When you think of tomato juice, you probably imagine it in a Bloody Mary cocktail with a piece of celery sticking out. Or perhaps flying comes to mind as it’s such a popular aeroplane drink. For me, tomato juice brings memories of the school canteen and quick take away food stalls in Soviet Ukraine, where it was one of the most commonly served juices. I grew up drinking a lot of tomato juice, way before I knew how good it would taste in a vodka cocktail or that it had major nutritional perks.
Would you consider a daily tomato juice cuppa? Or maybe some healthy mocktail recipes? Stay tuned for my recommendations on how to drink your ‘reds.’
Is Tomato Juice Good For You?
Yes! When I talk about superfoods – like sardines or broccoli sprouts – I am referring to foods that are highly nutritious in small volumes. Many juices fit the bill, but tomato juice is underrated in the spotlight of green juices containing celery or kale. While these veggies have their benefits, tomato juice is an underdog in its respective food categories. Let’s look into why it’s so nourishing.
Tomato Juice Nutrition
Here is what you would get in a cup of tomato juice (that’s about 240-250ml) and what it means in terms of your daily nutrient needs in percentage.
Calories: 41 kcal | Fat: 0.1 grams | Carbohydrates: 10 grams | Protein: 2 grams | Fibre: 1 grams | Sugar: 9 grams | Sodium: 24 mg | Potassium: 16% DV | Vitamin A: 22% DV | Vitamin C: 74% DV | Vitamin B1: 8% DV | Vitamin B3: 8% DV | Vitamin B6: 13% DV | Vitamin B9: 12% DV | Vitamin K: 7% DV | Magnesium: 7% DV
One cup of tomato juice can help you to meet several daily value recommendations for vitamins and minerals. For example, it will essentially cover your vitamin C needs. Moreover, you will surpass the recommendation for lycopene which is a type of carotenoid (natural pigment in red foods) and a powerful antioxidant. Carotenoids are converted to vitamin A which is where you get that 22% of! That’s no small number at nearly one-quarter of your daily recommendation.
It also contains a fair amount of B-vitamins and even a bit of vitamin K. In terms of mineral content, the deal gets a little sweeter! We’ve got some magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese in that cup to help you meet those daily numbers (1).
First, let’s talk about the most compelling draw towards tomato juice – lycopene. Many people will receive 80% of their annual lycopene intake from tomatoes alone, even though it is found in most orange-red foods.
We’ve already gone over what exactly lycopene is, but why is it beneficial to make sure you’re getting your daily dose consistently? Well, like all antioxidants, it helps to protect the body from oxidative damage. In turn, it reduces the risk of inflammatory diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease – especially in overweight and obese individuals (2).
Another positive side effect often associated with proper serum lycopene levels are reduced LDL cholesterol – otherwise known as the bad kind. In addition to ascorbic acid (vitamin C), the antioxidant duo has been associated with lowering LDL cholesterol (3). Moreover, an increased tomato intake is associated with atheroprotective effects, which helps to protect the arteries from atherosclerosis, which is caused due to fatty material accumulation (4).
In a study done in Japan, unsalted tomato juice was given to 94 patients with untreated prehypertension or hypertension. Both factors were significantly lowered (5).
Another study showed that regular tomato juice intake was correlated with increased sperm motility in test subjects, which is promising for men who are infertile or who have poor sperm concentration (4). Success is associated with regular consumption.
All studies noted above attribute much of the findings to the antioxidant properties in tomato juice. Antioxidants help reduce damage from free radicals and lower oxidative stress. Conclusively, antioxidants are paramount in ageing healthily and preventing disease including cancer(s).
In essence, foods with such combinations of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant compounds are powerful as our bodies thrive on those different sources working together. Lycopene and ascorbic acid are a dynamic duo and adequately absorbed with tomato juice.
Types Of Tomato Juice
In case I’ve piqued your interest with a few facts about tomato juice nutrition, I’m assuming your next question is: What type of tomato juice do I buy? If you know anything about the juice market, it’s that it’s rather oversaturated with junk foods in disguise as health foods. Added sugar, preservatives, and concentrates can make the selection tricky to navigate.
