You mightn’t automatically think that tomatoes are a low carb food. But, the carbs in tomatoes are relatively low. With the right planning, tomatoes can be included in a keto or a low carb diet.
Tomatoes are also a great addition to meals. They’re low in calories and bursting with flavor. This makes them perfect as an ingredient in salads and entrees. You can also include tomatoes instead of higher carb alternatives, particularly in snacks.
Read on to learn more about how tomatoes fit into various diet types – and how to take full advantage of them.
How Many Carbs in Tomatoes?
Tomatoes only contain 3.9 grams of carbs per 100 grams (2.7 grams of net carbs) (1). This alone makes them suitable for low carb and keto diets.
Besides, you mightn’t be eating 100 grams of tomatoes. Some recipes will end up using less than that per serving.
The carb content does vary between types of tomato – but not dramatically. The table below highlights some of those differences. However, most of the variation comes from serving size, not tomato type.
Swipe left to see more columns
Why Include Tomatoes at All?
Tomatoes have so many advantages, no matter which diet approach you’re following.
- They’re delicious. Tomatoes simply taste wonderful. They have a touch of sweetness and sharpness, along with a rich flavor that other fruits don’t offer.
- There are plenty of types. There are many varieties and cultivars of tomato. These can have different textures and flavors. For example, cherry tomatoes are often sweeter, making them popular among kids. Some varieties are also meatier, which has interesting implications for cooking.
- They’re versatile. Tomatoes make their way into many different recipes. You’ll find them in cooked and raw foods, including salads, tomato sauces, soups, meat-based dishes and many more.
- They’re easy to find. Tomatoes are common at every grocery store or farmers market. You’ll normally find multiple types and tomatoes will often be inexpensive.
- They have health benefits. Tomatoes contain various important nutrients and antioxidants, including vitamin K, vitamin C and vitamin A. The compound lycopene is also present, which may decrease prostate cancer risk and protect against heart disease (2,3).
Small Tomato Nutrition
Tomatoes offer a number of beneficial nutrients, as the table below shows.
Nutrition Facts: 1 Small Whole Tomato (91 grams)
11.6 mg (19% DV)
758 IU (15% DV)
7.2 mcg (9% DV)
216 mg (6% DV)
The nutrients all play a role in your overall health – and the amount you get from different sources adds up quickly.
- For example, vitamin K is associated with various benefits. It plays a key role in blood clotting and in heart health.
- Likewise, vitamin C has long been linked to good health and may help improve the immune system. It is also an important antioxidant. Dr. Axe highlights other advantages associated with vitamin C.
- Potassium can help decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke (5).
Is a Tomato Keto Friendly?
Tomatoes are often included on keto food lists, especially as they are non-starchy.
One of their biggest advantages is the flavor. You’ll often find tomatoes included in sauce recipes or added to a dish to improve the taste. These approaches work particularly well, as you often won’t be using many tomatoes at a time.
As always, the suitability of tomatoes will depend on your specific needs. Keto dieters will vary in their macronutrient goals and their overall calorie intakes. Those factors, along with your diet as a whole, will influence how regularly you can eat tomatoes.
Keto Tomato Recipes
There are many interesting recipes out there. The following are particularly good ones to try.
Can You Eat Tomatoes on a Low Carb Diet?
The net carbs in tomatoes mean that tomatoes are a sometimes food on a keto diet. But, on a less strict low carb diet, you can eat tomatoes more often.
Some grocery stores also stock low carb tomato sauces. This can be easier and faster than making your own. The right brand may be suitable for keto too. Just make sure you read the labels carefully.
Here are a few interesting ones to try:
You can also make your own, like in the video below.
Low Carb Tomato Recipes
The recipes below are all low carb options that you can try. Their suitability will depend on your goals, including the number of carbs that you’re aiming for.
Other Diets and Tomatoes
Tomatoes are a whole food that doesn’t go through any processing. So, they’re perfect for many other types of diet.
This means you can include tomatoes in any whole foods-based diet. They’re also powerful for raw food approaches, as tomatoes are an effective way to add flavor.
The Mediterranean diet also heavily relies on tomatoes as an ingredient.
You can also use tomatoes to decrease carb or calorie intake, by using them as alternate ingredients or snacks. For example:
- Try cherry tomatoes as a fast and easy snack, rather than chips or fruit.
- Consider a Caprese salad rather than a sandwich. Serious Eats has some fantastic tips for making a perfect Caprese salad every time.
- Use tomato-based sauces for pasta, rather than ones that are heavy in cream or fat.
When Tomatoes Aren’t Suitable
Tomatoes work well on most diets. But, they are nightshades (along with eggplants, peppers and potatoes).
People with an autoimmune condition, food sensitivity or food allergy may be sensitive to nightshades. Cutting them out can sometimes help to improve any related illness.
Reactions to nightshades can include migraines, digestive upset and joint pain.
Because of this, many elimination diets don’t allow tomatoes in some stages.
- For example, Chloe from How We Flourish talks about the inclusion of nightshades in the GAPS diet and why it might be best to exclude them.
- The AIP diet also eliminates tomatoes.
- Some authors argue that tomatoes should be avoided on a paleo diet too because of the potential negative impacts. But, most paleo food lists (like this one) do include tomatoes.
- Other people choose to avoid nightshades because they are sensitive to them, even if their diet doesn’t call for that decision.
The site Ruled.me offers additional details about what nightshades are and why they may be significant.
Other Low Carb Fruits and Vegetables
Tomatoes are one example of a low carb vegetable (or fruit). But, there are plenty of other low carb options too.
Any low carb or keto diet will need to rely on a range of options. Doing so gives you the optimal combination of nutrients and flavors. Besides, the best recipes use many different plant-based ingredients to create complex and nuanced flavors.
Some other popular examples of low carb plant-based options include the following (numbers are net carbs per 100 grams):
- Avocado (1.8 grams). Their high fat and low carb content makes avocados perfect for a keto diet. You’ll see them featured in many different keto snack and dessert recipes.
- Cabbage (3.3 grams). Cabbage is most commonly included in salads and pairs well with tomato. There are many different varieties to choose from, including some that look particularly spectacular.
- Cauliflower (2.8 grams). Cauliflower is a versatile low carb ingredient. You’ll often see it as a low carb rice alternative or used to re-create high carb recipes like pizza. There are also many unusual cauliflower rice recipes that rely on the vegetable.
- Cucumber (3.1 grams). Cucumber works well as part of a salad along with tomato and other ingredients. You’ll sometimes see it used as an alternative to bread in some recipes. There are other creative uses too.
- Green beans (3.7 grams). Green beans might seem simple, but they add an appealing flavor and texture to many recipes.
- Kale (3.6 grams). Kale is often called a superfood and the leafy green is packed with nutrients.
- Zucchini (2.2 grams). Zucchini is another common low carb choice. Among other things, the vegetable can be used to create zoodles, which are a low carb alternative to pasta. Plus, there are plenty of keto zoodle recipes to try.
Tomatoes are low in carbs and a great choice on many diets. The flavor alone makes them worth eating regularly. There are also countless recipes that rely on them, including some very creative options.
What are your favorites?
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