Bright red tomatoes on a white surface
(Image credit: Viktor Rolia)

They're the most popular homegrown garden vegetable in the US, but are tomatoes healthy? The answer is yes. Tomatoes are a low fat, low sugar food which contains several essential vitamins and minerals. Additionally, tomatoes are one of the best dietary sources of lycopene, the antioxidant pigment which gives them their bright red color.

1. Blood sugar

If you've ever asked, “how are tomatoes good for you,” you will be pleased to learn this red fruit can reduce the risk for diabetes. Medical data indicates one in ten adults in the U.S. have diabetes with another 38% exhibiting signs of prediabetes. The good news is that a healthy lifestyle helps control blood sugar levels and can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. Tomatoes not only have a low glycemic index rating, but research indicates that lycopene helps reduce inflammation and the chromium in tomatoes keeps blood sugar levels in check.

2. Bones

Tomatoes contain many bone-friendly nutrients including Vitamins A, C, D and K, as well as lutein and lycopene. These nutrients work together to strengthen and repair bones. They also improve bone mass and mineral density, which helps prevent fractures. Although not conclusive, scientific studies suggest lycopene may also slow down bone loss in postmenopausal women.

3. Intestinal Health

In addition to regulating blood sugar and maintaining strong bones, tomatoes are good for intestinal health. While healthy bowel movements may not be something gardeners like discussing, tomatoes help keep things flowing smoothly. The intestinal tract needs fluids and both soluble and insoluble fiber to prevent constipation. Tomatoes contain all three.

4. Brain Health

The results of one study suggest a diet containing tomatoes may improve brain health by slowing down cognitive decline in elderly adults. Tomatoes contain a multitude of antioxidants, including lycopene, vitamin C, carotenoids and flavonoids. While this study does look promising, more research is needed to determine if these antioxidants provide protection against oxidative stress and improve neurological health in elderly patients.

5. Cancer

Lycopene not only gives tomatoes their bright red color, but studies indicate this antioxidant can lower the risk of several types of cancer, especially prostate. Lycopene reduces inflammation, decreases free-radical damage to DNA, and stimulates the body's defenses. Cooking tomatoes helps us more readily absorb this antioxidant.

6. Gallstones

The purpose of the gallbladder is to store and release bile into the small intestine to help digest fats in the diet. The formation of gallstones can block the bile ducts and become quite painful. Luckily, most gallstones can be prevented by consuming a healthy diet containing nutrient-rich, low fat foods such as tomatoes.

7. Heart Disease

America's favorite homegrown veggie provides some of its best tomato health benefits to the cardiovascular system. Tomatoes are credited with lowering blood pressure and reducing serum levels of bad cholesterol (LDL). Studies also indicate that diets rich in tomatoes can lower inflammatory markers, which signal developing cardiovascular disease.

8. Pregnancy

Folate is the natural form of Vitamin 9 that is found in foods such as tomatoes. During pregnancy, this vitamin is essential for the proper development of the neural tube which forms the brain and spinal cord in embryos. In adults, folate helps break down proteins, promotes tissue growth, and is used in the formation of red blood cells. Folate is higher in raw tomatoes as compared to cooked.

9. Skin

Studies show that consuming tomato products two to three times per week can protect the skin from sun damage and reduce sun burns, wrinkles, and other signs of aging. Tomatoes contain two powerful antioxidants that fight free radicals in the body. Beta-carotene (Vitamin C) and lycopene not only help prevent free radicals from damaging cells, but these two antioxidants may also reverse some of the damage.

10. Vision

Let's not forget about our eyes when asking, what are the health benefits of tomatoes? Although carrots are one of the best sources of Vitamin A, each 1/2 cup serving of raw, red tomatoes contains approximately 15% of the daily recommended amount of this essential nutrient. Vitamin A can improve vision as well as prevent night blindness and it lowers the risk for macular degeneration.

Laura Miller

Laura Miller has been gardening all her life. Holding a degree in Biology, Nutrition, and Agriculture, Laura's area of expertise is vegetables, herbs, and all things edible. She lives in Ohio.