Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) is one of the significant fruit/vegetable crops popularly being consumed all over the world. Tomatoes have been consumed either fresh or as processed products (Gray and Tchamitchian, 2001). Tomato is important for health and rich in several good compounds. It is also believed that it gives protection from or reduces the risk of contracting chronic degenerative diseases (Meester, 2007). It had been found to be a significant potent antioxidant with a quenching rate constant on singlet oxygen almost twice as high as that of ß-carotene. ).
Of the total crop production, Pakistan was producing less than 10% vegetable crops in 2005. Poor handing of perishable fruit/vegetables and losses during and after harvest were up to 45% which aggravates the situation alarmingly (Anonymous, 2007). Tomato is a high yielding vegetable, cultivated all over Pakistan under normal growing conditions and recently under the supervised greenhouse farming system. This crop had the potential to produce 26.84 ton/ha whereas average yield of Pakistan was 10.6 ton/ ha in 2003 (Anonymous, 2007). Mechanized vegetable farms are rarely functional in Pakistan agriculture. The significant feature of this vegetable is its consistent consumption all over the world, used in many forms, from fresh to processed types.
The benefits of consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds, including tomatoes, are infinite. As plant food consumption goes up, the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer goes down. High fruit and vegetable intake is also associated with healthy skin and hair, increased energy and lower weight. Increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables significantly decreases the risk of obesity and overall mortality. I describe some of benefits tomatoes here:
- Cancer:As an excellent source of the strong antioxidantvitamin C and other antioxidants, tomatoes can help combat the formation of free radicals known to cause cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, some studies have shown that people who have diets rich in tomatoes may have a lower risk of certain types of cancer, especially cancers of the prostate, lung, and stomach. Further human-based research is needed to find out what role lycopene might play in the prevention or treatment of cancer.
- Blood pressure:Maintaining a low sodium intake is essential to lowering blood pressure. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, fewer than 2 percent of U.S. adults meet the daily 4700 mg recommendation. Also of note, a high potassium intake is associated with a 20 percent decreased risk of dying from all causes.
- Heart health:The fiber, potassium, vitaminC and chlorine content in tomatoes all support heart health. An increase in potassium intake along with a decrease in sodium intake is the most important dietary change that a person can make to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Diabetes:Studies have shown that type 1 diabetics who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels and type 2 diabetics may have improved blood sugar, lipids and insulin levels. One cup of cherry tomatoes provides about 2 grams of fiber.
- Skin:Collagen, the skins support system, is reliant on vitamin C as an essential nutrient that works in our bodies as an antioxidant to help prevent damage caused by the sun, pollution and smoke, smooth wrinkles and improve overall skin texture.
- Constipation:Eating foods that are high in water content and fiber like tomatoes can help to keep you hydrated and your bowel movements regular. Fiber is essential for minimizing constipation and adding bulk to the stool.
- Depression:The folic acid in tomatoes may also help with depression by preventing an excess of homocysteine from forming in the body, which can prevent blood and other nutrients from reaching the brain. Excess homocysteine interferes with the production of the feel-good hormones serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which regulate not only mood, but sleep and appetite as well.
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Author: Syed Mudabbar Hussain Shah
The Author is final year student of B.Sc (Hons.) in Food Engineering, Department of Food Engineering
University of Agriculture, Faisalabad