Dr. Andrea Middleton - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Andrea Middleton

Are Sun-dried Tomatoes Bad For You?



Short answer

Sun-dried tomatoes are packed with nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants like lycopene, making them a healthy addition to your diet when consumed in moderation. However, they can be high in sodium and may contain sulfites, which could be of concern for those with high blood pressure or sulfite sensitivity. Always consider the preservation method and opt for low-sodium and sulfite-free versions when possible.



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Long answer

Nutritional Profile of Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Sun-dried tomatoes are a condensed, nutrient-rich food that offer an array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Understanding the nutritional profile of sun-dried tomatoes can help highlight their potential health benefits and any concerns associated with their consumption:

  • Vitamins: Sun-dried tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamins, particularly vitamin C and K. Vitamin C plays a crucial role in immune function and skin health, while vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and bone health.
  • Minerals: These tomatoes provide minerals such as potassium, which is vital for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function, and magnesium, important for muscle and nerve function.
  • Antioxidants: Tomatoes are known for their high concentration of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that has been associated with reduced risk of certain types of cancer and heart disease. The drying process can potentially increase the concentration of certain nutrients like lycopene compared to fresh tomatoes.
  • Fiber: The dehydration process concentrates not only the flavor of the tomatoes but also their dietary fiber, beneficial for digestive health and for maintaining a healthy weight.

However, it's also important to be aware of the sodium content. Sun-dried tomatoes can contain high levels of sodium, particularly if they have been preserved in salt or in a salt-containing solution. Consuming too much sodium can lead to adverse health effects, such as high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease. Therefore, it's wise to consider the method of preservation and opt for those preserved without added salt when possible.

Below is a detailed breakdown of the nutritional content in a typical serving (100 grams) of sun-dried tomatoes:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 258
Total Fat 2.97 g
Saturated Fat 0.426 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 2095 mg
Total Carbohydrates 55.76 g
Dietary Fiber 12.3 g
Sugars 37.59 g
Protein 14.11 g
Vitamin D 0 IU
Calcium 110 mg
Iron 9.09 mg
Potassium 3427 mg
Vitamin A 241 IU
Vitamin C 39.2 mg
Vitamin K 43.0 mcg

It's important to note that the nutritional content can vary depending on the brand and preparation method. The table above serves as a general guide, but always check the nutrition label of the product you are using for the most accurate information.

When consumed in moderation and properly accounted for within one's daily nutritional requirements, sun-dried tomatoes can be a healthy addition to the diet. Due to their concentrated nature, including sun-dried tomatoes in small amounts can easily enhance the flavor and nutritional value of a variety of dishes.

Sodium Content and Heart Health Considerations

Sun-dried tomatoes are a popular ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine, known for their rich flavor and potential health benefits. However, when considering their impact on health, particularly concerning the heart, it's important to take into account their sodium content.

Fresh tomatoes naturally contain very little sodium, but the process of sun-drying often includes adding salt as a preservative. This step significantly increases the sodium content of the finished product. According to the USDA, a cup of sun-dried tomatoes can contain upwards of 1,549 milligrams of sodium, which is roughly two-thirds of the American Heart Association's recommended limit of 2,300 milligrams per day for an average adult.

High sodium intake is associated with an increased risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the BMJ in 2013 concluded that reducing salt intake lowers blood pressure in people with hypertension and may have benefits on overall cardiovascular health.

For those with existing heart conditions, or who are at risk of developing heart-related issues, monitoring sodium intake is especially crucial. Here are some considerations to keep in mind:

  • Read Labels Carefully: Opt for sun-dried tomatoes with no added salt or those that are labeled as "low-sodium."
  • Rinse Before Use: If the sun-dried tomatoes are packed in salt, rinsing them under cold water before use can help to remove some of the surface sodium.
  • Serving Size Matters: Paying attention to portion sizes can help manage sodium intake. Instead of using sun-dried tomatoes as the main ingredient, consider using them as a condiment.
  • Frequency of Consumption: Including sun-dried tomatoes in your diet occasionally rather than daily can also help keep sodium consumption under control.
  • Homemade Options: Making sun-dried tomatoes at home can provide control over the amount of salt used during the drying process.

It's important to balance sodium intake with other health-benefiting nutrients. Sun-dried tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamins C and K, fiber, and antioxidants such as lycopene. Lycopene, in particular, has been studied for its potential cardioprotective properties. A study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science in 2018 found that increased dietary lycopene intake was associated with a reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease.

