A fruit that’s often treated as a vegetable, the tomato in Indian food is used in most preparations, its benefits far surpassing its usage. A native to southern and central America, this fruit, which belongs to the nightshade family, is packed with nutritious values. Incidentally, when the Europeans came across it, they thought it to be a poisonous berry! We could give the Spanish credit for taking the tomato to the world – they introduced it in Europe and Philippines from where it spread to the rest of Southeast Asia. Today, India is the largest producer of tomatoes. And while it comes mostly in red, the tomato is also available in different colours – including purple! Tomatoes are rich in natural vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin A, K, B1, B3, B5, B6, B7, and vitamin C. It also has folate, iron, potassium, magnesium, chromium, choline, zinc, and phosphorus. And how can you make the most of this fruit?
1. Good for the Skin and Hair Given the rising levels of pollution, our skin and hair end up bearing a lot of brunt. Incorporating tomatoes in your regular diet actually helps to battle the wear and tear our skin goes through. Tomatoes contain lycopene, which is also used for facial cleansers. And apart from eating them as salad, you can also peel the tomatoes, and use the skin as a mask on your face. It cleanses and refreshes your skin. And the Vitamin A in tomatoes protects your hair from external damages as well!
2. It’s Anti-Carcinogenic The Lycopene in tomatoes is reported to control the growth of cancer cells, especially prostate, stomach, and colorectal cancer. If you cook tomatoes, the production of lycopene actually increases, so you can curry it as much as you like.
3. Good for Your Bones Did you know that tomatoes have Vitamin K and Calcium? That means your bones stay strong as long as you eat tomatoes.
4. Repairs Damages from Smoking Kiwi is known to help our system when we quit smoking. But the coumaric acid and chlorogenic acid in tomatoes help to protect the body from the adverse effects of cigarette smoke, and that includes passive smokers as well.
5. It’s a Great Anti-Oxidant Tomatoes are a good source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. And these two components help the body to get rid of harmful free radicals in our blood. However, to absorb Vitamin C into the system, the tomatoes need to be eaten raw, so bring on the salads.
6. It Helps Your Heart Now tomatoes might not help to heal a broken heart, but the Vitamin A, Vitamin B and potassium in them help to decrease your cholesterol levels and blood. In the long run, it can prevent heart related diseases.
7. Controls Blood Sugar Tomatoes are known to have a mineral called chromium. And did you know that chromium works in keeping blood sugar levels in check? So for those who have diabetes, or the history of it in the family, it’s a good fruit to include in your diet.
8. Activates Digestion Tomatoes help to improve the digestive system, and the liver. It prevents constipation too. So if you've eaten a bit too much or something too spicy, bite into a small ripe tomato at the end of the meal!
9. Works on Your Immunity Fresh tomato juice is brilliant when it comes to boosting your immunity levels. The vitamin C in it controls the increase of stress hormones, and helps your body to remain energised, and healthy.
10. It Helps to Burn Fat If you are on diet, now is the time to include tomatoes as part of your daily regime. Tomatoes encourage the production of the amino acid called Carnitine, which is reported to enhance the body’s fat burning ability to at least 30 percent, if not more.
How to Eat It
There are plenty of ways to add tomatoes to your diet, the salad being the most common option. However, remember this, don’t peel the tomato, whether you’re cooking it or eating it raw. The skin of the fruit has the maximum benefits. And cherry tomatoes are good too! All you have to do is pop them into your mouth. You can of course add them to salads as well, without having to go through the trouble of chopping.
Fresh tomato juice, perhaps flavoured with some pink salt, is a refreshing way to begin the day. But avoid having it on an empty stomach.
Tomato soup is a global favourite, and while the canned versions might appear to be more convenient it’s best to make them fresh at home. Add some freshly ground pepper on top and it becomes a sumptuous meal that is healthy, wholesome and extremely good for you. In fact, rasammade with tomatoes is a daily feature in most south Indian households.
In Indian curries, the tomato is an important ingredient. While it’s mostly added for flavour, its invisible advantages are simply transferred into the dish. It’s also suggested that one should add tomatoes towards the end of the dish, so as to retain the maximum benefits. One of the best ways to use tomato in a curry is to crush them by the hands and then add it. Hold the tomato over the cooking vessel as you crush it so the juice of the fruit is not wasted.
Go on, make the most of it!
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