Tomatoes are nutritious and versatile — you can find them in recipes for many things, like salads, pizza and soup.
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It's also hard to eat too many tomatoes, but if you do, it might lead to gastrointestinal, kidney, urinary and other side effects. Learn more about those effects here.
How Many Tomatoes a Day Is Too Much?
There's no recommended amount or upper limit of tomatoes to eat per day. The same is true for cherry tomatoes. What qualifies as "too many tomatoes" will be different from person to person.
If you enjoy fresh tomatoes in salads and sandwiches as well as tomato-based products like tomato juices and sauces, it can be easy to get multiple servings of tomatoes per day. That might be no problem for some people, but it could lead to side effects for others.
The best thing to do is listen to your body, meaning: If you eat a lot of tomatoes and have side effects, consider eating fewer going forward.
1. Acid Reflux
Anyone can experience acid reflux after eating acidic foods like tomatoes, including folks without any pre-existing health conditions.
"While there could be many underlying reasons why a person is experiencing heartburn and acid reflux, acidic foods are well-known to be a common trigger for people who are prone to heartburn and GERD," says registered dietitian Jenna Volpe, RDN, LD.
2. Gastrointestinal Issues
Eating too many tomatoes can also trigger other gastrointestinal issues, like stomachaches, gas, bloating and diarrhea in certain people.
"Tomatoes contain ascorbic acid and other acidic compounds, which, in excess, can erode the lining of the stomach," Volpe explains. "This may lead to an acute onset stomachache or mild gastritis in someone with a sensitive stomach."
Like other nightshade plants, tomatoes contain toxic glycoalkaloids. Green tomatoes are particularly known for containing glycoalkaloid compounds like solanine, a-tomatine and dehydrotomatin. Unfortunately, glycoalkaloids can cause gastrointestinal tract issues and pain when eaten in large amounts, per a 2016 report in the Encyclopedia of Food and Health.
Diarrhea and other GI issues could also be a sign of a tomato intolerance. Sometimes a person with an intolerance may be fine after eating small amounts of the food, but large amounts might trigger symptoms.
This is different from a tomato allergy, which might cause hives or a skin rash, swelling, itchy skin, itching or tingling in the mouth, coughing or wheezing or diarrhea, stomach pain and vomiting, per the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Tomato allergies aren't very common, but if you think you have one, see an allergist for testing, and avoid eating tomatoes in the meantime.
Tomatoes are rich in carotenoids like lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. In fact, one cup of cherry tomatoes has about 3,830 micrograms of lycopene, per the USDA. Lycopene, among other carotenoids, can promote eye health, decrease cancer risk and improve heart health, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Lycopene can also have some unwanted effects when eaten in large amounts.
When eaten in excess, lycopene can build up in your bloodstream. This can eventually cause a skin discoloration condition called lycopenodermia, causing your skin to turn orange. Although you may not like the way this skin condition looks, it is reversible and relatively harmless.
There is no recommended daily amount (RDA) or unsafe upper limit of lycopene, but excess intake can result in GI pain and skin color changes, per a 2020 report in the book Preparation of Phytopharmaceuticals for the Management of Disorders.
4. Urinary Problems
Tomatoes have the potential to irritate the bladder, according to the Cleveland Clinic. This includes symptoms like strong urges to pee, frequent trips to the bathroom and pain in the lower abdomen.
With age, bladder control (aka incontinence) can become a problem. Tomato-based foods (among other diuretic foods) are also known to worsen bladder problems, according to the National Institute on Aging.
If you're susceptible to headaches and migraines, tomatoes may worsen your symptoms. Certain foods can trigger headaches for some people, and tomatoes are on the list, according to Tufts University.
Some experts recommend people with migraines avoid eating tomatoes, according to February 2012 research in the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, although there doesn't seem to be more recent research on tomatoes and migraines specifically.
To figure out if tomatoes are triggering your headaches or migraines, try tracking your food intake. Food-related headaches usually arrive within 12 to 24 hours after eating specific foods, according to the American Migraine Foundation.
Do Tomatoes Cause Inflammation?
While some people think tomatoes cause inflammation, this is not true, per Houston Methodist.
There is no evidence suggesting that tomatoes and other nightshades (like bell peppers or eggplant) cause inflammation or worsen symptoms in people with inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or irritable bowel disease.
Remedies for Eating Too Many Tomatoes
Having a serving of tomatoes likely won't cause side effects, but eating too many tomatoes or having a sensitivity to them can increase the likelihood.
The best remedy after eating too many tomatoes depends on your symptoms. If you have acid reflux, Volpe recommends drinking bone broth. You can also take an antacid like Tums ($4.99, Amazon).
If you have GI issues, try natural remedies for an upset stomach like drinking ginger or licorice root tea, sniffing some peppermint or doing some gentle yoga to help with digestion.
Otherwise, the best thing to do is to hold off on eating any more tomatoes until your symptoms go away, and to be mindful of how many tomatoes you eat at once in the future.
And if you notice symptoms every time you eat tomatoes, consider making an appointment with an allergist for testing.
Alternatives to Tomatoes
If eating tomatoes gives you any adverse side effects, there are other fruits and vegetables high in nutrients (including lycopene) that can offer the same health benefits, and the same refreshing, tasty crunch. These include the following, per a November 2021 review in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity:
- Pink guavas
- Pink grapefruit
- Red bell pepper
Should You Avoid Tomatoes?
Tomatoes are safe to eat, according to the June 2019 review in Nutrition.
In fact, there are many health benefits of tomatoes, as they're full of vitamins and minerals. They can make for a nutritious addition to most meals and meal plans.
Still, there may be groups of people who would benefit from reducing their tomato intake, including:
- People with GERD
- People with kidney disease (because tomatoes are high in potassium, per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)\
- People who experience frequent migraines
And of course, if you know you have a tomato allergy or intolerance, you should avoid eating them.
If you're concerned that tomatoes may worsen your health condition, speak with your doctor or dietitian. Otherwise, tomatoes are a perfectly nutritious fruit to enjoy.
1. Can People With Diabetes Eat Tomatoes?
Tomatoes can be a part of a balanced, healthy diet for people with diabetes. They are considered a non-starchy vegetable that is low in sugar — about 3 grams in a one-cup serving of cherry tomatoes, per the University of Rochester.
Tomatoes are also low on the glycemic index at 23, which is a scale that people with diabetes can use to determine how a food will affect their blood sugar, according to the University of Sydney's GI Search.
2. Are Tomatoes Good for High Blood Pressure?
Tomatoes are naturally high in potassium, which has been shown to help decrease blood pressure, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This means tomatoes can be a healthy addition to your diet for regulating blood pressure.
3. Can People Eat Tomatoes When Breastfeeding?
Yes. Acidic foods like tomatoes do not have a negative effect on breastmilk, according to a March 2017 study in the Korean Journal of Pediatrics.
It's lycopene (found in tomatoes) that breastfeeding people should watch out for. According to the National Poison Control Center, people who breastfeed can eat foods that contain lycopene, but they should not take supplements with lycopene.
People who are pregnant should also avoid taking lycopene supplements, as there is some research to suggest they increase the risk of premature birth, per a March 2011 study in the Journal of the Turkish-German Gynecological Association. (Keep in mind, this is an older study. More research needs to be done to determine this connection.) Talk to your doctor if you're unsure about lycopene intake during pregnancy.
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