Healthy benefits of tomatoes

Published 10:45 am Friday, March 9, 2012

Well, it’s just about that season. Time for folks to start planning their vegetable gardens. When deciding what to plant this year, don’t forget tomatoes. These little gems not only taste great, they’re really nutritious too.
Tomatoes are one of the most frequently consumed “vegetables” in the United States. Actually, though they’re usually thought of as vegetables, tomatoes are botanically classified as fruits. Tomatoes come in all colors and shapes. They can be red, yellow, green, orange or purple. They can be round, oval, tiny, huge or bite- sized.
Even though tomatoes are available all year round, the best tasting ones are grown in late spring, through mid to late summer, and are vine ripened. So just what is so great about the tomato?
Well first, tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant called “lycopene.” Lycopene is actually what give tomatoes their beautiful red color. It’s been extensively studied, and proven to show amazing results in helping to preventing certain cancers such as; prostate, lung, stomach and breast.
Lycopene research also suggests some amelioration of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and even premature aging. Cooked tomato products actually contain more lycopene than fresh one’s, so your best sources are tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, ketchup, tomato soup, canned tomatoes and tomato juice.
Ok, now back to fresh tomatoes. Tomatoes are high in vitamins A, C, B6, niacin, folate and potassium. Tomatoes are fortified with the mineral “chromium,” which is beneficial for diabetics to keep blood sugar levels under control. Tomatoes also contain vitamin K and calcium for strong bones. Tomatoes are great for weight loss too, because they are low in calories, while filling. Also, tomatoes may act as a natural appetite suppressant.
Our stomachs produce a hormone called “ghrelin.” The function of this hormone is to tell the brain, the body needs to be fed. This means the level of ghrelin increases before eating, and decreases after. Research shows  tomatoes decrease ghrelin, and other appetite regulating hormones, thereby helping us eat less.
Smokers should consume tomatoes too, because they contain organic compounds “chlorogenic” and “coumaric” acid, which help fight against carcinogens due to smoking. Also, the “chlorogenic acid,” found in tomatoes is marketed in Norway and the United Kingdom” as a weight loss supplement, so tomatoes can help you lose even more weight. Don’t store your tomatoes in the refrigerator. Cold temperatures ruin their taste and texture.
Also, believe it or not, when slicing a tomato or any vegetable or fruit, use a sharp knife. A dull one bruises vegetable tissues and diminishes its vitamins.
Diet or exercise question? Email me at or visit David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and personal trainer for 26 years.
He serves as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach for the S.C. state champion girls gymnastic team, USC-Spartanburg baseball team, Converse college equestrian team, lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency, and taught four semesters at USC-Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.