Crisp and colorful vegetables not only make for satisfying meals, they support life-long health, reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, heart disease and obesity, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Consume pico de gallo -- a fresh salsa made from tomatoes, onions, hot peppers and lime juice -- as a healthful side dish or pair it with lean protein to make a filling meal. You'll boost your intake of essential minerals, vitamins and other phytonutrients that benefit your health.
Basic Nutritional Information
A serving of pico de gallo, made from a quarter-cup of onions, three-quarters of a cup of diced tomatoes and 2 tablespoons each of diced hot chili peppers and fresh lime juice, contains just 56 calories and less than half a gram of total fat. It provides 3 grams of dietary fiber, a type of carbohydrate associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Pico de gallo contains little protein when served on its own -- just 3 grams -- but topping it with 3 ounces of shrimp adds 20 grams of protein to your meal. This protein helps to nourish your muscle tissue and helps maintain your hormone balance to keep you healthy.
Consuming pico de gallo boosts your intake of vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid. Each of the major ingredients in pico de gallo contain ascorbic acid, and each serving provides 79 milligrams of vitamin C, or 88 percent of the recommended daily intake for men or the entire recommended daily intake for women, according to the Institute of Medicine. Vitamin C helps you make norepinephrine, a chemical involved in nerve communication, as well as carnitine, a compound you need to metabolize fat. It also protects lipids, proteins and DNA from damage caused by free radicals, so that your cells can function properly.
Vitamin A and Lycopene
A serving of pico de gallo contains 1,363 international units of vitamin A -- approximately 45 percent of the recommended daily intake for men or 58 percent for women, according to the Institute of Medicine. Getting enough vitamin A helps to keep your immune system, skin and red blood cells healthy, and keeps your vision sharp. Pico de gallo also contains lycopene, a cancer-fighting nutrient associated with a lower risk of lung cancer, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Each serving contains 3,474 micrograms of lycopene.
Adding pico de gallo to your diet supports your cardiovascular health by boosting your potassium intake. Potassium helps fight high blood pressure -- a risk factor for heart disease -- and also reduces your sensitivity to the damaging effects of sodium. It also contributes to other aspects of your health, supporting healthy muscle function and helping with carbohydrate metabolism. Each serving of pico de gallo contains 478 milligrams of potassium, or 10 percent of the recommended daily intake set by the Institute of Medicine.
- USDA ChooseMyPlate: Why Is it Important to Eat Vegetables?
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Tomatoes, Red, Ripe, Raw, Year Round Average
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Onions, Raw
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Peppers, Hot Chili, Green, Raw
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Lime Juice, Raw
- McKinley Health Center: Macronutrients: the Importance of Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Crustaceans, Shrimp, Untreated, Cooked
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin C
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin A
- Linus Pauling Institute: Carotenoids
Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Based in Ontario, Canada, Tremblay is an experienced journalist and blogger specializing in nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, health and biotechnology, as well as real estate, agriculture and clean tech.