The Scientific Reason Some People Can't Stomach Raw Tomatoes

While the people who bite into whole tomatoes like apples are few and far between, some of us simply prefer the taste of these fruits more than others. While cooked tomatoes, like those in pasta and pizza sauce, are practically universally loved, the fresh version of these fruits is a different story. And it turns out, there is a science-backed reason to explain being a raw tomato hater that goes beyond basic food preferences — so if this is you, don't feel bad for being a picky eater in this regard.

Fresh tomatoes contain a high amount of glutamic acid, aka glutamate, as 100 grams of the fruit can hold up to 250 mg of the amino acid. Since tomatoes are more savory than sweet, and glutamic acid is also present in meat and seafood, we tend to expect them to smell and taste more like protein-rich foods than fruit. In fact, the amino acid is what gives us the umami taste in many foods — including monosodium glutamate (MSG), the sodium salt that comes from glutamic acid, cheese, soy sauce, and mushrooms. So when we sense glutamate in a fresh, juicy tomato instead, it can feel off-putting at best.

Tomatoes can be hard for some to digest

While an association with umami-rich foods may be the main reason some people don't like chowing down on raw tomatoes, it's not the only one. If you're one of those with an aversion to these fruits, you may simply have a tomato intolerance. This can look like heartburn from your stomach being unable to digest all the acid, per WebMD, or hives, rashes, and itchiness from a sensitivity to nightshades, according to Medical News Today. If you get similar symptoms from eating eggplant, bell peppers, and white potatoes, you may just have a sensitivity to nightshades in general.

But beyond aversions to specific chemicals, some people may not enjoy tomatoes simply because they're not that good at U.S. grocery stores. Heirlooms can be trickier for farmers to sell because they can't travel well over long distances, so versions of the fruits can come from a mutation that stifles sweetness and overall taste. Or perhaps, you just don't love the fleshy, sometimes mushy texture that occurs when you cut into one — which, going back to the association with meat, makes sense as an unappetizing quality. Either way, the next time someone calls you out on your distaste for raw tomatoes, you can cite several science-backed reasons why.