Hard to believe, but believe you must.
Tomatoes have side effects, and some of them can be serious. Though the fruit is an integral part of our everyday diet, it is important to know its ill effects.
So, keep reading.
Tomatoes – A Brief
Scientifically called Solanum lycopersicum, the tomato belongs to the nightshade family of Solanaceae. Tomatoes originated in the Central and South Americas. In Mexico, they were first used in food, and eventually spread throughout the world.
Today, the tomato is consumed in a variety of ways – raw, cooked, and as an ingredient in numerous dishes, sauces, drinks, and salads.
But now comes the big question –
Why Can Tomatoes Be Bad For You?
Though they are usually safe for consumption, they can cause complications in some people. Some of the issues tomatoes can cause include acid reflux, effects of intolerance, muscle aches, etc.
Even the leaf of the tomato plant can be unsafe. In large amounts, it can cause vomiting, dizziness, headache, and, in severe cases, even death (1).
Another major factor contributing to this dark side of tomatoes is lycopene, the very compound that, quite surprisingly, is responsible for its benefits as well.
Lycopene In Tomatoes
Lycopene is safe in most cases. But lycopene supplements may not be safe during pregnancy. Lycopene can also aggravate the symptoms of prostate cancer.
Lycopene must be used cautiously in patients who have stomach ulcers and other stomach issues. The compound can also cause low blood pressure. Individuals on blood pressure lowering medication must stay away from lycopene.
Lycopene can also increase the risk of bleeding and must be avoided by people with bleeding disorders.
Other side effects related to lycopene intake are chest pain, accumulation of fat under the skin, indigestion, and worsened hot flashes (2).
Lycopene was also found to interact with certain cancer chemotherapy agents (3). Hence, individuals on cancer treatment must exercise caution.
And now, for the side effects, in detail.
Side Effects Of Tomatoes
1. Acid Reflux/Heartburn
Tomatoes are highly acidic, which makes them likely to cause heartburn (4). Tomatoes are packed with malic and citric acids and can make the stomach produce excessive gastric acid (which is responsible for food breakdown). When the volume of the acid increases, it is forced to flow up the esophagus, causing the symptoms. In fact, even cooking tomatoes may not be of much help.
Tomatoes and tomato sauce are also listed as a couple of foods that can trigger a reflux (5).
Tomatoes can also worsen the symptoms of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) (6). According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, it is best to avoid acidic foods like tomatoes to avoid acid reflux symptoms (7).
2. Allergies And Infections
Symptoms of a tomato allergy most often occur immediately after the fruit is consumed. These include hives, skin rashes, eczema, coughing, sneezing, an itching sensation in the throat, and swelling of the face, mouth, and tongue.
According to a Polish study, tomatoes contain a compound called histamine that can cause certain allergic reactions (8).
Tomatoes can also cause allergic contact dermatitis – where your skin becomes severely itchy and swollen after touching the fruit. Tomatoes can also lead to itchy lips. Another allergic reaction to do with tomatoes is a red patch around the eyebrows and eyelids (9).
3. Kidney Problems
According to a report published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, individuals with advanced chronic kidney disease must limit their intake of potassium, a mineral tomatoes are rich in (10).
People with severe kidney issues must also limit the intake of tomatoes as they contain a lot of water (11).
High potassium levels in the blood, which is one of the causes of kidney disease, could be dealt with by avoiding tomatoes or tomato sauce or anything made of tomatoes (12). Tomato sauce is also high in oxalate, which is another reason susceptible individuals must steer clear of it (13).
4. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Tomatoes, given their irritating skins and seeds, can be one reason for irritable bowel syndrome (14). And if you are already suffering from IBS, tomatoes can also trigger bloating.
Tomatoes are also one of the most common food allergens that can cause intestinal problems (15).
Diarrhea can occur in individuals suffering from tomato intolerance.
As per a report published by Longwood University, tomatoes are greasy and acidic and must be avoided during diarrhea (16). And according to another report by the University of Minnesota, tomatoes can be a source of an organism called salmonella that causes diarrhea (17).
6. Excessive Sodium
Ensure you choose lower sodium versions of tomato sauce as most sauces have a high sodium content (18).
Even tomato soup can have too much of sodium. Just one cup of the soup can contain anywhere between 700 to 1,260 mg of sodium (19). Canned tomatoes can contain 220 mg of sodium for every half cup.
We know tomatoes are excellent sources of lycopene. This can also be a bane. Excessive intake of lycopene can cause lycopenodermia, which is the deep-orange coloration of the skin. This may not be a health threat, but is surely not very attractive to look at (20).
