Yes, tomato juice has largely been relegated to brunch-time Blood Marys or complimentary beverage service at 40,000 feet. But it turns out we shouldn’t be waiting for special occasions to go to town on this stuff, because tomato juice benefits are pretty substantial. Don't believe me? Here's what the experts have to say:
1. It’s high in vitamin C
Yeah yeah, oranges have tons of the antioxidant vitamin C, but so does tomato juice, says nutritionist Kimberly Snyder, CN, author of Recipes for Your Perfectly Imperfect Life. One cup of tomato juice contains between 67 and 170 milligrams of vitamin C, depending on what type you buy. Given that she says the average adult should consume anywhere between 45 to 90 milligrams per day, you can easily knock down your daily intake in one glass.
Vitamin C also helps with iron absorption, says Snyder (helping to prevent anemia), can help your body regenerate the antioxidant vitamin E, is good for your immune system, and has protective properties against health conditions like cataracts and cancer.
2. It helps protect the skin
No, drinking tomato juice doesn’t mean you can sunbathe without SPF. It just means that its high lycopene content (naturally found in tomatoes) helps enhance the skin’s natural defense against free radicals, says Snyder. What’s more is that she says this antioxidant can help ward off heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis.
3. It can keep your BMs regular
When it comes to your bathroom break, tomato juice can help you in two ways. First, it’s full of fiber, which Snyder says can “push stomach- and intestine-clogging materials out of the body, moving food through the gastrointestinal tract quickly for better digestion and overall well-being.” Plus, since it contains a lot of water, it softens and loosens digestive material.
4. It can replenish electrolytes
The next time you’re drenched in sweat post-HIIT class, try reaching for a glass of tomato juice. The drink generally has hefty amounts of sodium (not always a good thing), but sodium is one of the body's essential electrolytes. And electrolytes, of course, are key for muscle recovery and cell communication. “[Electrolytes] perfectly replenish the body after a long day in the sun and it’s good to try and replace them with whole foods,” says Snyder. “Like coconut water, tomato juice is a good source to reach for.”
5. It may help reduce inflammation
Along with vitamin C, tomato juice happens to be loaded with antioxidants like beta carotene, flavonoids and phenolic acids, says Snyder. These all work to neutralize harmful free radicals that are responsible for cell damage and a host of serious illnesses. As a bonus, Snyder says these antioxidants boost bone health, too. Win win!
6. It keeps you hydrated
Tomato juice’s high water content means it’s hydrating AF. “Hydration is such an important aspect of our well-being," says Snyder. "When we’re hydrated, our joints are lubricated, our skin is being nourished, and our hair follicles are able to grow in healthfully. It means that our hormones and our organs are able to function in an optimal way." So if you're not a fan of plain water and need a break from lemon water, tomato juice could be a savory option to try.
Curious about green juice? Check out what a nutritionist says about the uber-trendy beverage:
Anything else I should know about tomato juice?
OK, so tomato juice has a lot in its favor. But like any food, it's not universally good for everyone. Snyder says its natural sugar content may promote yeast growth in the body for those with a yeast infection or other types of Candida. Because it’s acidic (you know, because tomatoes!), it’s not ideal for those with acid reflux. “The quantity for one to consume truly varies from person to person,” she says.
And remember how I said that tomato juice typically has a lot of sodium? While a little of the stuff is great for your electrolyte levels, too much sodium can cause bloating and water retention and potentially increased blood pressure. Since your average cup of tomato juice contains over 600 milligrams of sodium (about a quarter of your recommended daily intake, which is considered high sodium), it's not necessarily the best choice for those with hypertension or cardiovascular disease, says Robin Danowski, RD, assistant professor of nutrition at La Salle University.
When looking for a healthy tomato juice, Danowski says the first place to look is the nutrition label. Under carbohydrates, look for a section that lists added sugars. “You want it to be as low as possible. We don’t need any added sugars in our diet because we get natural sugar from fruits and vegetables," she says. Then, Danowski says to choose the brand with the least amount of sodium. Look for a label that says "no salt added" (which has less than 5 milligrams per serving) or "low sodium," which means that the product contains no more than 140 milligrams per serving.
Sure, tomato juice isn't for everyone. But at least knowing all of its benefits will give you new respect for your next Bloody Mary.
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