Eating Tomatoes May Very Well Save Your Life!

Posted: March 19, 2014

The health benefits of tomatoes illustrate the importance for consumers to frequently include tomato products in their meals.

Spring is slowly emerging bringing a renewed burst of energy in each of us.  For me the sign that spring is coming is when I start to receive seed catalogues in the mail. Renewed interest in growing fruits and vegetables has spurred many individuals to be creative in growing and raising them within a limited space.  The desire to know how our fruits and vegetables are grown and concerns for safe foods have increased the numbers of individuals and families growing their own fruits and vegetables. It seems that for many, the easiest plant to grow is the tomato.

As you think about what you might grow this season, consider the health value of tomatoes.  Did you know that tomatoes provide unique health benefits?  Tomatoes are chocked full of essential vitamins C, A, and B6, along with iron, potassium, manganese, and fiber.  One cup of canned tomatoes contains only 41 calories and no fat.  Recent research on their health benefits, indicate tomatoes are rich in powerful antioxidants called carotenoids that protect against certain types of cancers and slow the development of atherosclerosis (plaque associated with hardening of arteries).

The most abundant type of carotenoid found in tomatoes is lycopene. Research supports that foods high in lycopene may help to reduce the risk for prostate, digestive, and pancreatic cancers.  Tomato products are responsible for more than 80% of the lycopene in the U.S. diet.

Tomato products also fight inflammation associated with chronic diseases.  Recent studies show that a diet rich in tomatoes lowers the levels of inflammatory stress markers noted in the development of cardiovascular disease.  Regular intake of tomato products has been consistently associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease.  Further evidence shows improved cholesterol values as a result of eating tomato products, such as decreased LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels.

Besides powerful heart-health benefits, tomatoes can keep our skin from being damaged by the sun. In a German study, participants who consumed tomato products 2 to 3 times per week showed less likelihood of sunburn when exposed to UV light.

It just goes to show that the tomato is full of great health benefits. Whether eaten fresh or preserved for later use, tomatoes are versatile in creating great tasting recipes.  Take advantage of your abundant harvest of tomatoes if you grow them.  Be prepared to handle the excess; don’t look to donate to your neighbors and family members but rather capture the nutritional value of what you grew.  Tomatoes can be easily preserved using methods such as freezing, canning or dehydrating.  The benefit for you and your family is the year round availability of fresh, quality, homegrown tomatoes to use in a variety of recipes.

Richard Kralj, M.Ed, RDN, LDN
Senior Extension Educator
Food Safety & Quality

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Tomato Shrimp Scampi on Angel Hair Pasta


  • 8 ounces angel hair pasta
1⁄4 cup olive oil
4 garlic gloves, chopped
  • 2 cans (14.5oz) diced Italian style tomatoes
  • 1⁄2 cup vermouth or 1⁄2 cup cooking wine
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon sugar
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined, rinsed, patted dry
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons capers
4 tablespoon basil
  • 4 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Cook angel hair as directed, drain well, keep warm.
  2. In a large skillet, saute garlic in olive oil over medium heat for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes with juice, vermouth or cooking wine and capers. Cook 5 minutes.
  4. Add shrimp and red pepper flakes. Cook until shrimp turn pink and are cooked through, about 3 minutes.
  5. Toss with cooked angel hair, basil and Parmesan cheese; serve immediately in shallow bowls.

Recipe by Tomato Wellness

Contact Information

Richard Kralj, M Ed., RDN, LDN
  • Food Safety and Nutrition Educator
Phone: 814-849-7361 x1