Tomatoes are a rich source of several nutrients. They are well known for their high vitamin C content, but also contain significant amount of vitamin A, B vitamins including niacin and riboflavin, magnesium, phosphorous, and calcium. Tomatoes are also a good source of chromium, folate, and fiber.
In recent years a particular nutrient found in abundance in tomatoes, lycopene, has made many headlines for its disease fighting abilities. Lycopene is well known as a preventer of prostate cancer, which makes tomatoes high on the healthy food list for men.
Lycopene is not just important for men though. It is a powerful antioxidant and as such helps to protect the cells in our bodies from damage. Studies in humans have shown that lycopene is protective against a variety of cancers including prostate of course, but also colorectal, breast, lung, endometrial, pancreatic, bladder, cervical and skin cancers.
Lycopene has also been shown to help prevent heart disease and may slow the development of cataracts and macular degeneration, an age related vision problem that can lead to blindness.
The vitamin B6, niacin, potassium, and folate found in abundance in tomatoes are potent protectors against heart disease. Niacin can lower high cholesterol levels and potassium has been shown to lower high blood pressure and to reduce the risk of heart disease. Vitamin B6 and folate also work to convert the homocysteine in our bodies into harmless molecules. High levels of homocysteine are associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
The fiber in tomatoes also helps lower cholesterol levels, helps prevent colon cancer, and helps to keep blood sugars at a low level. Tomatoes are a source of riboflavin, which has been shown to be helpful for migraine sufferers by reducing the frequency of their headaches.A helpful note about tomato nutrition is that lycopene is actually more available to the body when tomatoes are cooked, so cooked or canned tomatoes are just as nutritious for you as raw. The facts about tomatoes definitely point to this fruit/vegetable as a nutrient powerhouse and a super food to be enjoyed as often as possible.