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Tomatoes - White? Yellow? Red? What is the difference and what difference does it make?

Tomatoes are a bag (or rather fruit) full of goodies. Loaded with phytonutrients such as carotenoids, flavonoids, phytosterols, fibbers, minerals and vitamins they became a rich source for health, beauty and wellness products.

Are all tomatoes made the same?

Of course not. Tomatoes come to start with in multiple colours, but also flavours and shapes. While the most common and known ones are red, yellow and orange tomatoes exist as well and are already considered exotic and, the white-creamy tomatoes are a very attractive and fascinating rarity.

To try and understand what is laying behind these differences, we explored available information about red vs. yellow/orange vs. white/creamy tomatoes. Differences based on colour and some other nutritional parameters and values as well.

So - what makes the difference between the various tomatoes and- what difference does it make?

Many food values are comparable for red, yellow and white-creamy tomatoes, or are a trade-off.

THE COLOUR - the most visible and distinct variable

What makes tomatoes red is lycopene (fig. 1), a red coloured carotenoid and beta-carotene (fig. 2), a deep orange coloured carotenoid. In yellow tomatoes, one may find some lycopene and beta-carotene, but in lower amounts than in red. However, no lycopene or beta-carotene at all are found in WHITE tomatoes, but rather ample of the colourless carotenoids, phytoene (fig. 4) and phytofluene (fig. 5).

During ripening of tomatoes various processes occur simultaneously. The sugar concentration in the tomatoes will increase, while the most apparent one is the change of colour. All tomatoes are green when they start growing and only when they start ripening is when they start turning colour reflecting the level and type of carotenoids they contain.

The green colour in tomatoes is caused by chlorophyll. The concentration of chlorophyll decreases a lot during ripening. The concentrations of carotenoids (the molecules that will give the tomatoes their colour) on the other hand will increase significantly. In the case of red tomatoes the concentration of lycopene and beta-carotene increases a lot, in yellow – these two are lower, but exist and lutein (fig. 3) is higher and in white-creamy tomatoes, there is almost no coloured carotenoids, and they are the richest tomato source of their dominant colourless carotenoids (phytoene and phytofluene).

This ripening process is not unique for tomatoes, a lot of other fruits and vegetables have similar ripening processes.

Carotenoids analysis in coloured tomatoes (red, yellow, orange) vs. white-creamy tomatoes

Red, yellow, orange tomatoes carotenoids level:

Adopted From - * Y. Tadmor et al. / Food Research International 38 (2005) 837–841

White tomato carotenoids level (the source for TOMESORAL): own data

Phytoene + phytofluene 1.2 mg/gr

z-Carotene 0

Pro-lycopene 0

Lycopene 0

b-carotene 0

lutein + zeaxanthin 0.5 mg/gr

What makes a tomato red?

The colour red of a tomato is caused by mostly one molecule: lycopene. Lycopene belongs to the group of carotenoids. It is a quite strong colour red. It has this red colour thanks to all the fully conjugated double bonds on the molecule carbon chain. These bonds can influence light in such a way that only specific wavelengths are reflected.

Figure 1. Lycopene

All-trans lycopene (source).

Apart from lycopene, red, orange and yellow tomatoes also contain quite some β-carotene. This molecule also gives orange and carrots their orange colour, it has an orange/red hue and function as pre-retinol component.

Figure 2. b-Carotene

What makes a tomato yellow?

Yellow tomatoes on the other hand have a very different concentration of these colour molecules. They contain far less lycopene and β-carotene than the red variety. This explains why they’ve lost their red/orange hue.

Nevertheless, yellow tomatoes may still contain other carotenoids and seem to contain more lutein, this is a colour molecule, from the xanthophylls group which makes fruits and vegetables, yes indeed yellow!

Figure 3. Lutein

What makes a tomato white-creamy?

White tomatoes are completely different in their carotenoids composition from coloured tomatoes, which in a way is obvious as they are lacking visible colour. The only carotenoids that are lacking visible colour are the colourless carotenoids - phytoene and phytofluene. These two unique carotenoids, the precursors to all carotenoids in nature, have UV colour, UVB and UVA respectively. The white tomato of TOMESORAL white is loaded with phytoene and phytofluene.

Figure 4. Phytoene

Figure 5. Phytofluene

White tomatoes are lacking coloured carotenoids almost altogether. No red (lycopene), or orange (beta-carotene), but plenty of the colourless carotenoids-phytoene and phytofluene and only a spark of lutein and zeaxanthin when there is a slight creamy-goldish hue to them.

Red vs. yellow vs. white tomatoes – flavour, acidity, nutritional values

The main difference between red, yellow and white tomatoes simply is their colour. This also causes their compositions to be slightly different. They contain different molecules, simply because it’s these molecules that change the colour.

Sugar levels and acidity differ between tomato colours, flavonoids and phytosterols may differ, but this is a less investigated area. These variables may affect their flavour variety as well. Other minor components such as minerals may differ too. However, the exact differences depend a lot on the exact variety tested.

In matter of taste, some claim yellow tomatoes are sweeter than red, but it will strongly depend which yellow tomato you’re comparing to which red tomato. The same goes for tartness and the related acidity.

White tomatoes are however considered the sweetest tomatoes and lowest in acidity. They are also very “meaty”, which means extra fibbers content.

What and why is TOMESORAL white so special?

The white tomato from which TOMESORAL is sourced, has a delicate tomato taste and smell, is sweet and very low in acidity, contains much fruit flash (high in fibbers) and much of the colourless carotenoids, phytoene and phytofuene. TOMESORAL white bares the unique benefits of phytoene and phytofluene known most importantly for skin and wellness benefits. It is a tomato species not available commercially, and is being specially and exclusively grown to produce this product.

TOMESORAL white is uniquely found to stimulate body’s glutathione production via increase in glutathione reductase (GR) expression. GR is the enzyme responsible for the conversion of oxidized glutathione (GSSG) to the reduced form GSH that is directly linked to skin benefits such as lightening, protection from oxidative/photo damage and boosting immunity and resilience.

Boosting body’s glutathione along with the prominent benefits of phytoene and phytofluene that are found in ample in the white tomato lay the foundation of the TOMESORAL white product’s benefits for skin beauty and overall wellness, health and resilience. Dually, TOMESORAL white found to help reduce inflammation, stimulate regeneration and reverse oxidative damage to cells and tissue without staining or colouring the skin like red, orange and yellow tomatoes and their derived products may do.

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