Tomatoes are a good source of Vitamins A, C and E, the natural plant pigments known as carotenoids (both beta-carotene and lycopene) and flavonoids. Flavonoids are also found in red wine and tea.
Tomatoes contain minerals such as potassium, which has been linked to lowering blood pressure and calcium, which is vital for healthy bones and teeth.
The vitamins and antioxidants found in tomatoes are thought to combat the harmful effects of free radicals (highly reactive molecules) that cause cell damage - a precursor of conditions such as heart disease and cancer. Although their role as antioxidants is the most popular explanation for the benefit of tomatoes and their constituents in the diet, not all scientists agree with this theory and some believe that other mechanisms are involved. Whatever this means, there seems no disagreement about the potential benefits.
Recent research has shown that the pigment lycopene, the stuff that makes most ripe tomatoes red, may be particularly active in protecting the body against heart disease and some forms of cancer. Lycopene is more readily absorbed into the bloodstream when tomatoes are cooked with certain oils, such as olive oil. Processed tomatoes may contain high levels of lycopene but also additives such as salt (up to a hundred times more than in fresh tomatoes!) and sugar and are not produced to the same high standards as fresh British tomatoes.
Research has shown that ripe, British tomatoes have a considerably higher lycopene content than was thought to be the case (up to three times the usually quoted figures), especially when compared with imported, long-life types, which are low in lycopene. The ideal solution is to eat fresh British tomatoes, both raw and cooked - we have lots of delicious recipes for both.
There is a certain amount lost through cooking, vitamin C and flavonoids in particular. Cooking may increase the concentration of other nutrients, such as lycopene. The best option is to eat plenty of British tomatoes, both raw and cooked.
For further details and scientific references, read Tomatoes - The Miracle Fruit
|Typical Values||per 100g||per 55g average Classic tomato|
Typical Values as sold
Did You Know?
In the UK, we eat 6oz (160g) of fresh tomatoes per person per week. This is the equivalent of two classic British tomatoes per week, or more than 100 per year - very low compared with other European countries, especially those in the Mediterranean region.