July 25, 2023

What Are the Health Benefits of Tomatoes?

With powerful antioxidants, tomatoes boost your heart health and may lower your cancer risk

cut tomatoes

It seems like there’s no end to what you can do with tomatoes. They’re everywhere in and on our food, from the sauce on your spaghetti and the salsa loaded on your chips to the ketchup dripping from your fries. And of course, a necessary part of any salad.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

“I think tomatoes are about the most versatile of all the fruits and vegetables,” says registered dietitian Lara Whitson, RD, LD. “They’re also loaded with antioxidants and other nutrients, so there are some real benefits to eating tomatoes.”

A fruit that’s often mistakenly called (and prepared like) a vegetable, tomatoes offer fiber, vitamin C, potassium, folate and more. And the bright red color of a ripe tomato isn’t just a feast for the eyes. The color comes from lycopene (giving tomatoes their red pigment) and beta-carotene (contributing the orangey glow), two antioxidants responsible for some of the health benefits of tomatoes.

Are tomatoes healthy?

One medium-sized raw tomato provides:

Note that the nutritional values change depending on whether you’re eating tomatoes raw, juiced, in a sauce or other forms. The nutrition label will tell you what nutrients you’re getting per serving.

Whiston explains what tomatoes can do for your health:

1. Lower heart disease risk and cholesterol

Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the U.S. and worldwide. But researchers have discovered that a diet that includes tomatoes, which are rich in lycopene, helps reduce this risk. A review of 25 previous trials found that high blood levels of lycopene reduced heart disease risk by 14%.

Interestingly, how tomatoes are prepared can affect the level of healthy goodness your body takes in. The same research review compared the heart health effects of eating:

  • Raw tomatoes.
  • Tomato sauce.
  • Tomato sauce with olive oil.

While all three forms of tomatoes lowered cholesterol and inflammation, those who ate tomato sauce with olive oil had the greatest positive change in heart health numbers. “Researchers think this is because olive oil helps your body absorb more lycopene,” says Whitson.


Tomatoes are good for your cholesterol levels, too. In a small study of 15 people, participants drank tomato juice (any amount) four days a week for two months. At the end of two months, the participants had lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and higher HDL (“good”) cholesterol than when the study began.

2. Lower cancer risk

Some studies suggest that people who eat more tomatoes have a lower risk of lung, prostate and stomach cancer.

Researchers believe the lycopene and beta-carotene in tomatoes reduce your cancer risk. These two antioxidants have demonstrated anticancer properties in test tube studies using cells. “But it’s difficult to know for sure until we have full-scale human studies,” cautions Whitson.

3. Increase immunity

“While the research is mixed on whether vitamin C can actually prevent colds, we do know that this vitamin is essential to helping your immune system work well,” says Whitson.

One cup of tomato juice offers 45 milligrams of vitamin C — about 75% of an adult’s daily needs. A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C helps boost your body’s immune cells that fight infection and prevent free radical damage to your healthy cells.

4. Improve sperm’s motility

Infertility in men and people assigned male at birth (AMAB) may be due to several issues, including:

  • Genetic diseases.
  • Hormone imbalance.
  • Injury to the testes.
  • Low sperm count.
  • Medications and cancer treatments.
  • Substance abuse.

While tomatoes won’t affect most of those problems, they can help with one issue: Sperm motility, which is how well sperm can swim. If sperm can’t move efficiently toward the egg, fertilization can’t happen.

In one small study, 44 men and people AMAB who had infertility were divided into three groups:

  • One group (the control group) did nothing.
  • One group drank 7 ounces of tomato juice daily for 12 weeks.
  • One group took an antioxidant capsule.

Researchers found that the tomato juice group showed improved sperm motility, which is a sign of better fertility. The antioxidant capsule group showed no signs of improved fertility.

5. Protect against sunburns

Tomatoes aren’t just good for your insides — they benefit your skin, too. A study found that people who ate 40 grams of tomato paste with olive oil daily for 10 weeks had 40% fewer sunburns. Researchers believe this ultraviolet (UV) protection is due to the lycopene in tomatoes.

Choosing and preparing tomatoes

You may have seen several different types of tomatoes, like cherry, beefsteak, Roma and heirloom. There are hundreds of varieties of tomatoes, known as cultivars.

Researchers don’t know much about the different nutritional properties or health benefits of individual cultivars, but follow these general tips for choosing and eating tomatoes:

There are endless ways to eat tomatoes, which are members of the nightshade family of foods and spices, which also includes potatoes, eggplant and bell peppers. And no matter how you prepare or eat tomatoes, you’ll reap their health benefits.

Try these easy, delicious recipes for savory baked tomatoes, stuffed tomatoes and soups, as well as lighter dishes using raw tomatoes. Or make your own pasta sauce — and don’t forget to drizzle in some olive oil.

Related Articles

Older couple standing in kitchen taking vitamins
February 26, 2024
Do Men and Women Really Have Different Nutrition Needs?

When it comes to getting proper nutrition, your assigned sex can play a role — but there’s more to it than that

Various cuts of red meat displayed
February 14, 2024
Is Red Meat Bad for You?

It has nutrients your body needs, but it also comes with some serious health risks

A roasted pork chop on a mound of vegetables with sauce, displayed in a white bowl
February 12, 2024
Is Pork Red or White Meat? And Is It Healthy?

Despite what you may have heard, pork is actually red meat (and it comes with the same risks as other red meats)

Flaxseed sprinkled on a salad in a white bowl on a dark wooden table
January 31, 2024
Flaxseed: A Little Seed With Big Health Benefits

Ground flaxseed is full of heart-healthy omega-3s, antioxidants and fiber, and easy to add to just about any recipe

assorted vessels of olive oil on a wooden table with olives in spoon
January 16, 2024
6 Major Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

EVOO is full of antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties, both of which aid your body in multiple ways

Top view of a bowl of chili topped with sour cream and jalapeños with tortilla chips for dipping.
November 23, 2023
Recipe Adventure: How To Build a Better Bowl of Chili

From meat to beans, we’ve got some ideas to help you create the perfect-for-you chili recipe

Muffins and sweetbreads with frosting on trays at bakery.
November 21, 2023
13 Foods That You Didn’t Know Contain Dairy

Be sure to check the labels of common foods like canned tuna, bread, hot dogs and chocolate

Person during a consultation with their dietitian.
November 8, 2023
Could You Have a Fructan Intolerance?

A low-FODMAP elimination diet can help identify your symptoms

Trending Topics

White bowls full of pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate and various kinds of nuts
25 Magnesium-Rich Foods You Should Be Eating

A healthy diet can easily meet your body’s important demands for magnesium

Woman feeling for heart rate in neck on run outside, smartwatch and earbuds
Heart Rate Zones Explained

A super high heart rate means you’re burning more than fat

Spoonful of farro salad with tomato
What To Eat If You’ve Been Diagnosed With Prediabetes

Type 2 diabetes isn’t inevitable with these dietary changes