Eating tomatoes is an all-Italian custom: the vegetable is among the most loved and most consumed in summer. Why do we love them? Because tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, a natural antioxidant that promotes cell and skin regeneration. A diet rich in lycopene is associated with a lower risk of developing prostate cancer and may also help protect against other types of cancer and heart disease.
However, most of the research on tomatoes has focused on eating raw rather than cooked tomatoes. Or at least that’s what you might be thinking from just reading the headlines about this nutrient-rich red vegetable. In fact, recent research clearly shows that cooking tomatoes breaks down their cell walls and makes nutrients more bioavailable.
In fact, this process makes cooked tomatoes even healthier than raw ones. But what does this mean for our diet? Should we eat more raw tomatoes and fewer cooked tomatoes? But above all, how many tomatoes can we eat a day? We try to answer all questions.
Eating tomato, does that mean?
A large tomato contains about 10 grams of lycopene. Depending on the quality of the tomato and its ripeness, a 10% contribution of vitamin C is also added. If eaten raw, a tomato provides about 9% of the daily requirement of vitamin A and 10% of the daily requirement of folate.
A tomato also provides about 10% of the daily requirement for vitamin K, as well as some B vitamins and potassium. When eaten cooked, a tomato provides about 20% of the daily requirement of vitamin A, about 10% of the daily requirement of vitamin C, some B vitamins and potassium. It also provides a small amount of iron, magnesium and copper.
The antioxidant lycopene has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer and slow its progression. And the other carotenoids, vitamin E and selenium do the same. However, research has found that the bioavailability of lycopene is significantly lower when consuming raw tomatoes compared to cooked ones. Unless you add a little oil. If we then cook them, the contribution will be increased.
The antioxidant activity of tomatoes has also been studied for other types of cancer. Research has found that eating tomatoes at least twice a week is associated with a lower risk of developing breast and colorectal cancer. It also reduces the risk of heart disease. In this sense they are favored by the percentage of salt and potassium which, with their correct balance, lower blood pressure.
Tomatoes also contain solanine, a substance that once it enters our body becomes toxic. So we cannot eat tomatoes in large quantities. We can consume one small tomato a day or three large tomatoes a week. If you do not suffer from any pathology, you can also eat 3 small tomatoes a day but only for a limited period.