Homemade. From scratch is arguably the best way to consume any recipe. Many people grow tomatoes in the summer due to their ease and the lack of space they take up. While there are countless recipes to indulge in throughout the growing season, this is the perfect time to perfect your tomato juice recipe. With all the many varieties of this beautiful fruit, you will find your ‘just-sweet-enough’ blend. If you’re savvy with canning practices, you can preserve your juice for later use as well.
Canned. Canned tomato juice will inevitably be higher in sodium which can cause bloat and increase the risk for high blood pressure and stroke. While a balanced diet generally allows for a little extra salt, this is likely the least healthy option. You might have seen brands include Campbell’s and Sacramento.
Bottled. At the store, you can likely find juice in a bottle depending on your location. This is a good middle-ground. Be sure to check out the label to see if it has added sugar or is mixed with other fruits or veggies. Some popular brands include Campbell’s, Golden Circle, V8, R.W. Knudsen, and Welch’s.
Processing tomatoes does not significantly reduce the main nutritional components of beta-carotene and lycopene. In fact, lycopene can is enhanced by heat processing (6). This means that you will reap the benefits no matter if you choose fresh tomatoes or canned varieties. Learn how to make all varieties of canned tomato juice here.
Making Homemade Juice With Tomatoes
Making homemade tomato juice is rather simple with a juicer and even a blender. However, there are two major distinctions. Many varieties of store-bought tomato juice or canned juice are heat-treated. You can make the juice raw or from cooked veggies according to your preference.
Raw. Simply blend or juice the tomatoes. If you choose to blend tomatoes, you can strain them through a sieve to get a juicier consistency. Many recipes also call for a few stalks of celery, likely to cut the strength of the flavour and increase the volume. You can, however, juice tomatoes on their own. Tomato juice in a juicer from Livestrong.
Cooked. Wash, de-stem, and core tomatoes. Dice the tomatoes and cook them down in a saucepan for around 20 minutes. Then, let them cool. Once cool, you can blend them and strain them through a sieve for a tasty tomato juice.
Canned. You should follow proper canning practice according to a specific recipe and always add lemon juice to increase acidity. Two tablespoons of lemon juice per quart of tomato juice is a good ratio. Recipes for all are included below.
One of the caveats of making juice at home from raw tomatoes is the lack of pasteurisation. In a pasteurised product, the viscosity of the juice is heavily affected. Homemade juice will be more watery, foamy, and inconsistent. It will also separate easily, leading to a less appealing visual look initially.
Store-bought tomato juice is reliably velvety and even in texture which may be preferable to your taste buds or for a specific recipe. This shouldn’t deter you from tossing tomatoes into a juicer – it is similar to green juices made from equally as watery veggies such as kale and celery. Besides, it is very hydrating! If you do choose the raw route, choosing quality tomatoes is essential.
Ways To Enjoy Tomato Juice
The first answer is, of course, to enjoy it plain. A glass of tomato juice is relatively low in sugar and can be had alongside meals or as a snack. Often, I would serve a glass of tomato juice with lunch, especially if it needed some veggies or salad on the side.
I love seasoned and spiced tomato juice over ice with a celery salt rim. Also known as a Virgin Mary or Bloody Mary (if made with vodka), it’s an addictive mixture of tomato juice, horseradish, Worcestershire, hot sauce, celery salt, lemon juice, and pepper. I also add a little orange juice (squeezed from an orange) as well as an orange and lemon peel. You can make it as spicy and seasoned as you like and it’s perfect over ice with a few fun garnishes like crispy bacon, olives, and celery.
You can also whip up some more exciting creations from the recipes below.
- Homemade tomato juice that tastes like V8 from Simply Recipes
- Virgin Michelada from Eazy Peazy Mealz (Non-alcoholic Mexican beer mocktail)
- Skinny citrus tomato punch (contains alcohol)
- Virgin Mary from Ina Garten – to make it a Bloody Mary, add 30-60ml of good quality vodka.
Maybe you’re a regular aeroplane tomato juice orderer or Bloody Mary brunch-goer, or maybe you’ve never given it the time of day. It’s undeniably a great source of nutrients for people who can’t always keep fresh food or picky kids who are fussy about eating their produce.
Overall, tomato juice is a particularly convenient method of nutrient delivery, boosting our antioxidant activity, and indulging in some tasty cocktails or mocktails. It is arguably one of the healthiest juices and one of the healthiest canned/bottled foods you can pick up on your next shopping trip.