Ultimately, while sun-dried tomatoes can be a part of a heart-healthy diet, it is their preparation and consumption pattern that determines their overall impact on cardiovascular health. By being mindful of sodium content and making informed choices, one can enjoy sun-dried tomatoes without compromising heart health.

The Potential Risk of Histamine in Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Before we explore whether sun-dried tomatoes are bad for you, let's delve into the role of histamine in foods and its potential risks. Histamine is a biogenic amine that occurs naturally in certain foods, especially those that are fermented or aged. Sun-dried tomatoes, due to the processing method involved, can also be a source of histamine.

Some individuals are sensitive to histamine and can experience what is known as histamine intolerance when consuming foods high in histamine. The symptoms of histamine intolerance are varied and can mimic allergic reactions, including headaches, skin rashes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and even respiratory issues.

Histamine Levels in Sun-Dried Tomatoes

  • While fresh tomatoes typically have low levels of histamine, the drying process can lead to an increase in concentration.
  • The exact histamine level in sun-dried tomatoes can vary based on the drying process, storage conditions, and time elapsed before consumption.

Factors Contributing to Increased Histamine

  1. Drying Method: Sun-drying involves lengthy exposure to air and heat, conditions that can facilitate histamine production.
  2. Microbial Fermentation: If any fermentation occurs during or after the drying process, this can lead to higher histamine concentrations.
  3. Storage Conditions: Improper storage that allows for moisture and warmth can further contribute to histamine development.

Dietary Considerations for Those with Histamine Intolerance

  • It is essential for individuals with histamine intolerance to be aware of the potential high histamine content in sun-dried tomatoes.
  • Moderation is key, as consuming large quantities may exacerbate symptoms.
  • Always ensure that sun-dried tomatoes are stored properly, in a cool, dry place, to minimize histamine formation.

Beyond immediate sensitivities, there is also a concern that long-term consumption of high-histamine foods can lead to more chronic health issues for sensitive individuals. However, more research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects of dietary histamine.

Studies have varied in their findings, but it is acknowledged that some individuals possess lower levels of the enzyme diamine oxidase (DAO), which is responsible for breaking down histamine in the body. A deficiency in DAO can lead to an accumulation of histamine and subsequent intolerance symptoms upon consumption of histamine-rich foods.

Reducing Histamine Risk

  • For individuals with a known intolerance, seeking out low-histamine alternatives or preparing fresh tomatoes at home may be advisable.
  • Consuming a wide variety of foods and maintaining a balanced diet can help prevent the inadvertent intake of high levels of histamine.

Incorporating these strategies can be an integral part of managing histamine intolerance while still enjoying a diverse and nutrient-rich diet.

Sulfites in Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Allergy Concerns

Sulfites are preservatives commonly used in preserving certain foods and beverages. They prevent oxidative spoilage as well as maintain the appearance and color of the food items. Sun-dried tomatoes often include sulfites to lengthen their shelf-life and to keep them looking appealing. While sulfites are safe for most of the population, there are important considerations for those who are sensitive or allergic to them.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), sulfite sensitivity affects an estimated 1% of the U.S. population. Symptoms of sulfite sensitivity can range from mild to severe and may include:

  • Asthma-like respiratory symptoms
  • Hives or itchiness
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Anaphylaxis in extreme cases

Those with asthma appear to be at a higher risk for sulfite sensitivity, and therefore, should be extra cautious when consuming products like sun-dried tomatoes that may contain sulfites. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics notes that it's vital for individuals with asthma to be aware of potential food triggers.

It's also significant to note that labeling laws require that foods containing sulfites at levels of 10 parts per million (ppm) or more must list this on the label, as per FDA requirements. Therefore, when purchasing sun-dried tomatoes or any sulfite-containing food, always check the label for the presence of sulfites if you have a known sensitivity or allergy.

While sulfite sensitivity is relatively rare, it's essential to keep in mind that reactions can be serious. For those without a sulfite allergy, the preservatives are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA when consumed within the recommended limits. However, individuals who are sensitive to sulfites must take measures to avoid them. Considering the health risks associated with this sensitivity, it is essential for these individuals to read labels carefully, and when in doubt, to consult with a healthcare professional regarding their dietary choices.

For those looking for sulfite-free options, certain brands offer sun-dried tomatoes that are free from these additives. Opting for organic sun-dried tomatoes can also be a way to avoid sulfites, as organic standards do not permit the use of these preservatives.

