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Is It Safe To Eat Tomatoes During Pregnancy?

Why Tomatoes Are Good During Pregnancy

Tomatoes are not just safe for most pregnant women, they are beneficial too, thanks to nutrients like vitamin A and C. Tomatoes also have lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that protects your heart, as well as potassium which manages blood pressure. Have them in moderation with iron-rich foods to enhance absorption. But reduce the amount if you are prone to heartburn.

Pregnancy, an exciting and a stressful phase in your life, is when you’re most cautious about what you eat, even everyday foods like tomatoes. Tomatoes are acidic in nature and pregnant women who are already plagued by digestive disorders like acid reflux or nausea may find it commonsensical to avoid tomatoes. But taken in moderation as a part of a healthy diet, tomatoes are not just safe, they are also beneficial for the mother and the fetus, thanks to the multiple vital nutrients they offer.

Expert Opinion

The excellent nutrient content of tomatoes is very beneficial during pregnancy. However, those with a sensitivity or allergy to nightshades should avoid tomatoes as they can affect the gut, neurotransmitters, nerves, immune system, and even lead to death if it is a severe allergy.

Transformational Nutritionist

1. Tomatoes Offer A Good Amount Of Vitamin C

During pregnancy, your recommended daily intake of vitamin C goes up from 75 mg to 85 mg.1 Tomatoes happen to be a good source. One large tomato has 24.9 mg vitamin C, while a cup of cherry tomatoes has 20.4 mg, meeting 29% and 24% of your daily requirement, respectively.2

Since the body can’t make or store the vitamin C, you need to eat it every day. It’s necessary for normal growth and immunity.3 These benefits are even more crucial when you’re pregnant. It’s been found that even a marginal vitamin C deficiency in the mother results in developmental problems in the fetal brain. And once the damage has occurred, it cannot be reversed by further C supplementation.4

2. Tomatoes Increase Iron Absorption

Since pregnancy leads to an increase in blood supply, an adequate intake of iron is vital. A deficiency doesn’t only increase the risk of a short gestation, it also affects the baby’s growth and development. The chances of iron deficiency are higher in the later stages of pregnancy but right from the moment you plan your pregnancy, you need to make sure your iron levels are consistently within the normal range.

During pregnancy, your daily requirement of iron rises from 18 mg to 27 mg.5 While prenatal supplements contain iron, if you want to get all your iron from food, tomatoes could help. Though tomatoes in themselves have a small quantity of iron, the vitamin C in them can enhance non-heme iron absorption from iron-rich vegetables.6

The best sources of iron include beef, chicken liver, tuna, spinach, asparagus, mulberries, and apricots.7 However, though meat is a rich source, go easy. Also remember to eat organ meat sparingly since it contains a very high amount of vitamin A that can cause toxicity.

3. Carotenoids In Tomatoes Offer Antioxidant Protection

1 cup cooked ripe tomatoes has 7298 mcg of lycopene, 226 mcg of lutein + zeaxanthin, and 703 mcg of β-carotene.8

Pregnancy is a time of increased oxidation and free radical generation in the mother’s body, which can lead to pregnancy problems like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, hypertension, intra-uterine growth restriction of the fetus, and even preterm birth. This is why pregnant women are advised to increase their intake of vegetables and fruits to hike up their antioxidant levels.9

Other than the potent antioxidants vitamin C and E (a large tomato meets 6.5% of the daily requirement), tomatoes contain carotenoids like beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, and lycopene, all of which help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.10 Of these, lycopene, which gives tomatoes their color, can help reduce the risk of growth restriction of the fetus inside the uterus, lower blood pressure, and prevent the hardening of arteries. This reduces the risk of heart problems during pregnancy, which impacts 2 percent of all pregnancies in the Western world.11 12 Antioxidants may also reduce the risk of birth defects in babies born to women who abuse alcohol during pregnancy.13

Even if you have gestational diabetes, you can include tomatoes in the diet in any form you like. They are low in calories and have all the vital nutrients.

The good thing is that these antioxidants are not destroyed even when you cook the tomatoes, so feel free to rustle up a soup or simply add a generous dollop of ketchup to your food. While canned tomatoes also have these antioxidants, it’s best to go for fresh tomatoes. Also remember to get your antioxidants from carotenoid-rich foods rather than relying on supplements.

