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Do Tomatoes Raise Blood Sugar Levels?

July 28, 2022
Written by
Team NutriSense

Tomatoes are an extremely versatile fruit that can add a fresh, tangy zest to any dish or meal. These plump, sweet, and juicy fruits are often enjoyed in everything from salads to soup, salsa, pasta sauce, and curries. 

They’re also great sources of vitamin A, C, and K, contain many healthy minerals, and have a high water content, meaning they’re great for hydration.

But is this sweet and tangy fruit safe for individuals who are watching their blood sugar to eat regularly? 

In this article, we’ll explore the connection between tomatoes and blood glucose levels, insulin response, and other health effects that tomatoes may have.

Tomatoes and Blood Sugar—What the Science Says

two bowls full of tomatoes

Raw tomatoes are composed almost entirely of water and are low in carbohydrates. According to the nutritional data from the USDA, only three to five percent of a tomato is carbohydrate content and that number includes the natural sugars found in tomatoes. 

As a result, eating a tomato—in your salad, for instance—shouldn’t lead to an increase in blood sugar levels. A recent meta-analysis of research on tomatoes, found that there was no significant effect of tomato consumption on fasting blood glucose levels. 

But what about the phytochemicals and other nutrients in tomatoes? Can these actually lead to a decrease in blood glucose.

Unfortunately, not much research has been done on this subject. However, a small randomized control trial involving healthy women pointed to lower blood glucose concentrations in people who consumed 200 grams of tomato juice or tomato 30 minutes before eating a small serving of carbohydrates.

It’s difficult to draw large conclusions from this study due to its extremely small study population (25 women). So, although it may suggest that the tomato can have anti-hyperglycemic effects, more wide-reaching research is likely still needed to confirm its findings.

Do Different Tomato Varieties Have Different Effects?

a vine of tomatoes

While it’s true that different varieties of tomato have distinct nutrient compositions, most types of fresh, raw tomatoes will have similar nutritional value. 

For instance, according to the USDA, grape tomatoes have slightly more carbohydrate content than roma tomatoes per 100 gram serving: 5.51 grams to 3.84 grams

Sun-dried tomatoes, however, have much less water content and consequently much higher proportions of calories, carbohydrates, and other nutrients. In general, dried fruits may impact your glucose more dramatically than whole, raw fruits, so portion size is important to consider when adding sun-dried tomatoes to your plate.

Fresh vs. Canned Tomatoes

When we compare fresh and canned tomatoes, much of the nutritional content appears to be the. The key difference lies in the sodium content, which is added during the canning process.

So if you prefer using canned tomatoes over the ripe fruit, look for options that don’t have salt added during processing. The table below gives an overview of the nutritional differences between fresh and canned tomatoes.

What About Tomato Juice?

Similarly to fresh tomatoes, tomato juice has very little carbohydrate content. However, juices will almost always impact your glucose more significantly than whole fruits, so it’s best to choose whole fruit whenever possible.

You’ll also want to check the nutritional label to make sure that your serving of tomato juice is sparse in carbs and does not contain added salt.

In the table below, you can see how different methods of consuming tomatoes can affect their nutrient composition.

nutritional content of tomatoes chart

Tomatoes and Type 2 Diabetes

a plate with a toast topped with potato salad and tomatoes

So what does this all mean for individuals with type 2 diabetes?In essence, the low carbohydrate content in fresh tomatoes suggests that these fruits shouldn’t cause a drastic increase in blood sugar. 

Some studies seem to suggest that an antioxidant called lycopene (found in tomatoes) can positively affect blood glucose levels in individuals with diabetes, however more research is still needed to determine how strong the impact is.

However, another study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition found that there were no significant differences in blood glucose levels among diabetic participants who consumed 200 grams of raw tomato daily for eight weeks during the study period.

Due to conflicting results across various studies, it’s hard to determine how much, if any, effect tomatoes can have on blood sugar levels. More research is still needed to determine how tomatoes may be beneficial for individuals with diabetes.

Lycopene and Diabetes 

Tomatoes have several important nutrients, one of which is called lycopene, and has been linked to preventing chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Despites these findings, one 10-year study involving 35,783 women found little evidence for an association between tomato-based food products and the risk of type 2 diabetes.

While lycopene can be beneficial for individuals with diabetes, recent studies have yet to confirm the ability of lycopene in tomatoes to lower your risk of developing this condition. 

Antioxidant Effects of Lycopene

pasta, tomatoes, and tomato sauce

While there isn’t much evidence for positive glycemic effects of tomatoes, it seems they may still have some benefit for individuals with diabetes.

Some studies suggest that lycopene may reduce oxidative stress in both healthy individuals and those with diabetes, indicating that this antioxidant may improve some negative effects associated with type 2 diabetes.

