Lycopene and the Healthy Delight of Tomatoes: Tomatoes are a delicious food that is considered both a fruit and vegetable. It is a complex combination of flavors that stimulate the tongue in 3 key areas: sweet, sour, and savory. Let’s explore their richness, healthy benefits; which includes an antioxidant called lycopene, purchasing and storing tips, and how to add them to our diet .
Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants. They contain a large amount of lycopene, an antioxidant that defends against many forms of cancer, according to studies published by the Harvard School of Public Health. The health benefits of tomatoes include eye care, stomach health and lowered blood pressure. They support diabetic health, skin problems and urinary tract infections. Tomatoes improve digestion, stimulate blood circulation, reduce cholesterol levels, improve fluid balance, protect the kidneys, detoxify the body, prevent premature aging and reduce inflammation. They are rich in vitamins and minerals and support cardiovascular health.
Vitamins and Minerals:
One tomato can provide up to 40% of the daily vitamin C requirement. Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant which prevents cancer causing free radicals from damaging the body. It contains large quantities of Vitamin A, Potassium and Iron. Potassium maintains nerve health, while Iron is important for maintaining normal blood circulation. Tomatoes contain Vitamin K, which is important to clotting of the blood and controlling bleeding.
How to Purchase and Store:
It is important to pick out tomatoes that have deep rich color, whether they are red, orange, yellow, or purple. Tomatoes of all varieties provide excellent nutrients.They should be nicely shaped with smooth skin no bruising, but keep in mind that ripe tomatoes are delicate and have a sweet fragrance.
Under Ripe Tomatoes:
As far as storing tomatoes, it depends on individual preference. Tomatoes that have been picked before they are fully ripe, you want to store at room temperature and out of direct contact with sunlight for up to one week, depending on their degree of ripeness at the time they were purchased. Tidbit: If you want to speed up the ripening process, place the tomato(es) in a paper bag with a banana or apple, and the ethylene gas emitted by these fruits will speed up the ripening process in the tomato(es).
Over Ripe Tomatoes:
If you purchase tomatoes that are a little overripe and you are not ready to eat them, you should place them in the refrigerator to slow down the ripening process. The egg or butter compartment is a warmer place to store them for two to three additional days. Removing them from the refrigerator 30 minutes before using them, will regain their maximum flavor. Tomatoes that are whole chopped or are a sauce freeze well for future use. Sun-dried tomatoes should be placed in an airtight container and stored in a cool dry place outside of the refrigerator.
When cooking tomatoes avoid cooking with aluminum cookware, the high acid content of the tomatoes, interacts with the metal in the cookware; changing the color of the tomatoes to a dark red color. This means the aluminum is cooking into the dish, leaving an unpleasant taste, and creating possible health risks.
Incorporate Tomatoes into Your Diet:
- Dip grape or cherry tomatoes in hummus or plain yogurt dip and consume them as a side or a snack.
- Add sliced tomato to sandwiches and wraps.
- Add diced, low-sodium canned tomatoes to homemade or jarred marinara sauces when making pasta.
- Make your own tomato paste, Sauté a couple of chopped garlic cloves and/or 1 or 2 large chopped onions for a couple of minutes until they are translucent. Add 8 to 10 chopped whole tomatoes and a teaspoon of dried oregano or several teaspoons of fresh chopped oregano, basil, and any other herbs you enjoy (such as parsley or rosemary). Simmer for 30-45 minutes. Remove from the heat, drizzle with olive oil, and add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. To spruce it up, add chopped olives and/or mushrooms along with the garlic and onions.
- Used canned, diced, or stewed tomatoes in soups and stews.
- Eat a piece of toast with avocado and tomato slices.
- Make a quick salsa with diced tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and freshly squeezed lime.
- Dice fresh tomatoes and add them to rice and beans, quesadillas, or tacos. Add them to omelets or scrambles for breakfast.
- Drizzle freshly sliced tomatoes and sliced mozzarella with balsamic vinegar, and top with chopped basil.
- Make a bruschetta as an appetizer.
- Puree tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and scallions together in a food processor and season with herbs and spices of your choice to make the refreshing cold gazpacho soup.