4. Tomatoes Are A Good Vegetarian Source Of Vitamin A

When you’re pregnant, your daily vitamin A requirement changes from 700 mcg to 770 mcg. Tomatoes can meet some of your vitamin A requirement during pregnancy. One large tomato has 76 mcg of vitamin A, meeting around 10% of your daily requirement. Even cherry tomatoes have a decent amount, at 63 mcg per cup.14 Other sources include bell peppers, sweet potato, and mangoes.15

For a vitamin A-rich snack option, toss up an Indian street-side salad with boiled sweet potatoes, diced raw tomatoes and onions, chopped cilantro, rock salt, ground roasted cumin, and a dash of lime juice.

While healthy mothers who consume a nutrient-rich diet have a sufficient store of vitamin A in the liver, pregnant women in developing countries run a serious risk of vitamin A deficiency, especially in the third trimester. This in turn can lead to anemia, a potentially fatal condition for both the mother and the child.

The caveat is that having too much vitamin A supplements can be toxic if the type of vitamin in your pills is preformed A or retinol (from animal sources) rather than beta-carotene (from plant sources). Having whole foods is your best bet.

5. Tomatoes Offer Potassium To Keep Blood Pressure In Check

Your potassium requirements don’t change during pregnancy, but this mineral is still essential. You need it for proper heart function, fluid balance, and digestion.16 In one large tomato, you will get 431 mg of potassium, which meets about 9% of your potassium requirement, and negligible sodium.17 Potassium also keeps your blood pressure in check. It works by reducing the effects of sodium so your blood vessels have less pressure.18 If your blood pressure is too high, there’s a higher risk of preeclampsia, early delivery, and low birth weight.. You’ll also be more likely to have kidney damage.19

6. Tomatoes Offer Vitamin K And Folate Too

Tomatoes can also offer about 14% of your requirement for vitamin K and 4.5% of your folate requirement during pregnancy. While K is essential for blood clotting, folate is required in the very early stages of pregnancy to avert neural tube defects in the baby – that is birth defects in the brain, spine, and spinal cord.20

Safety Notes

When it comes to tomato recipes, there’s no dearth of options. Eat your tomatoes raw in salads, chomp on generous slices in whole wheat sandwiches or burgers, process them into sauce or passata, cook a shakshouka, stuff tomatoes with meat and roast them, or simply make yourself a virgin bloody Mary. Include tomatoes in your pregnancy diet as you wish, but eat them in moderation. Heartburn and acid reflux are common during pregnancy, and eating too many tomatoes, which are acidic, can make things worse.21 22 There’s no set limit to how much of tomatoes you can eat. Just pay attention to how you feel and eat less if it affects your health.

References   [ + ]

1. Vitamin C. National Institutes of Health.
2. Basic Report: 11529, Tomatoes, red, ripe, raw, year round average. United States Department of Agriculture.
3, 6. Vitamin C. National Institutes of Health.
4. Tveden-Nyborg, Pernille, Lucile Vogt, Janne G. Schjoldager, Natalie Jeannet, Stine Hasselholt, Maya D. Paidi, Stephan Christen, and Jens Lykkesfeldt. “Maternal vitamin C deficiency during pregnancy persistently impairs hippocampal neurogenesis in offspring of guinea pigs.” PLoS One 7, no. 10 (2012): e48488.
5, 7. Iron. Oregon State University.
8. Tomatoes, red, ripe, cooked. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
9. Zielińska, Monika A., Aleksandra Wesołowska, Beata Pawlus, and Jadwiga Hamułka. “Health Effects of Carotenoids during Pregnancy and Lactation.” Nutrients 9, no. 8 (2017): 838.
10. Burton-Freeman, Britt M., and Howard D. Sesso. “Whole food versus supplement: comparing the clinical evidence of tomato intake and lycopene supplementation on cardiovascular risk factors.” Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal 5, no. 5 (2014): 457-485.
11. Lycopene. US National Library of Medicine.
12. Lam, Wilson W. “Heart disease and pregnancy.” Texas Heart Institute Journal 39, no. 2 (2012): 237.
13. Dong, Jian, Kathleen K. Sulik, and Shao-yu Chen. “Nrf2-mediated transcriptional induction of antioxidant response in mouse embryos exposed to ethanol in vivo: implications for the prevention of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.” Antioxidants & redox signaling 10, no. 12 (2008): 2023-2033.
14, 17. Basic Report: 11529, Tomatoes, red, ripe, raw, year round average. United States Department of Agriculture.
15. Vitamin A. National Institutes of Health.
16. Potassium. University of Maryland Medical Center.
18. How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure. American Heart Association.
19. High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
20. Basic Report: 11529, Tomatoes, red, ripe, raw, year round average. United States Department of Agriculture.
21. Heartburn During Pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association.
22. Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for GER & GERD. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.