8. Urinary Problems
Acidic foods like tomatoes can irritate the bladder and result in urinary incontinence (23). Tomatoes can also cause bladder symptoms, and in certain cases, cystitis (burning sensation in the bladder) (24).
9. Body Aches
When the immune system in the body reacts to the proteins in tomatoes, a compound called histamine (we already spoke about it) is released into the tissues. This compound can cause swelling and joint pains.
Tomatoes also contain an alkaloid called solanine, which builds up calcium in the tissues and causes inflammation.
Eating tomatoes can also increase the uric acid levels – and this can lead to gout.
Tomatoes can also trigger arthritis conditions in some people, causing pain (25).
10. Respiratory Problems
People allergic to tomatoes can have difficulty in breathing.
We can also accuse tomatoes of being conducive to mold development – and molds, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, can cause allergies and respiratory problems (26).
Tomatoes are known to trigger migraines. According to experts, one can prevent migraines 40% of the time just by simply making some dietary changes.
As per an Iranian study, tomato is a powerful trigger of migraine headache (27).
12. Acute Gastrointestinal Upset
Since tomatoes are highly acidic, they can cause acute stomach upset if you are already suffering from acid reflux or heartburn.
Tomatoes can also make the stomach produce more acid, which can cause acute gastrointestinal upset (28).
These side effects simply tell us that we must be careful and not consume tomatoes in excess. But that’s not all – there is another set of people that, in this aspect, must practice caution more than anybody else.
Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women
In regular amounts, tomatoes are found to be safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women (29). However, there is insufficient evidence when it comes to large amounts. The best way to go about it would be to consult your doctor.
Talking about lycopene in this context, there is no evidence. Hence, refrain from taking lycopene supplements (30).
Tomato, especially the sauce, has a strong flavor and can make its way into the breast milk. This can make the baby uncomfortable and irritable.
In case you have more questions…
Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions
Can tomatoes be toxic?
Tomatoes contain solanine, which is a toxic alkaloid. This alkaloid is a part of the plant’s defense mechanism to make the fruit look unappealing to animals. Though all parts of the plant contain solanine (including the fruit), the heaviest concentrations are in the leaves and stems. Hence, consuming tomatoes in normal amounts is not toxic.
Are tomato seeds poisonous?
Usually, no. But consult your doctor in this regard. Certain individuals are not allowed to have tomato seeds due to medical reasons.
What are green tomatoes?
Green tomatoes are of two types. One is the unripe red tomato, and the other is the heirloom variety of tomatoes that is originally green. Heirloom tomatoes have vertical stripes, are soft when pressed, and taste pretty much like the ripe red tomatoes. Unripe red tomatoes look green, feel harder, and have an acidic flavor.
Can tomatoes be eaten raw?
Yes. Just check the acidity. If you are suffering from acid reflux or any other gastrointestinal issue, raw tomatoes are not advised.
Is tomato leaf poisonous?
There is insufficient evidence regarding this. To be on the safe side, avoid consumption in large amounts. And consult your doctor.
Are canned tomatoes dangerous?
Yes, in the long run. In fact, any canned food is considered dangerous. This is because the inside of these cans is coated with Bisphenol A or BPA, which can pose a health risk (31). Even otherwise, canned tomatoes are high in sodium, and that is not healthy.
Can tomatoes be applied to the face?
Yes. They benefit your skin in numerous ways – they tone your skin, improve the texture, and help in exfoliation. But again, the acidity is the problem. If you are allergic to tomatoes, don’t use them.
What is Crystal Tomato? Does it have side effects?
Crystal Tomato is a dietary supplement and food additive that contains natural tomatoes and L-cysteine (an amino acid). It is FDA approved. But it might cause side effects in people who are allergic to tomatoes.
Do sun-dried tomatoes have side effects?
The one major concern of sun-dried tomatoes is their link with hepatitis (32). Sun-dried tomatoes can cause severe liver harm, and this depends on the brand that is selling it. As of now, we don’t know which brand stands to be the culprit.
How many tomatoes can I eat in a day?
About 1/3 cup of tomatoes in a day. But this quantity is specific to the individual. Otherwise, 1/3 cup of tomatoes in a day should do fine.
These side effects don’t mean you chuck tomatoes right away. They have numerous benefits. What we say is be wary of the side effects, and don’t consume them in excess.
Tell us how this post has helped you. Do comment in the box below.
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