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October 16, 2023
May 17, 2024
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Tomatoes, a staple in many cuisines worldwide, have long been celebrated for their culinary versatility and nutritional value. Beyond their vibrant colors and delicious flavors, tomatoes are a rich source of essential vitamins and minerals. One key aspect of tomatoes that often piques the interest of health-conscious individuals, especially those managing diabetes, is their glycemic index (GI). The GI measures how quickly a food item can raise blood sugar levels after consumption, making it a vital consideration for those seeking to regulate their blood glucose levels effectively.

Tomatoes exhibit a wide range of glycemic index values, depending on various factors such as ripeness, preparation methods, and variety.¹ Understanding these nuances in tomato glycemic index is essential for making informed dietary choices, particularly for individuals with diabetes or those aiming to maintain stable blood sugar levels.

This comprehensive article will delve into the complexities of the tomato glycemic index, shedding light on how different factors influence it and why this information is crucial for individuals seeking to make informed dietary decisions. 

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Glycemic Index Table

To calculate the glycemic index (GI), carbohydrate content per serving (g), and glycemic load (GL) per serving of tomatoes, it's important to note that the GI of tomatoes can vary based on factors like ripeness and preparation methods. The standard serving size for these calculations is 100g of raw, ripe tomatoes.

The GI of tomatoes is generally considered low. On the glycemic index scale, foods are categorized as low (55 or less), medium (56-69), or high (70 or more) based on how quickly they raise blood sugar levels. Raw, ripe tomatoes have a GI of approximately 15-20 [source: Glycemic Index Foundation]. This low GI indicates that tomatoes have a minimal impact on blood sugar levels when consumed in typical serving sizes.

In a 100g serving of raw, ripe tomatoes, there are approximately 3.9 grams of carbohydrates.² These carbohydrates primarily consist of natural sugars and dietary fiber, contributing to the overall nutritional value of tomatoes.

To calculate the glycemic load (GL), we use the formula: 

   GL = (GI x Carbohydrate content per serving) / 100

   GL = (15-20 x 3.9) / 100 = 0.59-0.78

Therefore, the estimated glycemic load per 100g serving of raw, ripe tomatoes falls within the range of approximately 0.59 to 0.78. A GL of less than 10 is considered low, indicating that tomatoes have a low impact on blood sugar levels per serving.¹ 

It's worth noting that the glycemic index of tomatoes can vary based on their ripeness and how they are prepared. Cooking tomatoes, as in tomato sauce or tomato paste, can slightly increase their GI due to the concentration of sugars during the cooking process. However, this change is generally modest and still falls within the low GI range.¹

Understanding the low GI and GL of tomatoes is important for individuals, especially those with diabetes, as it suggests that tomatoes are suitable for maintaining stable blood sugar levels when consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Additionally, the fiber content in tomatoes can help slow down the absorption of carbohydrates, further contributing to their favorable impact on blood sugar regulation.

Glycemic Index

15

Serving Size

100g

Carbohydrate* per Serving (g)

3.9 g

GL per Serving

0.00

Nutritional Facts

Tomatoes are a nutritionally rich fruit known for their vibrant red color and numerous health benefits. A 100g serving of raw, ripe tomatoes typically provides around 18 calories, 0.9 grams of protein, 3.9 grams of carbohydrates, and 1.2 grams of dietary fiber.² They are an excellent source of vitamins, particularly vitamin C, which supports immune health, and vitamin K, which plays a role in bone health. 

Tomatoes also contain essential minerals like potassium, known for its role in blood pressure regulation, and the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to various health benefits, including reducing the risk of chronic diseases. Additionally, tomatoes are low in saturated fat and cholesterol, making them a heart-healthy choice for inclusion in a balanced diet.

The nutritional information below is for 100 g of tomatoes.²

Calories

18 kcal

Carbs

3.9 g

Protein

0.9 g

Fiber

1.2 g

Cholesterol

0 mg

Vitamins

A (42 µg), B6 (0.08 mg), C (13.7 mg).

Sodium

5 mg

Total Fat

0.2 g

Is Tomato Good for Weight Loss?

Tomatoes can be a beneficial addition to a weight loss diet due to several factors. First, they are low in calories, with approximately 18 calories per 100g serving of raw, ripe tomatoes.² This makes them an excellent choice for individuals looking to reduce calorie intake while maintaining nutritional value.

