Jan 05, 2022
A leading dietician reveals all of the glowing details.
I recently took a trip to Italy and was in awe of the skin quality of the country’s locals. Nearly everyone over the age of 70 seemed to dodge fine lines and wrinkles and opt for an awe-inspiring healthy glow. Obviously genetics play a significant role in elasticity and collagen (to which I am grateful since I, myself, am Italian), but there just had to be more to it.
Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a plant-based registered dietitian and owner of Plant-Based Eats in Stamford, Conn., confirms that tomatoes are, indeed, one the most skin-healthy foods.
We’ve heard plenty about the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, inspired by the produce, seafood, and oils sourced locally from areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, but after delving face-first into plate after plate of pasta, I realized that the most common ingredient I was eating happened to be the mighty tomato.
Upon my return, I chatted with Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a plant-based registered dietitian and owner of Plant-Based Eats in Stamford, Conn., who confirmed that tomatoes are, indeed, one the most skin-healthy foods you can incorporate into your meals. In fact, they’re so dermis-friendly that there have been countless studies to prove their efficacy.
Lucky for us, Italian tomatoes are readily available year-round, thanks to the country’s extensive harvesting, production, and distribution practices. For recipe ideas, as well as a comprehensive list of the brands that are accessible stateside, be sure to check out Greatest Tomatoes from Europe - a top resource for learning about Italy’s tomato-processing industry — one of the most highly-regulated in the world.
Why are tomatoes good for your skin?
“Tomatoes boast lycopene,” explains Gorin. “This antioxidant not only helps prevent certain types of cancer but also helps to protect your skin from UV damage.”
What’s even more fascinating is that tomatoes use this lycopene to protect themselves from the sun while growing on the vine, so when consumed, they’re essentially passing on their skin-shielding properties on to you. Lycopene is what also gives tomatoes their bright red color.
Additionally, tomatoes are high in vitamin C content, which is proven to effectively stimulate collagen production.
Tomatoes are also high in vitamin C, which is proven to effectively stimulate collagen production.
How many tomatoes do you actually need to eat to experience health benefits?
“It would be ideal to eat a tomato product — fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, etc.—daily,” recommends Gorin, who refers to one significant 2011 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology.
In a nutshell, 20 healthy women ate 55 grams of tomato paste in olive oil daily for 12 weeks straight. As a result, they saw protection against the “acute effects of photodamage,” as well as the “longer-term effects of UV damage.”
Do health benefits go away if the tomatoes are cooked?
“Not at all,” says Gorin. “In fact, it’s quite the opposite! Research has found that the lycopene in cooked tomatoes is more easily absorbed by the body than that from raw tomatoes.”
That being said, the same research also concluded that vitamin C decreased by up to 29 percent in cooked tomatoes, meaning you may have to sacrifice one benefit to get more of another. Nevertheless, it’s easy to get your vitamin C from such delights as strawberries and oranges.
Watermelon, pink grapefruit, guava, papaya, red bell peppers, persimmons, asparagus, and mangos are also good sources of lycopene.
Are there other fruits and vegetables that have the same effect?
In theory, other foods that have high lycopene content may provide a similar skin-protecting benefit, though further research must be conducted to confirm this generalization. These foods include watermelon, pink grapefruit, guava, papaya, red bell peppers, persimmons, asparagus, and mangos.
We so often search for miracle-working products and treatments to benefit our overall skin health when, in some cases, this can be achieved with a simple trip to the grocery store.
So load up on that pasta sauce, bruschetta, salsa, and ketchup — your secret to brighter, healthier-looking skin may only be a forkful away.
Joey is a writer/editor, TV/radio personality, lifestyle expert, former entertainment publicist and author of Basic Bitchen. He was most recently editor-at-large of CBS Interactive’s Chowhound and his work has also been featured in major outlets like Food & Wine, People, CNET, InStyle, Yahoo!, Travel + Leisure, Lonny, and BuzzFeed. In addition, he is the host of Awesomeness TV’s Dish This and has appeared on Wendy Williams, Entertainment Tonight, CNN, HLN, NBC, CBS, and SiriusXM. Currently based in New York City, in his spare time Joey enjoys volleyball, worshipping Beyonce, fine dining, writing depressing poetry, interior design, and perfecting his stand-up comedy routine. You can find him on Instagram @joeyskladany.