In summary, while the presence of sulfites in sun-dried tomatoes does not make them inherently bad for the general populace, it's the potential allergens that raise concerns for a subset of individuals. The best practice for those with allergies is to seek out sulfite-free products and to always have a conversation with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian nutritionist regarding safe dietary choices.

Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Lycopene Absorption Advantages

Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that has been linked with various health benefits, ranging from reducing the risk of certain types of cancers to protecting skin from damage by ultraviolet rays. When we talk about tomatoes, they're naturally a rich source of this beneficial compound. However, not all forms of tomatoes provide lycopene with the same efficacy when it comes to absorption in our body. Sun-dried tomatoes have particular advantages in this regard.

Firstly, lycopene is a lipophilic compound, which means it is more soluble in fats than in water. During the sun-drying process, tomatoes lose most of their water content, leading to a higher concentration of lycopene per serving. Moreover, the lycopene found in processed tomato products like sun-dried tomatoes is generally better absorbed by the body compared to raw tomatoes. This improved bioavailability can be attributed to the fact that the processing breaks down the plant cell matrices and makes lycopene more accessible.

A study published in the 'Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry' found that the lycopene in dried tomatoes can be four times more bioavailable than in fresh tomatoes. This is significant because maximizing the intake of dietary bioavailable lycopene is crucial for reaping its protective benefits.

  • Increase in antioxidant level - The concentration of antioxidants, including lycopene, increases in sun-dried tomatoes as compared to their fresh counterparts. This can bolster your body's defense against oxidative stress.
  • Improved lycopene absorption - Due to the reduction in water content and alteration of tomato cell structures, there is improved lycopene absorption in the body.
  • Enhanced nutritional synergy - Sun-dried tomatoes are often consumed with healthy fats like olive oil, which can further enhance the absorption of lycopene.
  • Convenience and versatility - The use of sun-dried tomatoes in a variety of dishes increases the likelihood of lycopene consumption as part of a regular diet.

It's also worth considering how dietary fats can impact the absorption of lycopene. Inclusion of a small amount of healthy fats with sun-dried tomatoes can enhance lycopene uptake. A practical application is enjoying sun-dried tomatoes in salads, sandwiches, or pasta dishes with a drizzle of olive oil, which can aid in the absorption process.

While sun-dried tomatoes are advantageous for lycopene absorption, they should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet to avoid excessive intake of sodium, which can be high in some commercially prepared versions. Overall, integrating sun-dried tomatoes into meals can be a delicious and effective way to boost dietary lycopene and contribute to a protective dietary pattern.

Frequently asked questions

Sun-dried tomatoes can contribute to protein intake for vegetarians, with a 100-gram serving providing 14.11 grams of protein. While they shouldn't be the primary protein source, they can be a valuable addition to a varied vegetarian diet.

While sun-dried tomatoes contain natural sugars, with 37.59 grams per 100 grams, it is important to consume them in moderation, especially for individuals managing blood sugar levels or those following low-sugar diets. Always consider the overall carbohydrate and sugar content within the context of your daily dietary goals.

Sun-dried tomatoes can be included in a low-carb or ketogenic diet, but portions must be kept small due to their higher carbohydrate content. A 100-gram serving contains 55.76 grams of total carbohydrates. Therefore, carefully measure and limit portions to fit within your daily carb allowances.

To maximize health benefits, choose sun-dried tomatoes with no added salt or preservatives. Pair them with healthy fats like olive oil to enhance the absorption of lycopene and other fat-soluble vitamins, and consume in moderation to avoid excessive sodium intake.

Ask a question about Sun-dried Tomatoes and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • headache
  • skin rashes
  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • respiratory issues
  • asthma-like symptoms
  • hives
  • itchiness
  • stomach cramps
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Possible long-term side effects

  • high blood pressure
  • increased risk of heart disease

Ingredients to be aware of


  • rich in vitamins and minerals
  • high in fiber
  • high in antioxidants
  • good source of lycopene
  • can reduce cancer and heart disease risks
  • supports immune function
  • aids in blood clotting and bone health
  • helps maintain normal blood pressure
  • beneficial for muscle and nerve function
  • good for digestive health and weight management

Healthier alternatives

  • low-sodium sun-dried tomatoes
  • homemade sun-dried tomatoes
  • fresh tomatoes
  • organic sun-dried tomatoes without sulfites

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Flora Sun-Dried Tomatoes

  • Organic ingredients
  • Rich in flavor
  • Product of Italy
  • Premium quality
  • Convenient in oil
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 03-18-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 03-18-2024

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