It’s Tomato Season!
For many of us, the end of summer marks a fridge, counter, and garden overflowing with plump, juicy, and delicious red globes of goodness. It’s tomato season! Perhaps one of my favorite vegetables, tomatoes are often people’s first introduction to gardening. They are easy to grow, produce lots of fruit, and are often given away by neighbors throughout the later part of the summer, offering a gesture of community and good health during the harvest season.
Abundant in Vitamins and Minerals
Tomatoes are incredibly healthy, and possibly one of the most versatile of all vegetables; they can literally be used for anything (just think of how we use ketchup and salsa). They are rich in vitamins and minerals, and are an incredible source of antioxidants, including all 4 major carotenoids: alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene. They also contain zeaxanthin and lutein, both antioxidants that improve eye health.
Here are some other nutritional facts about tomatoes:
Like many fruits and vegetables, tomatoes are a great source of potassium. Potassium helps lower blood pressure, and regulate muscle contraction – it also helps balance nerve impulses and heart rhythm.
Phosphorus helps with pH balance in the body, and is an integral component of the bone matrix, which means healthy teeth and bones. It is also part of many enzymes and proteins.
A powerful antioxidant that is known to stimulate the immune system to help fight off bacteria and viruses. Vitamin C is also an essential element to collagen production and absorption of iron.
Necessary in the blood clotting process, vitamin K also helps regulate the inflammatory response.
Folate is important in fetal development, and for the synthesis of hemoglobin and amino acids. It is essential for a properly functioning nervous system.
This is the antioxidant carotenoid responsible for tomatoes’ red color. It has anti-inflammatory properties and has an affinity for the eye, where it is thought to help prevent macular degeneration. It helps reduce cellular aging.
Lutein and zeaxanthin
These 2 carotenoids are found in the retina of the eye and actually protect the retina from radiation damage.
Tomatoes may help protect the eyes, lower inflammation, and improve the immune system. They may protect against tumors due to their high antioxidant content when consumed on a regular basis. They may help reduce blood pressure due to the vasodilation effects of potassium. And they contain substances (lycopene and others) that are thought to slow the cellular aging process.
Some people are sensitive, or allergic, to solanacee vegetables (nightshade), which includes tomatoes. If this is you, then they should be avoided.
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Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.