Are your green tomatoes not ripening anymore? If you’ve noticed your tomatoes are not turning red, or yellow or purple or whatever color they’re supposed to, don’t worry. Green tomatoes are edible and perfectly safe to eat even if they’re unripe. Not just this, but they have a good nutritional value and, in certain respects, they are actually healthier than ripe tomatoes. High in chlorophyll and a good source of vitamin K, but low in sugar, unripe green tomatoes have impressive antioxidant benefits, support blood coagulation and are good to eat for blood sugar control, as well as boast anticancer properties.
Green tomatoes: what are they?
Are green tomatoes just unripe tomatoes, or are there also ripe green tomatoes? For the most part, when people talk about green tomatoes, they are referring to unripe green tomatoes. All tomatoes are green first, both inside and out. Color in unripe green tomatoes ranges from a pale green or plain green to a greenish yellow or a yellowish green. However, there are also ripe green tomatoes. Cultivars such as the Green Zebra produce tomatoes that start out green and stay that way even when they’re ripe. Green Zebra tomatoes are typically a lighter green or a greenish yellow with darker green stripes when ripe.
What do green tomatoes taste like?
Unripe, green tomatoes taste completely different from ripe tomatoes. Green tomatoes taste savory, a little bit tangy and have a firm, somewhat hard flesh with a slightly crisp texture. Green tomatoes don’t taste sweet at all. Instead, they have faint bitter flavor notes as a result of glycoalkaloids such as tomatine occurring naturally in the unripe and ripe fruit (and other parts of the plant).
Green tomatoes are edible raw, cooked or pickled, and a source of good nutrition and varied health benefits, despite being unripe. As they begin to ripen, the chlorophyll that makes green tomatoes green starts to break down and other pigments develop slowly. The change in color caused by the degradation of chlorophyll also coincides with a rise in sugar content.
Green tomatoes nutritional information
Research on the nutritional value of green tomatoes is scarce, but certain nutritional facts can be inferred from existing data on tomato nutrition and green fruit nutrition. For one, green tomatoes are higher in fiber, but lower in sugar and overall digestible carbohydrates. They are low in calories, lower even than ripe tomatoes of all colors.
Green tomatoes are high in chlorophyll, a green pigmented antioxidant also found in algae (5.73 milligrams of chlorophyll per 100 grams of tomato – source), but low in lycopene found in the highest amounts in ripe red tomatoes. Green tomatoes are a modest source of essential dietary minerals and contain small amounts of several vitamins, including B vitamins, vitamin K, but not vitamin B12, not vitamin D and only trace amounts of vitamin E.
What are green tomatoes good for?
- Weight loss. Green tomatoes can help you lose weight in a healthy manner because they are low in calories, fat, carbohydrates and sugar.
- Constipation relief. Green tomatoes are a good source of fiber with laxative properties and help relieve constipation naturally.
- Blood sugar control. Green tomatoes are low in digestible carbs and sugar and a good source of dietary fiber and don’t raise blood sugar levels excessively (best eaten with protein and some fat).
- Low glycemic index. Green tomatoes are a low glycemic index food with a GI score of only 15, or lower, which means they are a good food to eat for blood sugar control.
- Food for diabetics. Green tomatoes are a good food to eat safely with diabetes because they are low glycemic and don’t raise blood sugar levels too much too fast.
- Benefits for blood coagulation due to a good content of vitamin K which supports normal blood clotting and combats easy bruising and bleeding and nosebleeds.
- Antioxidant properties. High in chlorophyll and other phytochemicals, green tomatoes combat oxidative stress and help prevent, repair and reduce cell damage caused by free radicals.
- Cholesterol lowering properties. Animal studies show green tomato extract has the potential to reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, as well as liver total cholesterol.
- Anti-obesity action. Animal studies on green tomato extract suggest it has the potential to reduce body weight and provide anti-obesity benefits.
- Benefits for muscle growth. Preliminary research suggests selected compounds in green tomatoes, tomatidine and analogs, promote muscle hypertrophy and decrease adiposity.
- Boost the immune system. Preliminary research suggests tomatine and derivatives in green and ripe tomatoes have the potential to enhance the immune system (source).
- Anticancer properties. Studies suggest bioactive components in green tomatoes, notably alpha tomatine, inhibit the growth of human lung, breast, colon, liver, stomach cancer cells and metastatic melanoma etc. (source 1, source 2, source 3, source 4). Tomatine exhibited antiangiogenic, vascular-disrupting, apoptotic and anti-metastatic effects.
What are the side effects of green tomatoes?
They cause mild to moderate stomach upset
Green tomatoes are unripe and thus harder to digest, and a source of toxic glycoalkaloids known as tomatine and solanine (also found in potatoes). People not used to eating green tomatoes may experience some degree of stomach upset after consumption, depending on intake, with side effects such as stomach pain, nausea, cramps, loose stools and diarrhea.
Symptoms of toxicity
If excessive, unreasonable amounts of unripe, green tomatoes are consumed, far greater than what would constitute a normal food intake, toxicity symptoms may ensue, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and abdominal pain, confusion, drowsiness, muscle weakness etc. However, this is extremely rare.
Risks of food borne illness
Green tomatoes and other colors can be contaminated with food pathogens such as Salmonella, although it’s rare. Make sure to wash your tomatoes well before consumption or, to render them 100% safe to eat, cook them. Symptoms of food borne illness include vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea and fever.
This post was updated on Sunday / August 15th, 2021 at 12:31 AM