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Tomatoes Provide a Great Boost to Health

Aside from improving the flavors of food, tomatoes provide a great boost to your health.


At roadside stands, farmers markets, and gardens you see bright red vegetables that make you long for a slice. But are tomatoes a vegetable or a fruit? Depends on how you look at it; by method of cultivation and use it is a vegetable; however, botanically it is a fruit. Specifically, it is a berry because it is pulpy and contains one or more seeds that are not stones. So now if you are on the game show, Jeopardy, you can answer that question and win the big money.

Tomatoes form an integral part of cuisine all across the globe. What would our meals be like without them? Think spaghetti without tomatoes, a BLT sandwich would just be a BL sandwich, salsa would be just onions and peppers. I’m not sure I want to live without tomatoes. They make all those dishes tasty.

Aside from improving the flavor of food, tomatoes provide a great boost to health. Tomatoes consist of a large number of antioxidants which fight different forms of cancer. The rich source of vitamins and minerals provide a protective effect against cardiovascular diseases. It also improves eye health and prevents hypertension and urinary tract infections.

Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant highly effective in scavenging cancer-causing free radicals. This benefit extends even to the heat-processed products, which include ketchup.

The lycopene in tomato prevents serum lipid oxidation, thus exerting protective effect against cardiovascular diseases. Regular consumption of tomato has shown to decrease levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. These lipids are the key culprits in cardiovascular diseases and lead to the deposit of fats in the blood vessels.

One single tomato can provide about 40 percent of the daily vitamin C requirement and a medium size has only 24 calories. They are high in potassium and other antioxidants and low in sodium, fat and calories.

When choosing tomatoes, choose plump, heavy tomatoes with smooth skins. Avoid tomatoes with bruises, blemishes or deep cracks. Depending upon the variety, ripe tomatoes are completely red or reddish orange and give slightly to gentle palm pressure.

Store tomatoes that are mature or partially ripe at a cool room temperature in a light-but not-sunny-area. They should not be refrigerated until they are mature. When they reach your favorite stage of ripeness, refrigerate them for no longer than 5 days. After that time, they begin to lose both texture and flavor.

There are more than 4,000 varieties of tomatoes to choose from, ranging from the small, marble-size cherry tomato to the giant Ponderosa that can weigh three pounds. The difference in the varieties determines their use. 

Cherry, globe, and grape are wonderful in salads or eaten just out of hand. While the larger, Better Boy and Beef Steak tomatoes are most often used for sandwiches. If you are making salsa, plum and pear shaped varieties, such as Roma are the best choice due to their meatiness.

Get your free copy of Enjoy Arkansas’ Fresh Tomatoes which contains nutritional information as well as recipes. We also have free publications on preservation of tomatoes, Canning Tomatoes.

Contact us at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Miller County Extension office in the courthouse, e-mail me at or call 870-779-3609. You can also get great tips on facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS/CarlaHaleyHadley, twitter at @MillerCountyFCS  and Instagram millercountyfcs_carlahadley.

Summertime Corn and Tomatoes 
close up of corn and tomato salad

  • 1 cup sweet corn, drained
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 teaspoon favorite herb and a dash of vinegar
  • Dash of pepper
  • 2 fresh medium-size tomato, chopped


  1. Mix together all ingredients in medium mixing bowl.
  2. Chill before serving to allow flavors to meld.

One serving contains: 141 calories; 15 gm cholesterol; 102 mg sodium; 15 gm carbohydrates; 342 mg potassium; 46 mcg folate; 115 mg calcium.

By Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609

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