Week 27: Tomatoes
Although tomatoes are fruits in a botanical sense, they don't have the dessert quality sweetness of other fruits. Cooking tempers the acid and bitter qualities in tomatoes and brings out their warm, rich sweetness.
Tomatoes are often closely associated with Italian cuisine, yet they are actually originally native to the western side of South America. There are few food sensations that better mark the summer and early fall months than the sweet juiciness of a vine-ripened tomato. Tomatoes come in over a thousand different varieties that vary in shape, size, and color.
They are one of the vegetables in the nightshade family, which includes eggplant, bell peppers, and potatoes (although not sweet potatoes and yams).
Tomatoes provide a unique variety of phytonutrients (carotenoids, flavonoids, glycosides and fatty acid derivatives). They are also an excellent source of vitamin C, biotin, molybdenum, and vitamin K. Tomatoes are also a very good source of copper, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin B6, folate, niacin, vitamin E, and phosphorus. Additionally, they are a good source of chromium, pantothenic acid, protein, choline, zinc, and iron.
Cardiovascular Support- Through antioxidant support and regulation of fats in the bloodstream.
They also have been shown to regulate fats in the blood resulting in decreased total cholesterol, decreased LDL cholesterol, and decreased triglyceride levels.
Atherosclerosis prevention: Tomatoes help prevent excessive clumping of platelets in the bloodstream which helps in preventing problems in terms of blockage and unwanted clotting in the blood.
Supports Bone Health- The connection of tomato intake to bone health involves tomato's rich supply of antioxidants (lycopene).
Anti-Cancer Benefits- Tomatoes are a cancer-protective food due to the presence of antioxidants which help in reducing chronic oxidative stress and chronic unwanted inflammation. Tomatoes can help lower the risk of prostate cancer in men, non-small cell lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and breast cancer.
Selection and Storage:
Choose tomatoes that have rich colors. Tomatoes of all colors provide outstanding nutrient benefits. They should be well shaped and smooth-skinned with no wrinkles, cracks, bruises, or soft spots. Ripe tomatoes will yield to slight pressure and will have a noticeably sweet fragrance.
Due to their sensitivity to cold, store tomatoes at room temperature and out of direct exposure to sunlight. They will keep for up to a week, depending on how ripe they are when purchased. To hasten the ripening process, place them in a paper bag with a banana or apple since the ethylene gas that these fruits emit will help speed up the tomato's maturation. Whole tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, and tomato sauce freeze well for future use.
Tip to increase lycopene in your diet:
The best source of lycopene (the carotenoid antioxidant) is in tomatoes. Lycopene is best available to the body when tomatoes are cooked and combined with a small amount of fat.
Canned tomatoes- There is a concern due to the presence of BPA (bisphenol A) which is often added to the vinyl inner lining of numerous canned foods. This is even more problematic with tomatoes due to their acidity, which increases the rate at which BPA enters food. From a health perspective, BPA is known to be an endocrine disruptor (can negatively affect estrogen metabolism). For optimal safety, look for cans that say BPA free or purchase tomato based products in a glass jar.
Pesticides- According to the Environmental Working Group's 2019 report "Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce" conventionally grown tomatoes are among the top 12 fruits and vegetables on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found. Therefore, individuals wanting to avoid pesticide-associated health risks may want to avoid consumption of tomatoes unless they are grown organically.
Here is an easy and delicious avocado caprese salad from Kitchn.