Have we mentioned lately how much we love tomatoes? They’re part of the foundation of every Dogtown Pizza—along with our crispy, cracker-thin crust and gooey, tangy cheese blend—and sometimes they’re also part of the main attraction, like on our Tomato Basil Garlic Pizza. But beyond being delicious and something we literally based our business on, tomatoes have myriad health benefits for your entire body!
1. Boost Your Immunity
Tomatoes are full of lycopene, an antioxidant that fights free radicals and lessens cell damage. (Remember lycopene: we’ll mention it again a few times!) Studies have shown people with diets high in lycopene are less likely to develop certain types of cancers (such as prostate cancer).
While a correlation isn’t proof, we’re only talking about eating tomatoes here, and that’s something we were already doing before we found out about all these health benefits. They also contain other vital nutrients, including potassium, and are a great source of vitamins B and E.
2. Give Your Cells a Blue Light-Blocker
Tomatoes don’t get sunburned because of their lycopene, which gives them their juicy red color and protects them from the sun’s UV rays. It helps people in a similar way; the lycopene blocks the harmful ultraviolet and blue light from the sun and filters some of it out to prevent damage.
Just remember, while a little internal UV-blocking is excellent to have as a backup, the lycopene in tomatoes isn’t enough protection to keep people from turning red in the heat, so make sure to wear appropriate levels of sunscreen during the summer.
3. Blue Light-Blocking Technology in Your Eyes
You better believe that blue-blocking cellular superpower also protects the cells in your eyes! Blue light-blocking technology in the cells in your eyes sounds like a pretty good deal in exchange for eating tomatoes. Plus, some early research indicates that something in tomatoes may reduce your likelihood of developing age-related macular degeneration.
4. Tomatoes Have Your Heart
Besides fighting free radicals and blocking harmful wavelengths of sunlight, the lycopene in tomatoes may also help lower LDL (the bad cholesterol), which helps to reduce blood pressure. Lower blood pressure then results in lowering the chance of heart attacks. In addition to lycopene, the B and E vitamins and flavonoids may also boost overall heart health.
5. Keep Your Blood Pumping
Studies suggest that the nutrients in tomatoes may reduce inflammation, boost your immune system, lower your cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of blood clots. These combined benefits result in a lower risk of stroke (a blood clot that blocks blood flow to part of the brain). That sounds like a good reason to go eat some salsa!
6. Breathe in, Breathe Out
Early research indicates that eating tomatoes is also beneficial for the lungs. People who have asthma may benefit especially, along with anyone at risk of developing emphysema (damage to the air sacs in the lungs, usually from tobacco smoke), which tomatoes may help prevent.
Scientists are still trying to discover the exact nutrients involved and how they work. Still, the current hypothesis is that the antioxidants in tomatoes, including lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, somehow neutralize the harmful substances in tobacco smoke, reducing the amount of damage it can cause to the lungs.
7. Everything in Your Mouth (Except Your Teeth)
Since the lycopene in tomatoes fights free radicals, eating tomatoes may help slow the development of gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis with a similar mechanism to the one it uses to protect against cancers.
Even though they’re full of beneficial nutrients, raw tomatoes are also highly acidic. That acid can damage your tooth enamel and lead to cavities and other dental problems—but brushing right away isn’t the solution and can even make things worse by scrubbing the acid on the enamel. Your best bet is to rinse your mouth out with water whenever you eat something that could damage your tooth enamel.
8. Get Your Gut Moving
Tomatoes have both fluid and fiber, which are both important parts of maintaining a healthy gut biome of diverse intestinal flora. In this case, raw tomatoes are better than cooked because cooked tomatoes can trigger or worsen acid reflux in some people.
9. More Vitamins for Everything Else
In addition to lycopene, a single tomato has about 40% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C. There’s also vitamin A for your immunity, vision, and skin health; vitamin K for your bones; and potassium, which you need for proper heart function, muscle contractions, maintaining a healthy blood pressure, and a healthy fluid balance.
Get More Benefits by Adding More Tomatoes to Your Diet
Of course, the best way to see benefits from the nutrients in tomatoes is to eat more tomatoes! From pasta with marinara to crispy, melty pizza with a red sauce to tomato soup cake (search the recipe and thank us later!), there are many ways to eat more tomatoes without feeling like you’re forcing yourself to eat boring vegetables.
Luckily, nutrients like lycopene are better absorbed by your body from prepared tomato sauce rather than fresh tomatoes, so you don’t have to eat them in any specific way to get the benefit. Other nutrients, like vitamin C, are less present in cooked tomatoes, so eat a variety of tomatoes prepared in various ways to get the most nutrients and see the most benefits.
Our favorite quick tomato recipe is a low-effort, high-flavor version of a Caprese salad. Simply combine cherry tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, and basil in a salad bowl, then toss with olive oil to make a simple side dish that brings together complex flavors. Add a rustic chunk of fresh-baked bread with farm-fresh butter for a light dinner or serve as your new favorite side that pairs with any summer weeknight meal.
Which important health benefit is your excuse for eating more tomatoes? What’s your favorite way to get more tomato into your diet—and why is it Dogtown Pizza? Let us know in the comments!