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Is Tomato Good for Diabetes, or Should I Avoid It?
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Is Tomato Good for Diabetes, or Should I Avoid It?

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on 2022 August 19
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4 min

Tomatoes tick all the boxes when it comes to healthy foods. They bring multiple health benefits that can boost immunity and may even fight cancer.

is tomato good for diabetes

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Tomatoes are full of vitamin C, folate, potassium, and other essential nutrients.

Aside from being nutrient-dense, tomatoes are incredibly versatile. They can be eaten raw or cooked, providing sweetness to all kinds of dishes, including salads, sandwiches, and soups. You can even snack on a raw tomato as a low-calorie snack.

Tomatoes come in several varieties, colors, and sizes, from classic cherry tomatoes to heirloom tomatoes with rainbow colors and juicy flesh. 

Although technically a fruit, tomatoes are considered a non-starchy vegetable in the diabetes diet. They contain a minimal amount of carbohydrates and therefore do not spike blood sugars. So, is the tomato good for somebody with diabetes?

Keep reading as we cover the health benefits, glycemic index, and nutrient content of tomatoes.

Is Tomato Good for Diabetes?

Tomatoes are a superb food for people with diabetes as they are non-starchy vegetables with a low glycemic index.

Unlike other fruits and vegetables that rank high on the glycemic index, eating tomatoes will not trigger blood sugar spikes. Aside from being a low GI food, tomatoes deliver numerous health benefits that may support diabetes management and overall health.

The nutrient content of tomatoes meets several requirements that support a diabetes diet. They are low in calories, carbohydrates, and fats and are relatively low in sugar. They’re a great source of fiber, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and K.

One medium tomato has 1.5g of fiber. Fiber helps regulate blood sugar levels by slowing digestion and glucose absorption. Fiber intake also aids weight management by promoting fullness and naturally suppressing appetite. It keeps the gut healthy and prevents digestive issues like constipation and nausea.

Although a low-fat fruit, tomatoes are keto-friendly. This means you can enjoy eating tomatoes on the keto diet without hindering your efforts to get into ketosis. The keto diet can be an effective method to lose body fat and decrease blood glucose levels.

Do Tomatoes Have Sugar?

Yes, tomatoes have naturally-occurring sugars – glucose and fructose. Although tomatoes taste sweet, they are not considered a high-sugar food. The fruit is also low in carbohydrates, unlike most fruits that are generally high in carbs. A 100g serving of red tomatoes has 2.63g of sugar, 3.89g total carbs, and 2.69g net carbs.

Tomatoes and other non-starchy foods fit safely into a diabetes meal plan. Stick to whole tomatoes, as variations like tomato juice and sauce tend to have a higher sugar content that causes a faster rise in blood sugar levels.

The carb and sugar content varies between different types of tomatoes. For instance, grape tomatoes have a lower carb count than Italian or plum tomatoes. Either way, tomatoes remain a low GI food with minimal carbohydrates.

Are Tomatoes Low in Glycemic Index?

Yes, tomatoes have a low glycemic index (GI) score of 15. As a low GI food, those with diabetes can safely enjoy eating tomatoes without worrying about spiking blood sugar levels. They contain a sufficient amount of soluble fiber that slows down glucose absorption in the intestine.

5 Health Benefits of Tomatoes for Diabetes

We’ve discussed why tomato consumption is a good choice for diabetes management. They are a rich source of nutrients that can support a healthy diet alongside whole grains, lean protein, and other non-starchy vegetables to keep blood sugar levels in check.

Let’s go into more detail about the benefits they can bring to a balanced diet for diabetes.

#1 Good for weight loss

One medium tomato has only 22 calories, making sliced tomato a great zero-calorie addition to sandwiches and salads. Incorporating it into a healthy diet can help you lose and maintain weight by promoting satiety and greater appetite control. You can eat plenty of them without consuming excessive calories.

Weight loss is associated with improved insulin sensitivity, while gaining weight can increase insulin resistance, especially in people with visceral and liver fat. Weight maintenance is a critical factor for people with diabetes to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

If you want to boost the advantages of fresh tomatoes on the keto diet, you can supplement the low-fat content with healthy fats like olive oil, cheese, and avocado, which pair perfectly. Tomatoes also fit easily into a low-carb diet for weight loss.

#2 Supports heart health

A diet that includes tomatoes may support the heart primarily by reducing factors associated with cardiovascular risk. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and carrying excess weight are among the most common risk factors for developing cardiovascular diseases.

Tomato carotenoids like lycopene provide antioxidant effects that may reduce systolic blood pressure in hypertensive individuals. Unsalted tomato juice also shows promise in lowering systolic and diastolic blood pressure in people with hypertension and prehypertension.

Lycopene may also lower cholesterol levels, reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. People with high blood pressure and cholesterol levels are at higher risk of developing heart disease. These conditions cause the blood vessels to narrow, forcing the heart to work harder than usual to pump blood.

#3 May have cancer-fighting properties

Tomatoes may have anticancer properties as they are an excellent lycopene-rich food. Lycopene – a carotenoid that gives tomatoes their rich red color – is associated with a reduced risk of some cancers, including breast, gastric, and prostate cancer.

Lycopene has antioxidant effects, preventing oxidative damage to DNA and the transition of normal, healthy cells to cancer cells. Thus, a tomato-rich diet may mitigate risks that lead to the development of cancerous cells.

#4 May protect the eyes

The powerful antioxidants in tomatoes – beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin – are known to support eye health. They protect from UV damage and prevent macular degeneration, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy.

The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, an essential nutrient for vision and healthy eyes. It supports the function of the retinas – the back of the eyes that contain light-sensitive cells.

#5 Boost the immune system

Like oranges and lemons, tomatoes are effective foods for boosting the immune system. They help when you’re sick as they contain plenty of vitamin C. One average-sized tomato can provide you with almost a third of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.

It supports several cellular functions that contribute to your immune system’s defense. It is a necessary nutrient for the growth and repair of all body tissues, protecting the cells from free radical damage and speeding up the wound healing process.

Tomatoes can also help fight inflammation and are considered an effective food within an anti-inflammatory diet. Reducing inflammation in the body reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes. 

A Word From Our RD

Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disease. Symptoms can be managed and improved by adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and healthful eating. Limiting refined carbohydrates and saturated fats and upping your intake of whole foods is a critical part of a diabetes diet.

Fruit, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and healthy fats comprise a balanced diet supporting overall health.

Non-starchy vegetables like tomatoes, asparagus, and raw spinach, fit perfectly into meal planning for diabetes. They have little impact on blood sugar levels and are low in calories, supporting weight loss, which can bring remarkable improvements for people with diabetes.

Tomatoes are a low GI food full of nutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins that may improve insulin sensitivity. Not only do tomatoes support glucose and cholesterol control, but they may reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, and macular degeneration.

If you are unsure about adding tomatoes to your diet, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian about meal planning for diabetes. You should also seek medical guidance if you decide to try keto for diabetes.

Conclusion

So, can people with diabetes eat this non-starchy vegetable without the stress of raising blood sugar?

As a low-GI food with minimal calories and carbs, eating tomatoes should not cause adverse diabetes symptoms. Thanks to the many vitamins and minerals they contain, tomato consumption can deliver several additional health benefits for diabetes, from lowering blood pressure to reducing inflammation.

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed byRosmy Barrios, MD
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