Tomatoes are a very popular food around the world. While most people consider them vegetables, tomatoes are actually fruits in the biological sense of the word.
They’re rich in various minerals, vitamins, and plant compounds that contribute to your overall health.
But have you ever eaten too many tomatoes or drank too much tomato juice and experience heartburn? Why do tomatoes cause heartburn?
Why do tomatoes cause heartburn?
Tomatoes can cause heartburn in several ways. Firstly, they contain some acids, which make your gastric levels rise up enough to cause heartburn and other symptoms. In addition, some tomato-based products like pasta sauces, purees, and juices contain sodium and preservatives that can irritate your esophagus, leading to acid reflux symptoms.
Are tomatoes acidic?
This is because once they’re digested and metabolized by your stomach, they release alkalizing minerals.
But it doesn’t mean that they can’t make your acid reflux symptoms worse. It all depends on how sensitive your digestive system is.
In healthy individuals, small amounts of tomatoes can actually alkalize your body.
How do tomatoes cause heartburn?
The most common way tomatoes give you heartburn is because they contain some acids, such as citric acid, malic acid, and oxalic acid.
These force your stomach to produce more gastric acid, adding to how much overall acid is in your stomach.
As a result, you’re more likely to experience heartburn after eating a lot of tomatoes.
Tomatoes also contain substances and compounds that relax the lower esophageal sphincter muscles.
This group of muscles helps keep the stomach contents down, preventing them from rising up your esophagus.
So, when they’re relaxed, you might experience symptoms like heartburn. There’s not much you can do to prevent that except avoid consuming too many tomatoes and tomato-based products.
In addition, tomatoes have a rather acidic taste. So, as you’re eating them, they can irritate and inflame your esophagus, making acid reflux more painful and inducing heartburn.
Because of that, you might be better off not consuming tomato juice, sauces, and concentrates as they’re the most acidic.
Fresh, raw tomatoes at least contain more fiber, which can help prevent heartburn or make it less severe.
Are tomatoes good for you?
Tomatoes are very low in calories. In fact, a one-cup serving of chopped tomatoes contains just 32 calories.
In spite of that, tomatoes are incredibly nutritious, offering loads of vitamins and minerals.
One of the most abundant micronutrients in tomatoes is vitamin C. Also called ascorbic acid, this vitamin helps your body grow, develop, and repair tissues and cells.
It also boosts your immune system and fights off bacteria and viruses.
Additionally, vitamin C helps in the absorption of iron, making it a vital nutrient for the health of your blood.
Tomatoes are also an excellent source of powerful antioxidants, especially lycopene. This type of antioxidant gives tomatoes their red color and also has loads of health benefits.
For example, lycopene improves heart health, lowering your risk of strokes and heart attacks.
It also decreases the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol and fights against inflammation, which keeps your cardiovascular system healthy.
Other antioxidants and plant compounds found in tomatoes can also reduce your risk of certain types of cancer, such as prostate, lung, and stomach cancers.
In addition, tomatoes contain several other carotenoids, which are powerful antioxidants that might prevent the growth of cancerous cells in several orangs.
These compounds may also prevent inflammation in your body, which leads to various chronic health issues.
Other studies also prove that eating tomatoes and tomato-based products can improve the health of your skin.
The lycopene found in tomatoes may help prevent sunburn in everyone but especially in people prone to getting sunburnt.
What’s more, various face masks and creams contain compounds and substances found in tomatoes, as they help your skin stay hydrated and healthy.
So, eating tomatoes and getting all of these nutrients naturally can be great for your skin.
What type of tomatoes is the best for heartburn?
The riper the tomato, the milder taste it should have. So, try choosing red tomatoes and avoid green and yellow varieties.
This can help protect your digestive system from inflammation, reducing the risk of heartburn.
When you choose to eat tomatoes, make sure to eat them with the skin on as well. It’s important as most stomach-healthy nutrients, such as fiber, are found right underneath it.
Cherry tomatoes have the lowest pH level (around 3.83), and they’re also the most acid-forming.
This is because they contain the highest concentration of the acids present in tomatoes.
Again, not everyone might have the same food trigger for acid reflux and GERD.
So, if you love cherry tomatoes, you might be able to eat them in moderation – just start with small portions.
Some people also swear by cooking tomatoes, as it reduces their acidity. This can be a great way to avoid consuming canned tomatoes, which are often loaded with added salt, vinegar, and other preservatives.
Cooked tomatoes have a much milder taste too, so they’re less likely to irritate your esophagus when you eat them.
In addition, cooking tomatoes can help you make your own tomato paste and juice without sacrificing nutrients.
Is tomato juice bad for heartburn?
Tomato juice pH 4.10-4.60
Tomato juice is much more concentrated than raw tomatoes. It has a pH level ranging between 4.10-4.60 and acid-forming properties.
While some tomato juices (especially the ones you make at home with fresh tomatoes) are lower in acidic compounds, they will generally always irritate your esophagus.
Because of that, most doctors recommend removing tomato juice from your diet completely if you tend to experience heartburn.
Generally, tomatoes are alkaline-forming once digested. But unfortunately, before that happens, they can irritate and inflame your esophagus as they contain certain types of acids.
Because of that, if you’re particularly prone to acid reflux symptoms, such as heartburn, it might be best to avoid eating too many tomatoes and tomato-based products.
If you can tolerate some tomatoes, though, adding some to your diet can help you reap wonderful health benefits.
Alicia is the senior content editor and writer here at Food FAQ. She has extensive experience with acid reflux, heartburn, GERD, and various supplements. When not eating food for “research”, she’s watching “Friends” for the 100th time.