Tomatoes Nutrition Facts

Calories in Tomatoes and Their Health Benefits

Woman taking tomato
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Ever wonder if a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable? It's a good question, actually. Botanists classify tomatoes as being a fruit because they develop from the ovary of flowering plants and contain seeds. However, because tomatoes are prepared and served like vegetables, they are often thought of as a type of vegetable. Regardless of the category tomatoes fall into they are delicious and nutritious.

Tomatoes are available in a variety of shapes (from tiny spheres to large ovals), colors (from green to red, yellow, and orange), and sizes (from small grape tomatoes to large beef stake tomatoes). They also vary in the level of sweetness and acidity, which depends on the growing conditions and ripeness at harvest. Some tomatoes have few seeds, such as the plum, whereas others have many more.

Tomatoes are a healthy addition to meal plans, adding flavor, vitamins, and minerals. Tomatoes do contain some carbohydrate, but less than other fruit choices. They are available all year with peak season in the summer.

Tomato Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 small whole (2-2/5" diameter) (91 g)
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 16 
Calories from Fat 2 
Total Fat 0.2g0%
Saturated Fat 0g0%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.1g 
Monounsaturated Fat 0g 
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 4mg0%
Potassium 215.67mg6%
Carbohydrates 3.5g1%
Dietary Fiber 1.1g4%
Sugars 2.4g 
Protein 0.8g 
Vitamin A 15% · Vitamin C 21%
Calcium 1% · Iron 1%

*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

One small tomato contains only 16 calories and about 3.5 grams of carbohydrate, making it a very low calorie food option. The size of tomato and the portion you consume will affect the calorie and carbohydrate content. For example: one cherry tomato contains around 3 calories and 0.5 grams carbohydrate, one plum tomato contains about 11 calories and 2.4 grams carbohydrate, one thick slice of tomato contains about 5 calories and 1 grams carbohydrate, and one cup of chopped tomatoes contains 32 calories and 7 grams carbohydrate.

Health Benefits of Tomatoes

Tomatoes are rich in Vitamin C (important for wound healing and can increase iron absorption) and lycopene (an antioxidant that has been shown to reduce prostate cancer). Additionally, lycopene can increase HDL (healthy cholesterol) and reduce LDL (bad cholesterol). Some studies have shown a relationship between lycopene in tomatoes and the reduction of the presence of oxidized LDL, which can contribute to the plaque on the walls of the arteries.

Tomatoes are also an excellent source of vitamin A, which is an essential component for normal vision and immune function. They are also a very good source of vitamin K, which assists in blood clotting and potassium, which can help to reduce blood pressure. Lastly, they are a good source of manganese, a component of antioxidant enzymes.

Common Questions About Tomatoes

Is tomato sauce high in carbohydrates?

The amount of carbohydrates in a typical tomato sauce will depend on whether or not the recipe has sugar in it. Some types of sauce, such as marinara, do not require sugar, whereas many tomato sauce recipes yield a sweeter sauce because of the sugar content.

If you are purchasing tomato sauce always read the label. Some types of jarred sauce can contain as much as 100 calories and 18 grams carbohydrate per serving.

However, a general nutrient profile for one-half cup of canned tomato sauce is about 40 calories, 0 grams fat, 820 mg sodium, 8 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 4 grams sugar, 0 grams protein. Note that the sodium content is very high in canned sauce and, if you are making your own sauce, you can reduce the sodium content by choosing tomatoes that have no salt added to them.

Picking and Storing Tomatoes 

Look for fresh tomatoes that are plump with a smooth, shiny skin. The color should be uniform and consistent for the variety.

You can also purchase canned tomatoes, pureed, tomato paste, sauce, or stewed varieties.

Note that many of these products have added sodium to extend shelf life.

Sun-dried tomatoes, which are tomatoes that have been dried, are also available all year long and are sold in crumbs, pieces, slivers or halves, either dry or packed in oil. Those that are packed in oil can be rich in sodium and calories and, therefore, your portion should be monitored.

Contrary to popular belief, do not store fresh tomatoes in the refrigerator, in fact, this can turn the flesh mealy and reduce the flavor. Instead, store in a cool, dry place.

Healthy Ways to Prepare Tomatoes 

Tomatoes are used often in salads, soups, dips (like guacamole), sauces, and baked dishes. They are most often eaten raw, but heating tomatoes with a small amount of fat actually increases its' nutrient profile by increasing the bioavailability of lycopene.

To cook tomatoes, consider sauteing, grilling, or roasting. Roasting yields a juicy, concentrated flavor and texture. To roast, season tomatoes with oil, garlic, red pepper, and other herbs and spices—eat plain or use roasted tomatoes to puree for a tomato sauce or as a topper for grilled, baked, or roasted meats, chicken, or fish.

You can also use tomatoes to make tomato sauce, or use tomato sauce and tomato products to flavor foods such as spaghetti squash, chili, and stews. Season your sauce however you'd like, using basil, oregano, parsley, or garlic.

Recipes With Tomatoes

Sources: 

Labensky, SR, Hause, AM. On Cooking: A textbook of Culinary Fundamentals. 3rd ed. Upper Sadle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003: 623-624.

United States Department of Agriculture. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3223?manu=&fgcd=&ds=

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