The nutritional value of a hydroponic tomato Essay

Abstract

Hydroponics is a type of soil-less cultivation wherein the plants are fed with fertilizers and water continuously. The roots of plants absorb the nutrients. The plants grow in a highly favorable environment and produce the best yields. After realizing the numerous benefits of hydroponic farming, people are adopting it to cultivate tomatoes on a large scale. Tomatoes grown hydroponically contain sufficient amounts of nutrients and are used either for domestic consumption or for export purposes. Nowadays, hydroponic tomatoes have become a common commodity in the markets. Their nutritive value is often misunderstood and assumed to be of poor quality when compared to organic tomatoes. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to study the nutritional value of hydroponic tomatoes and understand its value as a personal diet.

The Nutritional Value     Page 3

The Nutritional Value of a Hydroponic Tomato and its Nutritional Value Makes it a Better Food for a Personal Diet

The history of hydroponics dates back to the time of Romans. It was used to grow out-of-season fruits and vegetables. With the passage of time, glasshouses came into existence and plants were cultivated inside them. The soil had to be replaced at regular intervals. It was a rather tedious process and prompted researchers to think of other alternatives. One of the ideas was to replace the soil system with nutrient solutions or fertilizers. In this way, hydroponics was born. “Hydroponic culture methods have been used to produce plants out of season in greenhouses and to produce plants in areas where either the soil or the climate is not suitable for the crop grown” (Hydroponics, 2009).

Tomatoes are fruits basically even though they are sometimes labeled as vegetables. With advancement of science and technology, the method of growing tomatoes in manmade environments became an easy task. Tomatoes grown hydroponically are clean and have a lot of demand in the markets. Soon, the discussion about the nutritional aspects of hydroponic tomatoes became a hot topic. “The nutritional value of a tomato is dependent on the nutrition the plant receives while growing and producing fruit” (Rae). The tomato plants receive fertilizers salts and water at regular intervals. The roots of the plants absorb the minerals present in the fertilizers and send them up through the stem to various parts of the plants. The tomato fruits contain the same nutrients that the roots absorb. Higher the amount of nutrients absorbed higher will be the nutrient constituents in tomatoes. This concept serves as a basis for determining the nutrition level of hydroponic tomatoes by the researchers. Though it is believed that tomatoes grown in organic farms have higher amounts of nutritive value than hydroponic tomatoes, it may

The Nutritional Value     Page 4

not be really true. “There seems no apparent reason why there should be a difference” (Harris, 1987). It is important to note that hydroponic tomatoes are harvested when they are still green in color. These unripe tomatoes are comparatively easier to transport and their shelf life increases too. It is due to this factor that hydroponic tomatoes lack flavor or taste. The actual fact is that tomatoes grown hydroponically have the same if not better taste than tomatoes. “The simplest way of increasing the flavor constituents of tomato fruit is to increase the EC of the nutrient solution” (Morgan, 2003). When the EC or electrical conductivity of the nutrient solution is increased, the water content in tomatoes is reduced. Hence, the tomatoes will be tastier to eat.

Some of the other factors that affect the nutritive value of tomatoes are light, temperature, water and ph factor. “Proper control of light and temperature at optimum levels for the growth of tomatoes will increase fruit yields to their full potential” (Resh). Poor lighting will lessen the process of photosynthesis in tomato plants. This will result in low sugar content in tomatoes. With respect to temperature monitoring, a high temperature will make the tomato soft. Soft tomatoes have a low shelf life. Moreover, it will also result in diseases like blotching. Hydroponic tomatoes require water as it is a carrier of nutrients. In the beginning, it is important to determine the type of water that will be used. Water contains sodium chloride and calcium and magnesium compounds. These chemicals alter the nutrients that are absorbed by the plants. It will also alter the acidity of nutrients. The ideal pH factor for cultivating hydroponic tomatoes is around 6.5. This value should be maintained at any point in time. The acidity or alkalinity can be controlled by adding acids or bases to the nutrients. “One major advantage of hydroponic cropping is that it allows very precise control and monitoring of tomato plant nutrition” (Morgan, 2006).

The Nutritional Value     Page 5

Nearly 92-94 percent of tomato is made up of water. Tomato contains important nutrients like calcium, nitrogen and phosphorus. The formation of seed in tomato is determined by phosphorus. The amount of potassium determines its quality and taste. Potassium also determines the life of tomatoes. It should be noted that adequate amounts of nutrients should be present always during the growth of tomato plant and at different stages of fruiting. At no point in time should the plant be without nutrients or water. Nutritionists advocate adequate intake of hydroponic tomatoes as they have a high nutritive value. The nutritive values are described in the following paragraphs.

Nutritional Values

Tomatoes contain a carotenoid called lycopene. Tomatoes that have a deep red color contain enormous amounts of lycopene. Lycopene is known to control different types of cancer. It is very effective in controlling breast, lung, endometrial, prostate and rectal cancers. Researchers have found that pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly diseases, can be controlled by this carotenoid. Lycopene activates phase II enzymes which help in detoxification. Lycopene along with other phytonutrients aids in defense mechanism of the human body. Recent researches in America reveal that in addition to controlling cancer lycopene is also useful in combating cardiovascular diseases.