Other research, however, which looked at the long-term effect of cooked tomatoes on levels of antioxidants, lipids, and glucose in the blood, concluded that while tomato lycopene may have therapeutic potential as an antioxidant, there was no significant lipid lowering effect.

Possible Link With Insulin Resistance

Tomatoes have been observed to have an anti-hyperglycemic effect in some early studies that comes from a linolenic acid derivative found in tomatoes and other foods.

The 13-oxo-OTA compound, which is found in tomatoes, Mandarin oranges, and bitter gourd, may play an important role in the management of glucose metabolism disorders, possibly via insulin resistance pathways. 

It’s also been found that the dried peels of fruits and vegetables (including tomatoes) may also have a beneficial impact on blood sugar. A study conducted on mice has shown that dried tomato peel may have a positive impact on glucose tolerance as well as on insulin resistance. 

However, as these results have still not been observed in humans, more research is still needed to confirm this link. Remember that portion sizes are important when consuming dried fruits, as they generally tend to be higher in sugar and can also lead to glucose spikes in some cases.

Other Potential Positive Effects

a plate of tomatoes

Apart from effects on blood sugar, tomatoes may be beneficial for reducing cardiovascular risk associated with type 2 diabetes. Tomatoes have also been shown to have anti-cancer properties, and may help support skin health and immune response.

While there may not be much direct evidence that eating tomatoes can lead to better blood glucose control, this fruit remains to be a tasty, nutritious option to add to your meals due to its low carbohydrate content and versatile flavor.

Don’t Like Tomatoes? Try These Alternatives

a bowl of olive oil

If you don’t like the taste or texture of tomatoes, or if you’d rather swap out tomatoes for another tasty alternative, there are a few substitutions you can add for similar flavors and health benefits.

Tamarind paste 

Tamarind paste is both sweet and sour, making it a great option for cooking. This paste can also serve as a close substitute for tomatoes in some recipes, as it’s full of antioxidants and has been found to have a positive effect on blood sugar levels.

Olives

You may try adding different varieties of olives to your cooking as a substitute for tomatoes, since they have a similar umami flavor profile. 

Olives are high in fiber, vitamin E, and can have anti-inflammatory properties, making them a great option to add to your dish.

Beetroot

Cooking beetroot until soft, and then peeling and pureeing them is a great way to get a similar consistency and color to tomatoes in your recipe. 

Beetroot is full of antioxidants, may help regulate glucose levels, and can also help lower blood pressure.

Carrots and Vinegar 

For some added zest, you can cook carrots until they soften and add a little vinegar for the consistency and tartness of tomatoes. Carrots are high in antioxidants, contain lots of vitamins, and can support healthy glucose and cholesterol levels.

Are There Possible Downsides of Eating Tomatoes?

a board with tomatoes, olives and cheese

While tomatoes are a nutritious fruit with lots of health benefits, there are a few things you may want to keep in mind when eating them.

Pesticides

Pesticides are often used in the cultivation of tomatoes and many other fruits and vegetables, which can remain on their skin after harvest. Since tomato skins are consumed along with the flesh, there is a minor risk of pesticide ingestion. 

To avoid this or minimize its occurrence, choose organically grown tomatoes and wash them well before eating.

Unripe tomatoes 

Unripe green tomatoes contain a chemical called tomatine, an alkaloid that’s mildly toxic to humans. The tomatine content in tomatoes lessens as the tomatoes mature, making red tomatoes safe to eat.

Some researchers recommend limiting green tomato intake when possible due to its potential harmful effects.

Engage with Your Blood Glucose Levels with Nutrisense

Your blood sugar levels can significantly impact how your body feels and functions. That’s why stable blood glucose levels can be an important factor in supporting overall wellbeing.

With Nutrisense, you’ll be able to track your blood glucose levels over time using a CGM, so you can make lifestyle choices that support healthy living.

When you join the program, our team of credentialed dietitians and nutritionists are available for additional support and guidance to help you reach your goals.

Ready to take the first step? Start with our quiz to see how Nutrisense can support your health.

Click here to listen to the podcast.
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Do Tomatoes Raise Blood Sugar Levels?
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The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Diabetes
The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Diabetes

NutriSense dietitian Katrina Larsen, MS, RD,N, LD, CDCES discusses the risk factors for sleep apnea and how this disorder is linked to other health conditions.

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The Paleo Diet and Blood Glucose Levels
The Paleo Diet and Blood Glucose Levels

The premise of the paleo diet is that the body can handle a mix of meats, fruits and vegetables, eggs, fish, and complex carbohydrates better than processed meats, refined fats, grains and simple carbohydrates because it evolved to eat the first category as hunter-gatherers.

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8
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The Health Benefits of Winter Squash
The Health Benefits of Winter Squash

A common ingredient in cozy winter recipes, winter squash is one of our favorite foods this time of year. Read on to learn more about how it can benefit your health.

