique when it comes to their nutritional profile. When it comes to vitamin C and potassium, their levels are very similar to those of a typical red tomato. However, the levels of vitamin A are very low and lycopene is almost non-existent.
Of the other colors on this list, green tomatoes are less nutritious, but they have a lot to offer in terms of flavor and color. They are a great addition to salsas and salads. You could also try cooking some fried green tomatoes.
4. Black, brown and purple tomatoes
If green tomatoes are lightweights, then purple, brown and black tomatoes are definitely heavyweights. The nutritional value of these dark tomatoes greatly exceeds that of all other colored varieties. These colors provide high levels of lycopene, vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium, so they are nutritionally complete compared to the lighter colors.
Black, brown and purple tomatoes are also full of flavor and often have a surprisingly sweet taste. These colors of tomato will create unique sauces, salads and desserts.
Breaking Down Nutrients
As mentioned above, tomatoes are an important source of many nutrients. Further, every tomato has different densities of these nutrients.
While we all know that nutrients are important and we want to have a lot of them, do we really understand what they do for us? Take a look at what each of these vital nutrients can do for your health.
The most abundant compound found in tomatoes, lycopene is likely the first thing that comes to mind when you consider tomato nutrients. Lycopene is a carotenoid pigment that is typically associated with red foods such as tomatoes and a few other fruits including watermelon – though tomatoes and tomato products are a much denser source.
For example, watermelon, on average, has only two-thirds the amount of lycopene than tomatoes do in a serving. Lycopene is also a powerful flavonoid antioxidant, which is known for having many beneficial health effects.
Expert tip: While raw tomatoes have many benefits, cooking them releases the full health nutritional power of lycopene.
- Can reduce risk of skin cancer and sunburn by protecting skin from UV rays
- Can protect against the development of breast cancer and prostate cancer
- Effective at lowering LDL cholesterol
- Improves heart health, lowering the risk of heart attacks
- Protects bone tissue, helping to prevent the onset of osteoporosis
Potassium is an essential mineral that can be found in most foods to some degree – but tomatoes have an abundant source of it. This mineral is a necessary element of your overall health and maintaining normal body functions.
Many tomato varieties are considered high-potassium food. A medium red tomato offers more potassium than other powerhouse foods such as carrots, brussel sprouts, avocado, and squash.
- Supports the function of tissues and organs
- Helps you maintain fluid balance
- Reduces risk of stroke
- Keeps the digestive system functioning normally
- Regulates blood pressure and promotes heart and kidney health
When processed, the carotenoid pigment beta-carotene is converted into Vitamin A, which is an essential nutrient. Like lycopene, Vitamin A is another flavonoid antioxidant that has many advantages for our health.
While the vitamin A levels in tomatoes pale in comparison to beta-carotene-packed carrots – which offer 113% of our daily values – tomatoes are still a great source for this beneficial nutrient.
- Protects against lung cancer and cancers of the oral cavity
- Promotes healthy mucus membranes, skin, and bones
- Improves general eye health and protects from age-related vision problems
- Boosts the immune system
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for every diet and works as a powerful antioxidant. While tomatoes may not be the first fruit that comes to mind when you think about vitamin C, they are actually an excellent source of the nutrient, with a medium red tomato providing up to 40% of daily values.
Some tomatoes actually have levels of vitamin C that are comparable to oranges. However, it should be noted that, unlike lycopene, much of the vitamin C could be lost in the cooking process.
- Boosts the immune system
- Provides resistance against infections and harmful free radicals
Adding Color to Your Tomato Garden
Do you want to know more about the nutritional content and health benefits of tomatoes? Let us know in the comments below!