You can definitely eat tomatoes with diabetes, whether type 2 or type 1, and do so safely because the botanical fruit and culinary vegetable is low-glycemic, low in carbs and sugar, with minimal effects on blood sugar. Irrespective of variety, tomatoes aren’t likely to affect blood sugar very much, so long as they are eaten in moderation, according to the diabetic patient’s nutritional requirements, level of physical activity and individual response to the food based on degree of glucose tolerance.
Tomatoes glycemic index: 15 (low)
As a diabetic, one of the first things you should know about tomatoes is their glycemic index score. The glycemic index (GI) is a scale that measures how fast the carbohydrates in a food raise blood sugar (because that’s what carbohydrates do). Between 0- 55 is a low GI. Between 56-69 is a moderate GI. Between 70-100 is a high GI. Diabetics and anyone needing to lower their blood sugar are better off choosing foods with as low a GI as possible, as often as possible and avoiding high GI foods to the best of their efforts.
The glycemic index of tomatoes is 15, a low score. What this means is eating them with diabetes does not raise blood sugar too high too fast, but rather produces a modest, steady rise that actually contributes to better blood sugar control. Provided intake is reasonable (so don’t go filling up on tomatoes). The glycemic index score applies to all varieties, whether they’re cherry tomatoes, Roma or Italian plum, grape or pear, red, green, yellow, orange, purple or black – they are all as low-glycemic.
When it comes to eating with diabetes, the important thing is to consume foods in reasonable amounts, more exactly small portions. This helps you avoid dietary excesses that could make blood sugar go up fast. The smaller the portion of a food, the less carbohydrates you get from it and the lesser the effects on blood sugar. So with smaller portions comes a reduced glycemic effect, which is something to aim for if you have diabetes. Even if a food is already low-glycemic, like tomatoes which have a GI score of only 15, eating small amounts at once is even better. Also read The Glycemic Index of Tomatoes.
How many carbs and how much sugar are in a tomato?
Depends on the variety you’re talking about, although all of them are quite low in carbs and sugar. Roma or plum tomatoes weigh about 62 grams per fruit and have 2.41 g of carbohydrates of which 1.63 g are sugars. A cherry tomato on the other hand weighs only 17 grams and has 0.66 g of carbohydrates of which 0.45 g are sugars. A cup of the cherry variety at 149 g provides 5.8 g of carbohydrates of which 3.92 g are sugars. A large variety can easily reach 182 grams and provide 7.08 g of carbohydrates of which 4.79 g are sugars. A medium fruit at about 123 g provides 4.78 g of carbohydrates and 3.23 g of sugar.
But should diabetics eat tomatoes with their condition?
All in all, diabetics can and should eat tomatoes as part of their regular diet. The botanical fruit provide overall modest amounts of carbohydrates and sugar, not to mention they are low-glycemic meaning they should have minimal effects on blood sugar (given a reasonable intake). Even more, the low-glycemic score is maintained across all varieties meaning whatever kind of tomato you like to eat, it’s likely low-glycemic too.
Of course, not everyone reacts the same way to the same food. With diabetes, it may be because of varying glucose tolerance levels, the way you pair your foods, portion size, frequency with which you eat a certain food or an accumulation of different factors. This is why it may help to know that there are things you can do to further reduce the effects of a food on blood sugar.
1) Eat your tomatoes with skin. That’s where a lot of the fiber is and fiber helps control blood sugar.
2) Start off with small servings of the likes of one medium fruit or half a cup of cherry or grape tomatoes and see how you react. Based on your response, modify your intake to suit your nutritional needs.
3) Start with one serving a day, at least until you can determine what amounts are good for you and how the fruit affects your glucose metabolism.
4) Slightly less ripe fruit may have lesser effects on blood sugar. There should be more complex carbohydrates in unriper or less ripe fruit which take longer to digest and thus lower the glycemic effects of the fruit even more.
5) Eat tomatoes raw. Cooking renders a food more readily digestible which increases its glycemic effects and score.
6) Pair with light protein. Nuts, seeds, eggs, cheese, chicken or fish are good choices to reduce tomatoes impact on blood sugar. The fat in animal foods further helps with the absorption of the antioxidant lycopene in the red varieties.
7) Avoid having them on an empty stomach or separate from other foods or with other fruits. See them for what they are, which is a fruit, and pair with sources of complex carbs (leafy greens), sources of fat and protein (nuts, seeds, cheese, eggs, meat).
8) Exercise afterwards. Exercising helps not only improve glucose tolerance and lower blood sugar, but also uses up any excesses that could contribute towards weight gain.
What are the benefits of tomatoes for diabetes?
There is more to tomatoes and diabetes than just a low glycemic index score. Actually, regular consumption of the fruit holds several benefits for both diabetes and general health. But the biggest benefits of tomatoes for diabetes specifically include:
1) A low glycemic index score (15) that translates into reduced effects on blood sugar. Also, a low glycemic load score (1) per servings of 100 g, 200 g, 1 cup cherry variety (149 g), 1 large fruit (182 g).
2) Good source of potassium for lowering blood pressure. High blood pressure is a common complication in diabetes and getting enough potassium is essential for keeping numbers within a healthy range. How much potassium in tomatoes? You get about 5% of your daily recommended intake of potassium from 100 g of red, ripe tomatoes (237 mg). One large whole fruit at 182 g gets you 431 mg of the mineral, one Italian plum (Roma) variety at 62 g gets you 147 mg, while 1 cup of whole cherry variety at 149 g gets you 353 mg.
3) Benefits for the cardiovascular system, an important aspect of diabetic health. Studies show consumption of tomatoes provides the antioxidant lycopene as well as other antioxidant elements which help reduce blood lipid oxidation, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and exert anti-inflammatory effects, contributing to better overall cardiovascular health.
4) Good for weight control. Tomatoes are low in calories: only 18 kilocalories per 100 g, 27 kcal per cup of cherry variety, 11 kcal per Italian plum/Roma variety and 33 kcal per large fruit at 182 g and thus help with weight control and possibly also weight loss. They are a modest source of fiber, low-carb, low-sugar, low-fat, further providing benefits for weight management, a big aspect of diabetic health.
5) Modest vitamin C content for wound healing, a major concern in diabetes. There are 13.7 mg of vitamin C per 100 g of tomato, 20.4 mg per cup of cherry variety (149 g), 8.5 mg per Italian plum/Roma (62 g) and 24.9 g per one large fruit (182 g). Vitamin C has antibacterial properties, reduces inflammation and supports collagen production. A healthy intake is essential for proper wound healing.