In Summary

A tomato is a nutrient-dense food that offers benefit to a range of bodily systems. Its nutritional content supports healthy skin, weight loss, and heart health.

They are one of the commonest vegetables that can be added to any recipe or eaten raw. Joshua Ssozi, a nutritionist at Makerere Department of Food and Health Sciences, however warns that you should not overcook or deep fry tomatoes because their nutrient value diminishes with increased temperatures.

Improved sight
He says, “Vitamin A, present in tomatoes, has been commended to aid in improving vision and preventing night-blindness and age-related macular degeneration. Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that can be formed from an excess of beta-carotene in the body.”
Other antioxidants such as lycopene and lutein contained in tomatoes protect the eyes against light-induced damage and development of cataracts. A lot of vision problems occur due to the negative effects of free radicals and vitamin A, being a powerful antioxidant, can help prevent them.

Good skin
Lilian Nyanzi, a nutritionist at Neulife Medical Centre in Bweyogerere, says tomatoes are great for the skin, as they have cooling and astringent properties. They are rich in vitamin C, which can eliminate acne and brighten dull skin. Tomatoes also contain vitamin A, which is needed for healthy skin. It is naturally acidic, so it helps balance the skin and get rid of excessive oil.
“If you have an oily skin and struggle to keep your face from shining, tomato juice is the solution to your agony. After washing your face, apply the juice with a cotton ball daily to control excessive oiliness and acne,’ she says.
Tomatoes contain vitamin C, a powerful anti-aging antioxidant that reduces wrinkles, sagging skin, blemishes, and other adverse health effects of the skin.

Kidney and heart health
The red vegetables contain nutrients that act as body cleansers. They are good for your skin. They also contain vitamin B and potassium which are good for your heart and kidney. You can eat them raw or add them to whatever you may be cooking.

“Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which reduces blood pressure. They are more beneficial when eaten raw. The fibre, potassium, vitamin C, and choline content in tomatoes all support heart health. An increase in potassium intake contained in tomatoes, along with a decrease in sodium intake, is the most important dietary change the average person can make to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease,” Ssozi says.
Not only is high potassium intake associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, it is also known for protecting the muscles against deterioration, preserving bone mineral density, and reducing the production of kidney stones.

Cancer
The vegetable is considered a cancer-fighting food because it is a good source of vitamins A, C, and E, all of which fight free radicals that cause cancer.
“These antioxidants help combat the formation of free radicals that cause cancer. A high intake of beta-carotene contained in the tomatoes is linked to the prevention of tumor development in prostate and colorectal cancer.”

Digestion
Tomatoes keep the digestive system healthy by preventing both constipation and diarrhoea. Consuming large amounts of fibre helps stimulate peristaltic motion in the digestive muscles and release gastric and digestive juices. This often regulates bowel movement, thereby improving overall digestive health and helping avoid conditions such as colorectal cancer.
“Furthermore, they have a large amount of fibre, which can bulk the bowels and reduce symptoms of constipation. They also effectively remove toxins from the body,” Nyanzi says.

Foetal health
Lilian Nyanzi, a nutritionist at Neulife Medical Centre in Bweyogerere, says pregnant women should take a folic acid supplement. “Tomatoes are great sources of naturally-occurring folate (folic acid) which is essential during pregnancy to protect the foetus from neural tube defects. Women who are planning to conceive also need the folate to boost their chances of fertility and fights fatigue.”

bnakibuuka@ug.nationmedia.com