Why You Should Eat Tomatoes (Even If Gisele & Tom Don’t)

Written for MindBodyGreen

We’re inquisitive people and we like to know what others are eating, particularly if they’re beautiful and athletic. That’s why it wasn’t too surprising to see almost every media outlet pick up on what Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen eat.

What was surprising was the misguided nutrition information. Alan Campbell (their chef) stated that Tom doesn’t eat tomatoes (and other nightshades) because they are inflammatory. Nightshades include tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant. He also stated that he only cooks with coconut oil, leaving people wondering what about olive oil?

Today, I’d like to debunk some of the myths the Brady-Bündchen diet beliefs:

1. Nightshades are not inflammatory.

In fact, they contain many anti-inflammatory properties. Tomatoes, for instance, contain lycopene, quercetin, and beta carotene, all very well researched anti-inflammatory phytonutrients.

Nightshades only become inflammatory when YOU can’t digest a compound in them. This means your body is not responding well to the nightshades, not that the nightshades are inflammatory. Anytime you can’t digest something, it will cause inflammation in the body. If you can’t digest kale, it’s going to be an inflammatory food for you, but that doesn’t mean that everyone should avoid kale.

2. Nightshades contain solanine, which people can be sensitive to.

Solanine seems to be the chemical that people who don’t respond well to nightshades often react to. Because group cleanse programs don’t know your specific sensitivities, they often recommend taking nightshades out, just in case you feel better, which you might.

But there’s a downside to this: over-restriction. Recently, I had a 19-year-old woman come to see me. She was only drinking green juices because she was too scared to eat anything else: no to nightshades because they were inflammatory; no to grains because they were too; add to that legumes, dairy, eggs, red meat, and chicken. And fish was laden with mercury.

She was confused and didn’t know what to eat, so she didn’t. So let me clarify this: Plant-based foods are not inflammatory, but they may become inflammatory if YOU can’t digest them. And if that’s the case, fix your gut microbiome.

3. Tomatoes can be part of a healthy diet. Here’s why.

Let’s get back to the benefit of tomatoes. Below are four very recent studies on tomatoes’ anti-inflammatory benefits:

  • A 2013 study at Tehran University showed that tomato juice reduced systemic inflammation in overweight and obese females. The researchers concluded the study by saying “increasing intake of tomatoes may provide a useful approach for reducing the risk of inflammatory diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which are associated with obesity.
  • A 2015 study reported in the journal Inflammation showed that (α)-tomatine (the solanine in tomatoes) had potent anti-inflammatory properties. It showed that it significantly suppressed inflammatory cytokines. The researchers concluded that, “α-tomatine may be a valuable therapeutic agent in the treatment of inflammation-related diseases.”
  • In another study from 2015, researchers found that tomato juice reduced inflammation, weight, cholesterol, and waist circumference in healthy females.
  • Tomato paste has also been found to protect against UVA/UVB damage. In this highly published study (I wrote about this for mbg back in 2013), researchers concluded that tomato paste provided protection against acute and potentially longer-term aspects of photo damage. Photo damage is another term for inflammation.

Looking at the literature, tomatoes are anti-inflammatory and may help you with inflammatory diseases, weight loss, and sun protection.

The caveat being that if you feel better not eating tomatoes, then they are probably inflammatory for you so please continue to avoid them.

Regarding the olive oil debate, please refer to mindbodygreen writer Chris Kresser’s review. He concludes that olive oil is only damaged after cooking with it for 24 hours. Bottom line, cook with olive oil and eat tomatoes. Lovers of Italian food can rejoice!

For more nutrition advice from me, check out my mindbodygreen course, How To Ditch Sugar.