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6
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The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers We Love
The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers We Love

Haven't finished your holiday shopping yet? Pick from this list of NutriSense-approved holiday gifts to find some great last-minute stocking stuffers for everyone on your list!

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8
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The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Health-Focused Gifts They’ll Love
The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Health-Focused Gifts They’ll Love

Still haven't bought all your holiday gifts this year? Don't worry—there's still time to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Read our guide for some great ideas!

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9
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The Link Between Inflammation and Blood Glucose
The Link Between Inflammation and Blood Glucose

Learn more about inflammation, how it affects blood glucose levels and what you can do to prevent and manage it.

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9
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The Health Benefits of Adding Fermented Foods to Your Diet
The Health Benefits of Adding Fermented Foods to Your Diet

Fermented foods have a range of health benefits. Read on to learn more about what they are and why you should be adding them to your diet.

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9
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The Health Benefits of Potatoes, Yams, and Sweet Potatoes
The Health Benefits of Potatoes, Yams, and Sweet Potatoes

Potatoes, yams, and sweet potatoes are similar in usage, but pretty distinct in taste, texture, appearance, and even nutritional content! Read on to find out more about each one.

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8
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The Health Benefits of Living With Pets
The Health Benefits of Living With Pets

Did you know that living with a pet can do more than just put a smile on your face? Read on to learn all the ways living with pets improves your wellbeing.

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7
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The Health Benefits of Cooking With Herbs and Spices
The Health Benefits of Cooking With Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices are a great way to add flavor to dishes, and also have a range of health benefits. Learn more about a few of our favorites.

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12
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The Health Benefits of Beans
The Health Benefits of Beans

Learn about the health benefits of beans and how they can help you live a healthier, longer life.

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6
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The Guide to Metabolic Diets: What Are They, Do They Work, And Who Should Try Them?
The Guide to Metabolic Diets: What Are They, Do They Work, And Who Should Try Them?

Review our guide to metabolic diets to help get a better understanding of what they are and whether they might be right for you.

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The Foods and Traditions of Kwanzaa
The Foods and Traditions of Kwanzaa

Learn about the traditions and nutrient-dense food commonly enjoyed during Kwanzaa. 

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9
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The Blood Sugar and Joint Pain Connection
The Blood Sugar and Joint Pain Connection

Have you ever wondered how your glucose levels might be connected to joint pain? We'll take a deep dive into this connection and share tips for reducing pain.

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10
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The Best Diet for Non-Diabetic Hypoglycemia
The Best Diet for Non-Diabetic Hypoglycemia

This article explores hypoglycemia in non-diabetics, how to manage symptoms through diet, and the advantages of glucose monitoring.

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6
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The Effect of Aging on Your Blood Glucose Levels
The Effect of Aging on Your Blood Glucose Levels

Take a look at how aging can affect your blood glucose levels.

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9
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The Best Diet to Increase Your Vitamin D Levels
The Best Diet to Increase Your Vitamin D Levels

Read on to learn more about vitamin D-rich foods and what you should include in your diet to make the most of this vitamin’s health benefits.

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10
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The Best Diet for Menstruation
The Best Diet for Menstruation

When it comes to your menstrual cycle, what you eat can significantly impact how you feel. Read on to learn more about the best foods to add to your diet to help during that time of the month.

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8
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The Benefits and Risks of Popular Ayurvedic Herbs and Spices
The Benefits and Risks of Popular Ayurvedic Herbs and Spices

Ayurveda is an ancient Indian holistic healing system that dates back over 5,000 years. In the second installment of our series on the practice, review the benefits and risks associated with popular Ayurvedic herbs and spices.

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9
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The Beginner’s Guide to the Low FODMAP Diet
The Beginner’s Guide to the Low FODMAP Diet

In this article, we break down what a low FODMAP diet looks like for beginners, and its potential benefits and drawbacks for gastrointestinal health.

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8
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The 6 Worst Foods for Osteoporosis
The 6 Worst Foods for Osteoporosis

When it comes to bone health, good nutrition is absolutely critical. Read on to learn what osteoporosis is and why some foods may increase your risk of or worsen the condition.

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8
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Taking Mental Health Online: Tips & Tools for Self-Care
Taking Mental Health Online: Tips & Tools for Self-Care

Mental health has a significant impact on your overall health; here are tips, tools, and apps to improve your mental wellbeing.

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12
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Tea, Blood Sugar Levels and Your Health
Tea, Blood Sugar Levels and Your Health

Different types of tea have different benefits for your health. Learn more about a few popular types, and see how tea can help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

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14
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Summer Soup Recipes: An Expert Weighs in on 13 Healthy Soup Options
Summer Soup Recipes: An Expert Weighs in on 13 Healthy Soup Options

To help you make the most of the warmer weather, we asked Carlee Hayes, RDN, CD, and Nutrition Manager here at NutriSense, to share a few of her favorite summer soup recipes.