The tomato was first cultivated by the Aztecs and Incas for thousands of years; long before the arrival of Spanish Conquistadors. This colorful fruit was first encountered by Spanish explorer Hernan Cortez after the sacking of Tenochtitlan (Aztec City) in 1521. When it was brought back to Europe many people assumed that it was poisonous due to its bright colors and association with the nightshade family. It took the fruit many decades before it was widely accepted in Europe. When it was found to be edible and incredible delicious, the scrumptious fruit quickly spread throughout the known world. Currently people worldwide consume over 130 million tons of tomatoes per year.
The tomato is widely regarded as a “superfood” or foods with low glycemic index (GI) and high amounts of nutrients. In the case of this delectable fruit, it contains high amounts of vitamin A, C and E; decent amounts of important minerals such as potassium and manganese; and a decent amount of fiber. A person may eat a tomato cooked or raw does not raise the GI of the fruit. However one should note that commercially made tomato sauce has an extremely high GI due to additives added that make the taste sweeter and last longer. One medium whole tomato has 22 calories, 0.25 grams of fat, 4.82 grams of carbs, and 1.08 grams of protein.
Tomatoes have a myriad of health benefits which are primarily caused by the high amounts of antioxidants it contains. Researchers concentrate on the antioxidant compound lycopene (gives the tomato its bright red color) because of what it can do for one’s body. Most people living in the West get 85% of this nutrient from tomatoes. The nutrient is more abundant in ripe red tomatoes. Like all antioxidants lycopene has anti-inflammatory properties and can help prevent the appearance of health issues that include cardiovascular disease, certain cancers (prostate, breast, stomach), Alzheimer’s, and currently being studied age-related macular degeneration. Recent research shows that lycopene may help bone health and reduce bad cholesterol.