Tomatoes and a healthy diet

Can a tomato a day keep the doctor away?

Tomatoes play a big role in many heart-healthy recipes, and these rosy-hued veggies can do much more than brighten ordinary salads and pasta dishes. Tomatoes are packed with nutrients that can help lower your risk of heart disease.

Find out about the link between tomatoes and heart health, and learn new ways to mix these power-packed vegetables into the dishes you love.

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Health Benefits of Tomatoes

Scientifically speaking, a tomato is a fruit, but most people consider them vegetables because of their taste and the way in which they’re used in cooking. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which issues Dietary Guidelines for Americans, includes tomatoes in the red-orange vegetable group.

Tomatoes are low in calories, high in fiber, and have many nutrients that are good for your overall health, including:

  • Lycopene
  • Folate
  • Potassium
  • Vitamins A, B, C, and E

And, when processed with certain types of healthy oils, the lycopene in tomatoes actually gets easier for your body to absorb, so you don’t lose out on nutrients by eating tomato paste or sauce.

Tomatoes and Heart Health

Tomatoes have two key nutrients that have a big impact on heart health: lycopene and potassium.

Lycopene is a chemical that gives a tomato its red color and is also a powerful antioxidant, a type of substance that helps keep cells from becoming damaged. Some research shows that lycopene may lower LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, and keep blood from clotting, which lowers stroke risk.

Potassium is a mineral that can help lower blood pressure by taking some of the sodium out of your body, and by relaxing the walls of your blood vessels.

Getting More Tomatoes in Your Diet

Here are some creative ways to get more tomatoes into your diet and to help lower your risk of heart disease:

  • Drink low-sodium tomato juice.
  • Pick cherry or grape tomatoes for a healthy snack.
  • Mix diced tomatoes into your favorite pasta sauce.
  • Cook with tomato paste to add more flavor – and nutrients – to sauces.
  • Add slices of raw tomato to your favorite sandwiches.
  • Choose different kinds of tomatoes to mix into salads for new flavors and textures.

Visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute or call 1-855-UPMC-HVI (876-2484) to learn more.

About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine. We strive to provide the most advanced, cutting-edge care for our patients, treating both common and complex conditions. We also offer services that seek to improve the health of our communities, including heart screenings, free clinics, and heart health education. Find an expert near you.