What are the Health Benefits of Tomato Paste?

by Joanne Marie, Demand Media
    Tomato paste contains lycopene, a healthy, natural compound.

    Tomato paste contains lycopene, a healthy, natural compound.

    Tomatoes and tomato-based foods are generally low-calorie, healthy choices for your well-balanced diet. Tomato paste is a commercially available, thick and smooth product that usually contains tomatoes as its only ingredient. A flavorful addition to many dishes, tomato paste provides nutrition, vitamins, minerals and lycopene, a phytochemical with many possible health benefits.

    Nutrition

    Tomato paste is low in calories, with only 12 per tablespoon. It contains mostly carbohydrates -- about 3 grams in 1 tablespoon -- along with a tiny amount of protein and almost no fat. Tomato paste is an excellent source of potassium, with more than 160 milligrams per tablespoon, and it also provides small amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. An average serving of tomato paste also provides about 10 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamins A and C, two antioxidant vitamins. In each tablespoon, tomato paste contains 244 international units -- or about 162 milligrams -- of vitamin A, which is important for your vision. Vitamin C supports your skin, bones and connective tissues.

    Fiber

    Some of the carbohydrate nutrient in tomato paste is dietary fiber, with about 1 gram in an average serving or 6 percent of the recommend daily amount. Dietary fiber, though indigestible, has many health benefits. It can help keep you regular by adding bulk to your stool. Fiber can also help reduce your blood level of cholesterol and slow the increase in blood sugar that follows a carbohydrate-containing meal. These benefits can lower your risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

    Lycopene

    Tomato paste is an extremely rich source of lycopene, a natural pigment that gives many red fruits and vegetables their color. It is a member of a group of plant-based compounds called carotenoids; lycopene is called a nonprovitamin A carotenoid because, unlike some carotenoids, your body cannot convert it into vitamin A. Lycopene is a potent antioxidant, a compound that helps your body rid itself of free radicals. These unstable chemicals are produced as byproducts of normal digestion or when you are exposed to environmental toxins. Over time, they can damage your cells, raising your risk of cancer and other diseases. Antioxidants such as lycopene stabilize free radicals, making them harmless and helping your body to dispose of them.

    Cancer Prevention

    Lycopene in tomato paste may help lower your risk of certain cancers, according to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Lycopene might help cells remain normal by preventing damage to their DNA. It can also slow the growth of cancer cells and help activate enzymes that remove carcinogens from your body. A review published in the "Journal of the National Cancer Institute" examined the findings of 72 population-based studies on lycopene and cancer, concluding that the risk of prostate, lung and stomach cancer was lowest among people who consumed the greatest amount of lycopene-containing foods. Although this suggests that lycopene is protective against cancer, clinical trials with lycopene are still needed to confirm this possibility.

    Other Benefits

    Lycopene in tomato paste might help improve symptoms of asthma, according to a study published in "Allergy" in which subjects with asthma consumed either lycopene or a placebo for one week, then exercised and had their lung function tested. Those who took lycopene experienced substantially fewer asthma symptoms after exercise than the placebo group. Memorial Sloan-Kettering says that lycopene, along with other plant-derived carotenoids, might also reduce your risk of macular degeneration, an eye disorder that can cause blindness, cataracts and cardiovascular disease.

    About the Author

    Joanne Marie began writing professionally in 1981. Her work has appeared in health, medical and scientific publications such as "Endocrinology" and "Journal of Cell Biology." She has also published in hobbyist offerings such as "The Hobstar" and "The Bagpiper." Marie is a certified master gardener and has a Ph.D. in anatomy from Temple University School of Medicine.

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