Food cravings are a common condition, earmarked by an extreme desire for a specific food or food type. An insatiable craving for tomatoes or tomato products is known as tomatophagia.
Tomatophagia may sometimes be associated with nutritional deficiencies, especially in pregnant women. It may also occur in people with iron deficiency anemia, even though raw tomatoes are low in iron.
Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) are a nutrient-dense food, rich in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. These include:
- vitamin A
- vitamin C
- folic acid
A nutritional deficiency caused by dieting or restricted eating could result in a craving for tomatoes or tomato-based products.
Cravings for many foods, including tomatoes, are common during pregnancy. While there’s no definitive explanation for why pregnancy cravings of any kind occur, they may be caused by hormonal changes or nutritional deficits.
Food cravings, including tomatophagia, may be a side-effect of iron deficiency anemia. This is a condition caused by an inadequate amount of healthy red blood cells. Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include:
- pale skin
- cold feet and hands
Make an appointment with your doctor if you think you have an iron deficiency. You should not try to treat iron deficiency on your own by taking iron supplements. This is because taking too much iron can be damaging to the liver.
If you're pregnant and craving tomatoes, you may have a nutritional deficiency. Talk to your OB/GYN about your current diet to determine if modification is needed. It’s always a good idea to supplement your diet with a prenatal vitamin during pregnancy. These are typically high in folate, a very important nutrient found in tomatoes.
You should also see a doctor if you’re eating a lot of tomatoes and you develop yellow skin on the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet. This may be carotenemia or lycopenemia, two conditions that are caused by eating too many foods that contain carotene.
If there’s no underlying medical cause for your craving of tomatoes, there are things you can try on your own, to help reduce these cravings:
- Keep a food diary. Make sure to list everything you eat and drink, including the amounts. This can help you find patterns in your diet and symptoms.
- Eat a balanced diet. This will ensure that you’re getting enough nutrients and prevent deficiencies.
- Eat other foods that have the same nutrients found in tomatoes. This will help you avoid carotenemia or lycopenemia, while contributing to a well-rounded diet.
Foods that contain vitamin C and A include:
- red peppers
- green peppers
- kiwi fruit
- guava fruit
To increase potassium, try:
- sweet potatoes
- white potatoes
- white beans
Tomatophagia may be caused by an underlying condition, such as iron deficiency anemia. Eating too many tomatoes or tomato-based products can also result in lycopenemia or carotenemia.
If you’re eating too many tomatoes, it’s important to be checked out by your doctor to rule out any underlying medical cause. Nutritional deficiencies may also cause this food craving. Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist if you’re craving tomatoes to excess, especially if you’re pregnant.