There’s a reason why tomatoes are the most popular non-starchy produce in America. Not only are they incredibly good for you, but they’re also a flexible food: You can eat them raw, sliced on top of avocado toast, roasted or grilled in a pan, blended into gazpacho, or simmered down into a delicious homemade marinara sauce.
With the help of Keri Gans, registered dietitian and author of The Small Change Diet, here are some fascinating facts about this powerful piece of produce:
- Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C, biotin, vitamin K, potassium, and lycopene.
- Tomatoes grown organically have higher levels of vitamin C than conventionally grown versions, according to a 2013 study.
- Because of their high antioxidant capacity, tomatoes can help to strengthen our immune system, protect against cardiovascular disease, and prevent against certain cancers, according to Gans.
- Cooking increases the antioxidant content in tomatoes, including boosting the amount of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that lowers the risk of cancer and heart disease, according to a Cornell University study.
- Eating a diet rich in tomatoes may help reduce breast cancer risk, according to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
- Guys also reap the benefits: Men who eat over 10 portions a week of tomatoes have an 18 percent lower risk of developing prostate cancer, according to a 2014 study.
- Skip tomatoes if you have gout (a painful form of arthritis): Recent research shows that tomatoes may trigger flare ups in some people.
- One medium tomato is only 22 calories.
- Scientifically speaking, tomatoes are a fruit since they fall under the definition of a fruit: developed from the ovary in the base of a flower and contain the seeds of the plant.
- It’s best to store tomatoes on your countertop rather than your fridge, which can make them mealy, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- Once you cut a tomato, that’s the time to place it in the fridge, which will slow down the growth of harmful bacteria.
- Scientists are working on breeding tomatoes that are richer in antioxidants, taste better, and last longer before spoiling.
- Ripe tomatoes should be a deep red color and firm to the touch, but yield to pressure when you squeeze them.
- You can also tell that they’re ripe if they have a sweet aroma around the stem point, according to Gans.
- You should toss a tomato if it starts to soften and there’s liquid emerging from it or if mold begins to grow on it.
- The world’s biggest tomato fight, the Tomatina festival, involves 150,000 tomatoes and is held each year in Buñol, Spain.
- Tomato juice is the official beverage of the state of Ohio, going back to 1965.
- Although varieties of tomatoes are available year round, true tomato season is from June through September in the U.S., so get the freshest ones while you can.