Tomato (‘Solanum lycopersicum’ L.), is the fruit of a herbaceous plant of the botanical family “Solalaceae”. It varies in colour, from green to yellow, then red.
Even though tomato was not completely accepted until in the late 19th century, it is now the most widely spread plant of the botanical family “Solanaceae”. When it was first introduced as a food, many people neglected it as they thought it was the red fruit of a well known toxic plant known as “belladona”, so it was then believed to be a poisonous fruit.
Today, the popularity and health benefits of tomato makes it an essential part of a diet worldwide.
Properties of tomato
The components of tomato can be classified into,
• nutritive components
• non-nutritive components
These are the main nutrients present such as minerals, vitamins, and so on.
A fresh tomato contains a lot of water, representing about 94% of its total weight. It also contains small amounts of proteins and fat, about 0.9% and 0.33% respectively, carbohydrates in form of glucose and fructose also present, making up about 3.53%.
Vitamins are not left out as it contains vitamins B1, B2, B6, C, and provitamin A. Others such as niacin and folates are also present in significant amounts. Of all these vitamins present, vitamin C is the most abundant, about 19.1 mg/100 g, thus we see here that tomato can be a great substitute for orange in cases of vitamin C.
Minerals such as magnesium, potassium, iron and phosphorus are also present in significant amounts. Tomato is a very good source of iron as it contains about nine times as much as milk.
These are substances in food which are not considered as nutrients but plays a vital role within the body. They include:
• Lycopene: This is the pigment that gives tomato its characteristic red colour. At first, lycopene was thought to be of no importances to the human body, but after a research was carried out at ” Heinrich-Heine University Germany” its importance became clear. Among the conclusions made from the research is that:
* lycopene is a potent antioxidant, thus preventing the deterioration that free radicals produce in the DNA of the cells
* lycopene is present in the human blood, and one of the most abundant carotenoid in the human body
* lycopene also plays a role in the control of cellular growth.
• Vegetable fiber: tomatoes contain a considerable amount of vegetable fiber within them, which contributes a lot to its laxative and cholesterol reducing effect.
• Organic acids: Organic acids such as oxalic and malic acid helps in giving tomato its characteristic flavour. They also give rise to its alkalizing effect which makes it a good depurant.
HEALTH BENEFITS /MEDICINAL USES OF TOMATO
The nutritive and non-nutritive components of tomatoes makes it in indicated in the following cases:
• ARTERIOSCLEROSIS – This is the narrowing and hardening of arteries due to deposition of cholesterol in their inner lining, which causes less blood flow. The antioxidant effect of tomato helps prevent the deposition of this cholesterol.
Tomatoes are additionally useful for the elimination of all circulatory system disorders, which includes:
* heart attack
* angina pectoris
“LESS BLOOD FLOW, LESS LIFE”
• PROSTRATE CONDITIONS – The fact that tomato is the richest food source of lycopene, the carotenoid that protects the cells of the prostrate from abnormal growth, makes it highly indicated in cases of prostrate conditions.
A research conducted at ” Harvard University USA” showed that men who regularly eat tomatoes in any form, are at much lower risk of prostrate cancer. Thus, the regular consumption of tomatoes helps prevent prostrate cancer (one of the most frequent cancers in males). In general, its consumption improves the general well-being of the prostrate.
• CANCEROUS DISORDERS – The protective effect of tomato on cancer is not limited to prostrate cancer only, it also has a protective effect from the following cancers: * stomach cancer
* colon cancer
* mouth cancer
* rectum cancer and
* oesophagus cancer, in short all digestive tract cancers.
• DEPRESSED IMMUNE SYSTEM – The body’s ability to fight infectious agents can be highly increased through the regular consumption of tomato. This is due to the presence of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant carotenoids in significant amounts.
It can thus be said that ” regular consumption of tomato helps lowers the risk of contacting diseases “.
• OTHERS – The diuretic effect of tomato makes it highly recommended in cases of:
* excess uric acid (gout)
* kidney failure with a consequent increase in blood urea.
* high concentration of toxins in the body due to diets rich in proteins or meat.
Additionally, the alkalizing effect of tomato helps neutralize and eliminate the metabolic waste products in the body.