Hydroponic tomatoes are good sources of vitamins which are essential for normal functioning of body. They contain vitamin A along with other carotenoids like beta-carotene. These function as antioxidants. They neutralize free radicals and keep the body healthy. Vitamin A helps to maintain and improve eyesight. It strengthens the immune system and fights viral infections effectively. It is also required to maintain a healthy and glowing skin.

The Nutritional Value     Page 6

Another constituent of hydroponic tomato that increases its nutritive value is riboflavin or vitamin B2. It is important for body growth and red blood cell production and helps in releasing energy from carbohydrates (Vorvick, 2009). Besides helping in metabolism of carbohydrates and fats, riboflavin also cures migraines. People who suffer from iron deficiency anemia are advised to increase their intake of riboflavin. Apart from riboflavin, hydroponic tomatoes contain small amounts of vitamin B1 or thiamine which breaks down carbohydrates and maintains muscles in the digestive system. It improves memory and slows down the process of ageing. Tomatoes contain trace amounts of vitamin B5 which is essential for normal functioning of the heart. It is essential for maintaining normal body functions and reduces stress. It keeps the hair and skin healthy.

Hydroponic tomatoes contain niacin or vitamin B3. It helps in lowering high cholesterol levels. It acts on the amino acid, homocysteine and increases the strength of blood vessels. It enhances memory power and the rate of absorption of carbohydrates and fats in digestive tracts. It reduces arthritis and is often used in the treatment of diabetes.

Tomatoes contain vitamin B6 which is a water-soluble vitamin. It is particularly required for coordinating the activities of various enzymes in the body. It helps in controlling basic metabolism, fatigue, hormonal imbalance and emotional disorders. It also prevents cardiac diseases, anemia and unhealthy skin.

The hydroponic tomatoes are valuable sources of vitamin C which acts as an antioxidant. Vitamin C prevents colds and coughs and heals wounds at a fast pace. It builds resistance in the pulmonary system. It plays an important role in absorption of iron and regeneration of vitamin E supplies. Intake of vitamin C through fruits is advised in order to maintain strength and vigor.

The Nutritional Value     Page 7

Any excess amount of vitamin C in the body is easily expelled out without causing much damage to the body.

Hydroponic tomatoes are a good source of vitamin K that helps in strengthening bones. It acts by activating the protein, osteocalcin in the bone. Osteocalcin takes an active part in fixing calcium to the bones. This in turn maintains normal density of bones.

Another constituent of tomatoes is folate which is also known as folic acid. Folate is required to generate new cells. It helps in the formation of ribonucleic acid and deoxyribonucleic acid which are the genetic components of cells. It is known to reduce cancer of the colon and other cardiovascular diseases. It releases serotonin which acts as an antidepressant.

Apart from vitamins, hydroponic tomatoes contain other essential minerals which help the body to carry out its various activities. One of the largest constituents of tomatoes is potassium. This is a mineral that acts as an electrolyte in the body. It is essential for normal functioning of brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. It normalizes blood pressure and regulates blood sugar levels. It maintains muscles and reduces muscular cramps. It quickens nerves reflexes and helps an individual in performing his everyday chores. It decreases stress. It also helps in maintaining water balance in the body.

Manganese is a constituent of tomatoes. It aids in metabolism. It is essential for overall functioning of the body. It reduces inflammations and sprains. It builds bones and acts as a coenzyme. Another mineral that is found in tomatoes is copper. Copper can be found in bones, muscles and liver. It is an important part of enzymes. Magnesium is found in tomatoes in small quantities. It is helps to strengthen bones, muscles and nerves. It also helps in the synthesis of

The Nutritional Value     Page 8

proteins. It is mainly used to treat heart diseases. Hydroponic tomatoes contain trace amounts of chromium. This mineral helps in controlling sugar levels of diabetic patients.

Along with vitamins, dietary fiber is an integral part of tomatoes. The main function of dietary fiber lies in controlling blood sugar. It prevents high blood sugar levels. It is also known to prevent colon cancer.

Frequent researches have revealed that hydroponic tomatoes prevent blood clotting. The anti-clotting properties are found in the yellow fluid surrounding the seeds (Halle, 2006). The lessening of the coagulation property is done by reducing the stickiness of platelets. This results in smooth flow of blood in the body. As there is no clotting, the chances of heart attacks and strokes are minimized.

To sum up, hydroponic tomatoes contain a wide variety of vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B1, vitamin B5 and vitamin B6. It has minerals like chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus and potassium. The other constituents are dietary fiber, folate and tryptophan. Tomatoes are a natural source of calories and proteins. The calorific value of tomatoes is quite high and is recommended to those who want to gain weight.

