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Tomatoes are a wonderful sweet and juicy summer vegetable that can be found all year around. They are usually a red fruit but also come in many other colors from yellow to purple. They are cooling and cleansing having strong antioxidants qualities with a high level of Vitamin C and A. The tomato is versatile in the kitchen being used in everything from sauces to salads.

The thermal nature is very cooling.
The flavour is .
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What it is

The tomato is a part of the nightshade family, which includes the potato, eggplant and peppers (capsicum). The tomato is actually a fruit but thought of as a vegetable in the kitchen as they do not have a desert quality like most fruit. They are a perennial plant normally grown as an annual, reaching 1-3 meters tall with a weak stem. Only the fruit of the plant are eaten as the leaves contain toxic alkaloids. There are thousands of varieties of tomatoes that vary in size from cherry tomatoes, about 1-2cm in diameter to the beefsteak tomato that can be larger than 10cm in diameter. 

The average common tomato tends to be in the range of 4 –7 cm in diameter. They are usually red in color but can also be found in a range of colors from yellow, orange, purple, green and even white. Some varieties can be multicolored. Tomatoes have fleshy internal segments with small seeds suspended in a jelly like liquid.

Commercially produced tomatoes tend to be picked green and artificially ripened which gives you a fruit that is pale with a slightly pink or orange color rather that the deep red of a vine ripened tomato. They lack flavor and have a more powdery texture. They these and health reasons many people prefer to eat organic and vine ripened tomatoes. Commercial tomatoes are now often sold “on the vine” these tend to have more flavor that the single fruit that are artificially ripened but are not as good as a real vine ripened local tomatoes. 

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What is in it

Tomato is an excellent source of Vitamins A, C and K and a very good source of fiber, the minerals manganese, chromium, potassium, molybdenum and Vitamin B1 (thiamin). Tomato is also a good source of protein, the amino acid tryptophan, the minerals copper, magnesium, iron and phosphorus, and the vitamins B2 (niacin), B3 (riboflavin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), E, and folate.

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What it is good for

Even though tomatoes are an acid fruit, after digestion (like lemons) they alkalize the blood and are useful in reducing the acid blood of rheumatism and gout (do not confuse these with arthritis, see section on things to watch out for below). They contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, which, especially when cooked can help prevent prostate cancer and improves your natural resistance to harmful UV rays. They are high in Vitamin C and Vitamin A, carotenes and many other nutrients.

• Benefit the heart, helping reduce the risk of heat disease
• Relieves dryness and thirst
• Tonifies the stomach
• Cleans the liver
• Purifies the blood and detoxifies the body in general
• Encourages digestion and so useful is cases of diminished appetite, indigestion, anorexia and constipation
• Relieves liver heat and the associated symptoms such as high blood pressure, red eyes and headaches.
• Promote prostate health
• Helps reduce cholesterol

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When you get it

Although you will find tomatoes in markets all year around they are a summer vegetable and are best from the first month of summer and well into the first months of autumn (fall). 

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Which to select

Tomatoes should be firm to the touch with a clean smooth skin. Avoid those with any spots of blemishes or bruises.

Choose vine-ripened tomatoes with a strong tomato smell as those picked green and then later ripened can weaken the Kidney-adrenal function.

Why Organic
Choose organically grown tomato whenever possible. To eat organic means to live cleanly, free of pesticides and toxins. It is a conscious choice. One made in order to survive right along with the planet that sustains us. Organically grown foods do not over-run the landfills with toxic waste from their farming or subject your body to unhealthy toxins. For your health and for the planet, choose to eat organic foods. To understand more about why organic is better please read our “Why Organic?” special feature.

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Where to store

Store tomatoes at room temperature out of the direct sunlight until they are ripe as the enzyme that causes a tomato to ripen stops working at temperatures below 12.5 degrees C (54.5 degF). When the tomato is ripened it can be stored in the refrigerator but they tend to lose their flavor. They are best eaten ripe and at room temperature.

Chopped tomatoes and tomato sauces freeze well and are great for cooking. Sun dried tomatoes should be stored in an airtight container and stored in a cool dark place.

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How to use

Always wash your tomatoes well as the skins are most often eaten. They can be sliced, chopped, diced and pureed and used in many different ways.

• Juiced and use as a drink
• Diced to make salsas and pickles 
• Chopped for Tomato sauce as in Italian recipes
• Tomato paste to intensify the tomato flavor of foods.
• Pizza tomato sauce

A simple and great spaghetti sauce is just to fry some garlic the add finely chopped tomatoes, some extra tomato paste, a pinch of salt and pepper and the herbs of your choice like oregano, basil, thyme. Just one of these herbs added fresh makes a simple and delicious sauce or add a combination of these herbs dried for a stronger flavored sauce.

Gazpacho, is a simple very healthy and tasty Mediterranean vegetable soup that combines tomato, cucumber, and sweet pepper (capsicums, along with olive oil, onion, garlic, wine vinegar and sea salt.

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How much you need

1 or 2 tomatoes twice a day should be the daily maximum.

To reach your health goals and become healthy the most important step is to eat a well balanced diet of food from across all the food groups. 

For an average person 
Servings per food group:
• Whole Grains (Carbohydrates):  6 – 8 
• Meat and beans (Protein):  1 – 2 
• High quality fats: 1
• Dairy:     2 – 3
• Fruit: 2
• Vegetables: 5
• Water: 6

This list is of recommended daily amount of each food group for an average person 19 to 50 years old with a low level of exercise (30minutes of less a day). If you are older you may need a little less, if you are younger, a little more and if you are very active even more food should be eaten. For more information on serving sizes see our special feature on Sizing Up A Serve.

It is important to ensure that the foods that you eat are of a high quality. The highest quality product is one that is fresh, whole and organic.

Fresh – over time the quality of nutrients degrades with their potency dying off.

Whole – many foods, particularly vegetarian foods carry a lot of their nutrients in their outer skins. So leave bran, germs and skins on the food where possible; always with grains and whenever the fruit of vegetable permits.

Organic – ensure you have the cleanest food by using only foods that are grown without pesticides, or other chemicals, in a natural way as people have in all bar the last 80 years of history. Chemical burdened foods are a modern invention designed to increase output with little regard to the health of the end user.

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Things to watch out for

Tomatoes upset calcium metabolism and should be avoided in cases of arthritis. They are part of the nightshade family that included potatoes and eggplant. It is thought that the removal of these foods front the diet will improve the effects of arthritis.

Large amounts of tomatoes are weakening to everyone.

Tomatoes are known to cause allergic reactions in some people that can cause skin rashes and insomnia among others symptoms.

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The Journal of Nutrition – The American Society for Nutrition,, retrieved 05/2009.

Wikipedia, Tomato,, retrieved 05/2009.

Prepared by the editors at Harvard Health Publications in consultation with Meir J. Stampfer, M.D., Dr.P.H., Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Vitamins and Minerals: What you need to know,  Harvard School of Public Health, 2008.

Bratman, Steven, and David Kroll. Natural Health Bible. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1999.

Paul Pitchford. Healing with whole food, North Atlantic Books, 2002.

Goldman L, Ausiello D. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders, 2004.

Norton Greenberger M.D. and Roanne Weisman, 4 Weeks to Healthy Digestion, Harvard School of Public Health. (2008)

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