All fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes, have carbohydrates in the form of fiber and naturally occurring sugar. However, don’t worry too much about the sugar content in tomatoes. Sugars from fresh produce aren’t usually a big concern, because these foods are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Amount of Carbs and Sugar
One cup of chopped or sliced tomatoes, weighing 5.25 ounces, has a total of about 32 calories. Eighty-eight percent of those calories come from the 7 grams of carbohydrates. Nearly 68 percent of those carbohydrates are from the 4.75 grams of sugar. If cherry tomatoes are more your taste, you’ll get a minimal 18 calories from six cherry tomatoes weighing 3.5 ounces. Cherry tomatoes have the same ratio of carbohydrates and sugar. Those six little cherry tomatoes only provide 4 grams of carbohydrates, and roughly 2.7 of those grams come from sugar.
Why Carbs and Sugar Are Important
Carbohydrates go through a series of digestive steps and eventually break down into glucose – the simplest form of sugar. Glucose is the main source of energy for every single cell, from ever-changing skin cells all the way up to brain cells. Since sugar is already in a simple form, it usually only has to undergo one quick step to turn into glucose to fuel your body.
How Much You Can Have
Because carbs are your body’s main energy source, a big chunk of your daily calories, between 45 and 65 percent, should come from them, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 reports. Carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram, so if 1,500 calories daily is normal for you, you’ll need 675 to 975 calories from carbs, or 169 to 244 grams of carbohydrates. Any sugar you have throughout the day takes up some of your carbohydrate allotment.
The Fiber Consideration
Tomatoes also have another type of carbohydrate: Fiber. You need fiber for digestion and to keep your intestinal tract healthy, although it doesn’t break down like other carbohydrates do. Instead, fiber travels through your gut relatively intact and doesn’t provide any calories. Fiber has a separate recommendation of 14 grams for every 1,000 calories in your diet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains. As an example, aim to get 21 grams for a 1,500-calorie-per-day diet. That 1-cup serving of chopped or sliced tomatoes offers 2.2 grams of fiber, while those six cherry tomatoes have 1.2 grams of fiber.
If you’re following a low-carb diet or just trying to watch the carbohydrates and sugar you consume, you’ll still be able to enjoy tomatoes – they don’t have a lot of carbs or sugar. They’re equally delicious chilled or added to a hot dish. As a quick snack, pack yourself a bag of cherry tomatoes and a side of hummus. You’ll get fiber and protein to tide you over until lunch. You can also roast cherry tomatoes with a touch of olive oil and dried Italian seasoning as a quick side for grilled chicken. If you’re tired of adding plain tomato wedges to your salad, toss them in with your veggie stir-fry or pasta dish at dinner. You won’t be getting a lot of extra carbs or sugar, although you’ll be sneaking in more fiber.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Carbohydrates
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Tomatoes, Red, Ripe, Raw, Year Round Average
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Your Digestive System and How It Works
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.