Furthermore, tomatoes are rich in dietary fiber, providing around 1.2 grams per 100g serving. Fiber promotes feelings of fullness and satiety, which can help curb appetite and reduce overall food intake. Additionally, tomatoes contain antioxidants like lycopene, which have been associated with potential weight management benefits. Some studies suggest that lycopene may help reduce adipose tissue (body fat) and support healthy metabolism.³

Including tomatoes in a balanced, calorie-controlled diet can contribute to a feeling of fullness and help individuals reach their weight loss goals while ensuring they receive essential nutrients. However, it's essential to maintain an overall healthy and varied diet to achieve sustainable weight loss and consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized guidance.

Is Tomato Safe for People Living with Diabetes?

Tomatoes can be a safe and nutritious addition to the diet of individuals with diabetes, but it's crucial to understand how they may affect blood sugar levels. Tomatoes have a relatively low glycemic index (GI) of approximately 15-20 for raw, ripe tomatoes.¹ This means they have a minimal impact on blood sugar when consumed in reasonable portions.

Moreover, tomatoes are a good source of essential nutrients such as vitamins A, C, and K, potassium, and dietary fiber. The fiber content in tomatoes can help stabilize blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of carbohydrates, promoting a more gradual increase in blood glucose after eating.⁴ Additionally, tomatoes contain antioxidants like lycopene, which have been associated with potential health benefits for people with diabetes, including reducing the risk of complications.³

It's essential for individuals with diabetes to include tomatoes in a balanced diet, but portion control and mindful consumption are key to maintaining stable blood sugar levels. Consulting a healthcare professional or registered dietitian can provide personalized guidance on incorporating tomatoes into a diabetes-friendly diet.

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Allergies

Allergies to tomatoes, though relatively uncommon, can cause adverse reactions in some individuals. These allergic reactions are typically triggered by proteins found in tomatoes. In rare cases, symptoms can range from mild oral itching and swelling to more severe reactions such as hives, digestive issues, or even anaphylaxis. 

It's essential for individuals who suspect a tomato allergy to seek medical evaluation and potentially undergo allergy testing to confirm the diagnosis. Avoiding tomato-containing products and carefully reading food labels can help prevent allergic reactions in those sensitive to tomatoes.

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FAQs

What is Glycemic Index?

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood sugar levels compared to a reference food, usually glucose. It ranks foods on a scale from 0 to 100, with higher values indicating a faster rise in blood sugar. The glycemic index (GI) scale is typically categorized as follows: Low GI [55 or less], Medium GI [56-69], High GI [70 or higher]. Foods with a high glycemic index digest rapidly and can cause dramatic fluctuations in blood glucose or glucose spikes.

What is Glycemic Load?

Glycemic load (GL) takes into account both the quality (glycemic index) and quantity (carbohydrate content) of carbohydrates in a specific serving of food. It is a measure of how much a particular food will raise blood sugar levels. GL is calculated by multiplying the glycemic index of a food by its carbohydrate content and dividing it by 100. It provides a more accurate representation of the overall impact of a food on blood sugar compared to the glycemic index alone.

Does Tomato Spike Insulin?

No, tomatoes do not spike insulin levels. Tomatoes are low in carbohydrates and have a low glycemic index, which means they have a minimal impact on blood sugar levels and insulin secretion. In fact, tomatoes are considered a healthy food choice for people with diabetes or those trying to manage their blood sugar levels.

Is Tomato Low Glycemic?

Yes, tomatoes are considered low glycemic due to their low carbohydrate content and high fiber content. They have a glycemic index of 38, which is considered low.

Can People Living with Diabetes Eat Tomato?

Yes, people living with diabetes can eat tomatoes as they are low in carbohydrates and calories, high in fiber, and rich in vitamins and minerals. However, they should monitor their portion sizes and avoid consuming tomato-based products with added sugars.

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References

  1. The University of Sydney. (2023, May 1). Glycemic Index – Glycemic Index Research and GI Newshttps://glycemicindex.com/
  2. USDA FoodData Central. (2019, April 1). Food Details - Tomatoes, red, ripe, raw, year round average. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170457/nutrients 
  3. Gärtner, C., Stahl, W., & Sies, H. (1997). Lycopene is more bioavailable from tomato paste than from fresh tomatoes. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 66(1), 116–122. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/66.1.116 
  4. American Diabetes Association. (n.d.). Non-starchy vegetableshttps://diabetes.org/food-nutrition/reading-food-labels/non-starchy-vegetables

About the author

It is a long established fact that a reader will be distracted by the readable content of a page when looking at its layout.

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About the author

Brittany Barry is a national board-certified health coach and NASM-certified personal trainer based in South Carolina.

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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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