Hydroponic Tomatoes In Personal Diet

The nutritional value of hydroponic tomatoes is very significant as the consumption of tomatoes have unlimited health benefits. Tomatoes are known to prevent prostate cancer and other forms of cancers. They reduce cholesterol level. It is helpful for people suffering from heart diseases. It is know to have anticoagulation properties which prevent heart problems and stroke. Regular consumption of tomatoes is essential to maintain optimal health. Tomato juice is

The Nutritional Value     Page 9

a natural antiinflammatory and prevents atherosclerosis and osteoporosis. It is a rich source of vitamin K1 which helps to strengthen the bones. Tomato soup can be integrated into normal course of meal. It is advisable for people of all ages. It is invigorating as well as healing. It largely helps to reduce headaches. The presence of vast amount of water content makes them easily digestible and absorbable. The dietary fiber further adds to its nutritive value. There are minerals and vitamins present in tomatoes along with proteins. Though vitamins do not release energy, they serve as catalysts in different body functions. The intake of vitamins is important as they are not synthesized by the body. Minimal intake of vitamins is prescribed by doctors to lead a healthy life. Proteins in tomatoes have specific functions. They are involved in virtually all cell functions (Bailey). They act as catalysts, storage houses, support bones and control cell division. They form defense mechanism to fight against bacteria and virus. Hydroponic tomatoes have low cholesterol and saturated fats. It is suitable for people who suffer from cardiac-related diseases.

Tomatoes contain lycopene. It is a carotenoid pigment that gives tomatoes a red color. Lycopene has been found to be effective in controlling cancer, most importantly prostate cancer. It reduces the risk of cardiovascular and other heart-related complications. Although it is not considered an essential nutrient, increased lycopene intake has been associated with reduced risks for certain cancers, including prostate cancer, and for cardiovascular disease (McGinley). Lycopene has powerful antioxidant properties. It does not get converted into other compounds like vitamin A. Research has shown that lycopene is known to stop the development of tumors. When fats are added to lycopene, the activity of lycopene is increased and hence lycopene is termed as lipophilic.

The Nutritional Value     Page 10

Conclusion

On the whole, there can be no second thoughts about the nutritive value of hydroponic tomatoes. It should be a part of everybody’s diet. Hydroponic producers do not market the tomatoes aggressively. To some extent, this is the reason behind people not knowing about the benefits of hydroponic tomatoes. Sometimes, tomatoes grown hydroponically are mixed with those that are grown organically and sold in the markets. Proper care needs to be taken while packing. Marketing of tomatoes should be embarked on a large scale so as to make the public aware of its value. The safety and hygienic aspects of hydroponics tomatoes should be highlighted in order to push their demand to great heights. The government should take active part and help the growers, marketers and general public. It should encourage various programs pertaining to hydroponic tomatoes through its department of horticulture.

There are many growers of tomatoes worldwide. They are hydroponic growers as well as organic farmers. The media should strive for the encouragement of hydroponic tomatoes. The expenditure that is incurred on developing new methods of cultivation can be spent in popularizing hydroponic techniques on a large scale. The doubts in the minds of people should be removed as fast as possible. Hydroponics has the potential to increase the exports of a country. When tomatoes are grown at a rapid pace without compromising their quality, the yield can be exported. This earns a lot of revenue. Many Asian countries have developing economies and will serve as big buyers in the future.

References

Bailey, R. Protein Function. Retrieved June 25, 2009, from                                                                                  http://biology.about.com/od/molecularbiology/a/aa101904a.htm

The Nutritional Value     Page 11

Halle, M. (2006). Tomatoes are lifesavers. Retrieved June 25, 2009, from                                                http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-386449/Tomatoes-lifesavers.html

Harris, D. (1987). Hydroponics: The Complete Guide To Gardening Without Soil. Page 210.                 Retrieved June 25, 2009, from                                                                                                        http://books.google.co.in/books?id=W0d8iAQx_UUC&lpg=PA210&ots=wy-                 C2hLqR5&dq=nutritional%20value%20hydroponic%20tomato&pg=PA210

“Hydroponics,” (2009). Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 25, 2009,              from http://encarta.msn.com

McGinley, Susan. Boosting Lycopene in the Diet: The tomato consumption study. Retrieved                June 25, 2009, from http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/general/resrpt2005/article11_2005.pdf

Morgan, L. (2003). Greenhouse Product News. Hydroponic Tomatoes, 13, 10. Retrieved June 25,                     2009, from http://www.gpnmag.com/Hydroponic-Tomatoes-article4499

Morgan, L. (2006). Greenhouse Tomato Nutrition. Retrieved June 25, 2009, from                                              http://www.columbiapublications.com/tomatomagazine/december2006/greenhousenutri- tion.htm

Rae, C. Articles 3-5: I Have Tomatoes. Retrieved June 25, 2009, from                                                     http://www.simplyhydro.com/article_3-5.htm

Resh, H.M. Hydroponic Tomatoes For The Home Gardner. Page 95. Retrieved June 25, 2009,              from http://books.google.co.in/books?id=d4-                                                                               QcqcV5MMC&lpg=PP1&dq=howard%20resh%20tomato&pg=PA95

Vorvick, L. (2009). Medical Encyclopedia: Riboflavin. Retrieved June 25, 2009, from                           http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002411.htm