Latin Name: Solanum lycopersicum

What is a Tomato?
The word tomato automatically conjures up the picture-perfect red globe that epitomizes spaghetti sauce and bruschetta. This fruit, which is culinarily used more like a vegetable, also comes in plum or cherry form, and there are thousands more varieties of tomatoes in the world. They come in many shapes, sizes, tastes, textures, and in color combinations of red, pink, purple, brown, green, orange, or even white.

Particular genetic diversity of the plant still exists in the mountains of Peru, where it is thought to have originated. When the Spanish brought the tomato back to Europe from South America, it was enthusiastically embraced as food in the South, but considered poisonous in the North. It was held in particularly poor esteem in England and its British colonies because it was a recognized member of the often-poisonous nightshade family. Indeed, tomato plants’ roots and leaves are poisonous, so it took some 200 years as an ornamental plant, named the “wolf peach,” before it was generally known that tomatoes were not only edible but quite scrumptious.

What are the health benefits of Tomatoes?
According to traditional Chinese medicine, tomatoes are cooling for the body and are used to promote healthy digestion, detoxification, and fluid production. Today, tomatoes are famous for their high amount of the phytonutrient lycopene. Studies have shown that organic and cooked tomatoes served with a little oil yield the most of this nutrient that protects the body against prostate, lung, colorectal, liver, endometrial, breast, and pancreatic cancers. Lycopene is so beneficial because, among other functions, it protects the genetic material of white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting infectious diseases.

Aside from lycopene, tomato’s high levels of vitamins A, C, and E prevent the oxidation of cells, cholesterol, and plaque build-up, thus serving heart health and addressing a variety of inflammatory conditions, including arthritis and asthma. Additionally, the tomato’s vitamin K content helps maintain bone health; the presence of chromium helps balance blood sugar levels; and its folate content works against diabetes, colon cancer, and migraines. The vitamin B6 that is abundant in tomatoes has been found to promote the protein synthesis needed for the body’s healing, mood, and energy stability.

Are there any precautions for Tomatoes?
As members of the nightshade family, tomatoes are often discouraged in the diets of any suffering from arthritis; however, no case-controlled scientific studies confirm these observations.

Where can I find Tomatoes?
Tomatoes can be found throughout the year in grocery stores and many outdoor markets, though local varieties will be available and freshest in the summer.

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This entry was posted in Foods, Natural Health Dictionary.