Nutrition and Wellness

Tomatillo: What You Need To Know

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For individuals looking to add other fruits and vegetables to their diet, can adding tomatillos provide variety and nutrition?

Tomatillo

Tomatillos are a fruit that can bring a bright citrus flavor to various dishes.

Nutrition

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides the following information for one medium/34g tomatillo. (FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2018)

  • Calories – 11
  • Carbohydrates – 2 grams
  • Fat – 0.3 grams
  • Protein – 0.3 grams
  • Fiber – 0.7 grams
  • Sodium – 0.3 milligrams
  • Sugars – 1.3 grams

Carbohydrates

Fats

  • Tomatillos contain less than half a gram in one medium-sized tomatillo.

Protein

  • There is less than half a gram of protein per tomatillo.

Vitamins and Minerals

Tomatillos provide:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Potassium
  • And provide several other micronutrients in smaller doses.

Benefits

Tomatillo’s health benefits include the following.

Cardiovascular Health

Tomatillos provide a heart-healthy dietary addition. They are naturally low in sodium and rich in potassium, which could help regulate blood pressure. They provide vitamins A and C and antioxidants against free radicals.

The American Heart Association recommends the consumption of a variety of fruits and vegetables daily for various benefits. One of them is their fiber content. Fiber is the indigestible part of carbohydrates that can help decrease cholesterol by binding and removing cholesterol from the body. Tomatillos contain about one gram of fiber, a recommended addition to a heart-healthy diet. (American Heart Association. 2023)

Potentially Help Reduce Cancer Risk

Tomatillos have several antioxidants with cancer-preventing properties. They are a source of phytochemicals known as withanolides. These natural plant compounds have been shown to induce apoptosis/cell death in colon cancer cells. (Peter T. White et al., 2016) Diets high in fruits and vegetables have been associated with lower risks of cancer, making tomatillos a welcome addition to a high-antioxidant nutrition plan focused on cancer prevention.

Arthritis Symptoms Improvement

The withanolide antioxidants are also anti-inflammatory. Research on withanolides demonstrates clinical benefits in the alleviation of symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. (Peter T. White et al., 2016) Tomatillos may help reduce inflammation, which can make arthritis more manageable.

Vision Loss Prevention

Tomatillos provide a healthy source of key nutrients for eye health. Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that concentrate in the retina and help protect against environmental deterioration. Tomatillos provide:

Weight Loss

Tomatillos are a low-calorie whole food ingredient. Because of their high water content, it’s possible to fill up without adding excess calories. Fresh salsa made with tomatoes or tomatillos is a healthy, flavorful choice that is virtually free of added sugars. (The National Kidney Foundation. 2014)

Adverse Effects

Tomatillos are part of the nightshade family. While there is no conclusive evidence confirming any harmful effects, some individuals report experiencing sensitivity to them. (Cleveland Clinic. 2019) Individuals who believe they may be sensitive to tomatillos should consult a registered dietitian to determine the root cause and ways to improve tolerance.

Allergies

  • Although rare, serious reactions, including anaphylaxis, are possible even if the individual shows no signs of a tomato allergy.
  • Individuals unsure about an allergy to tomatillos should see an allergist for testing.

Varieties

  • Different varieties include yellow, green, and purple. (MacKenzie J. 2018)
  • Rendidora is a green variety that grows upright with a high yield.
  • Gulliver Hybrid, Tamayo, Gigante, and Toma Verde are also green but grow in a sprawling pattern.
  • Some purple varieties include Purple Hybrid, De Milpa, and Coban. (Drost D, Pedersen K. 2020)

Choosing

  • Choose tomatillos that are firm and green but large enough that they fill up the husks.
  • When they ripen too long, their flavor becomes bland. (MacKenzie J. 2018)

Storage and Safety

  • Tomatillos can last months in their husks, spread out in a well-ventilated area. (MacKenzie J. 2018)
  • Keep them in a paper bag in the refrigerator for no longer than 2 weeks if using sooner.
  • Do not store in plastic, as this can cause spoilage.
  • For extended storage, tomatillos may be frozen or canned.
  • Remove the husks, wash them, and dry them before eating or preparing them for long-term storage.

Preparation

Tomatillos have a distinct flavor and firm texture. They can be eaten whole with no need to seed or core them. (Drost D, Pedersen K. 2020) Use tomatillos for:

  • Raw
  • Salsa verde
  • As a topping
  • Sandwiches
  • Salads
  • Soups
  • Stews
  • Fried
  • Broiled
  • Roasted for a side dish
  • Added to smoothies

The Healing Diet: Combat Inflammation, Embrace Wellness


References

FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2018). Tomatillos, raw. Retrieved from fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168566/nutrients

American Heart Association. (2023). How to Eat More Fruit and Vegetables (Healthy Living, Issue. www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/add-color/how-to-eat-more-fruits-and-vegetables

White, P. T., Subramanian, C., Motiwala, H. F., & Cohen, M. S. (2016). Natural Withanolides in the Treatment of Chronic Diseases. Advances in experimental medicine and biology, 928, 329–373. doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-41334-1_14

National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. (2023). Vitamin A: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Retrieved from ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/

The National Kidney Foundation. (2014). 6 of the Best and Worst Condiments for Health (Kidney Basics, Issue. www.kidney.org/news/ekidney/july14/7_Best_and_Worst_Condiments_for_Health

Cleveland Clinic. (2019). What’s the Deal With Nightshade Vegetables? (healthessentials, Issue. health.clevelandclinic.org/whats-the-deal-with-nightshade-vegetables/

Jill, M. (2018). Growing Tomatillos and Ground Cherries in Home Gardens. extension.umn.edu/vegetables/growing-tomatillos-and-ground-cherries#harvest-and-storage-570315

Drost D, P. K. (2020). Tomatillos in the Garden (Horticulture, Issue. digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2658&context=extension_curall

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The information herein on "Tomatillo: What You Need To Know" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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