Naturopathic Kitchen: Tomatoes

Garden tomatoes in varying shades of red.

Tomatoes are a summer favorite, a staple of the Mediterranean diet, and a common grocery list item in many households. While you may already be very familiar with the humble tomato as an ingredient, you might be surprised by the host of health benefits associated with eating them.   

Some fun tomato facts:

  • Tomatoes are *technically* a fruit
  • The average adult in the US eats 24 pounds a year
  • There are estimated to be 25,000 varieties of tomatoes

The Health Benefits of Tomatoes

Vitamins & Minerals

Tomatoes are a good source of multiple vitamins and minerals – and Americans obtain more vitamins from tomatoes than from any other vegetable. They contain immunity-boosting vitamin C, vitamin K1, vitamin B9 (folate), and potassium. 1 Vitamin K1 helps promote blood clotting and boosts bone health, and folate helps facilitate cell function and tissue growth, making it particularly important for those who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. 2  3  Potassium is an essential mineral that aids in blood pressure management and cardiovascular health. 4

Lycopene

Lycopene is the pigment that gives tomatoes their color and it is also a powerful antioxidant. Research shows that lycopene consumption may be associated with a decreased risk of chronic diseases, including cancer and heart disease. 5 Lycopene is found in highest concentrations in tomato skin, so it is recommended to eat whole tomatoes with the skin on in order to increase lycopene intake. 6 One study shows that lycopene absorption can be increased by up to four times when consumed with fat, so consider pairing your tomatoes with a healthy fat source such as avocado or olive oil for maximum lycopene absorption. 7

Skin Health

The lycopene and other plant compounds present in tomatoes may help to protect skin against sun damage. 8 One study found that participants who consumed 40 grams (approximately 2.5 tablespoons) of tomato paste with 10 grams (just under 1 tablespoon) of olive oil daily for ten weeks experienced 40% fewer sunburns. 9 Preventing sun damage helps to reduce the look of aging and keeps skin healthy. 10

Simple Tomato Soup

There is nothing quite like a good, classic tomato soup. The potato in this recipe adds substance and a velvety texture without the addition of dairy. This soup is delicious as-is or you can use it as a base to add other ingredients of your choice. 

Recipe courtesy of the National University of Natural Medicine.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 large tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 8-10 cups of water or broth of your choice
  • 2 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Chop up tomatoes and onion. Sauté tomatoes and onions in a pot until the onions are translucent. You can choose to peel the potatoes or not, depending on your preference. Dice up the potatoes and add to the pot. Add water or broth of your choice. Bring to a boil and simmer until potatoes are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and blend the soup until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

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