, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 231-250

Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) health components: from the seed to the consumer

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Abstract

It is widely accepted that a healthy diet is an important factor in preventing chronic diseases, and in improving energy balance and weight management. Studies have shown strong inverse correlations between tomato consumption and the risk of certain types of cancer, cardiovascular diseases and age-related macular degeneration. Because tomato is the second-most important vegetable in the world after potato, this horticultural crop constitutes an excellent source of health-promoting compounds due to the balanced mixture of minerals and antioxidants including vitamins C and E, lycopene, β-carotene, lutein and flavonoids such as quercetin. Improvement in phytonutrients in tomatoes can be achieved by cultivar selection, environmental factors, agronomic practices, stage of ripeness at harvest, and appropriate handling and conditioning all the way from the field to the consumer. The purpose of this paper is to review the recent literature of the main factors that can improve the nutritional quality of tomato and consequently their beneficial role in human diet. The importance of genotype selection and the optimization of environmental conditions (light, temperature, humidity, atmospheric CO2 and air pollutants) for high nutritional value is outlined first, followed by the optimization of agricultural practices (soil properties, water quality, mineral nutrition, salinity, grafting, pruning, growing systems, growth promoters, maturity, and mechanical and pest injuries). The review concludes by identifying several prospects for future research such as modelling and genetic engineering of the nutritional value of tomato.