For many, tomatoes are synonymous with ketchup and salsa, but store-bought condiments are often loaded with added sugar and excess sodium. However, with more than 10,000 varieties, tomatoes shouldn’t be overlooked in their whole-food form.
Tomatoes are a main dietary source of lycopene, an antioxidant responsible for their deep red color. Lycopene, found in the tomato skin, may protect against some types of cancer and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Their high water content can also help keep you hydrated in addition to regular sipping.
While typically prepared like (and served with) vegetables, botanists consider tomatoes a fruit because they originate from the ovary of flowering plants and contain seeds. As such, they are part of the nightshade family (edible parts of flowering plants), which includes potatoes, bell peppers and eggplant. These vegetables contain lectins, a group of proteins that bind to carbohydrates, and which many mistakenly believe cause negative health symptoms like leaky gut syndrome. This myth is dispelled by RDs who say you’re unlikely to consume harmful amounts of lectins and low levels can actually be beneficial to overall health.
Since there are so many varieties, tomatoes are an extremely versatile ingredient to cook with. Common types include cherry and grape tomatoes, beefsteak, Roma and heirloom, to name a few. They also come in a variety of sizes and colors besides red including yellow, orange, green and purple.
Here, a look at the nutrition highlights, how to enjoy them and more: