Can A Tomato A Day Be The Key To A Healthy Gut?

Tomatoes are one of the most popular fruits in the world with about 182 million metric tons harvested per year, according to World Atlas. They offer up a variety of health benefits because they contain the antioxidant lycopene (via WebMD). Lycopene is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and some cancers. Tomatoes also contain other healthy nutrients such as calcium, potassium, vitamins A and K, and folate.

New research suggests that they may also play an important role in a healthy gut. In a 2022 study published in the journal Microbiology Spectrum, researchers explained that since there aren't many studies on how specific foods impact the gut microbiome, they wanted to understand how a popular fruit like tomatoes affected bacteria in the gut. They conducted research on 20 piglets, which are anatomically and metabolically similar to humans. One group of 10 was fed a diet that included 10% freeze-dried tomato powder, and the remaining 10 ate a controlled diet that did not include the powder but contained the same macronutrients.

Tomato powder increased and improved gut bacteria

For the study, researchers examined piglet stool samples after seven and 14 days, and they discovered the pigs that consumed the tomatoes had developed healthier gut microbiomes over time. The diversity of their gut bacteria increased, and the combination of ​​Bacteroidota and Bacillota bacteria had a more favorable balance. Researchers explained that a low ratio of Bacteroidota/Bacillota is linked with obesity, while a higher ratio is seen as more favorable. Some bacteria observed also provided probiotic benefits to gut health, and others reduced the severity of irritable bowel disease and inflammation.

Researchers stated that the findings suggest that incorporating tomatoes into the diet may help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria, which is important for optimum health, according to Live Science. Authors of the study noted that the human gut microbiome is complicated, adding that more research on how tomatoes impact the human gut is needed.