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Health Benefits of Tomatoes

By Kim McDevitt, MPH RD on August 19, 2014, categorized in In the Kitchen, Plant-based Nutrition

Health Benefits of Tomatoes

Now is the time for juicy, plump, off-the-vine tomatoes and if you’re like me then you’ve got a vegetable garden exploding with them.

You know that tomatoes are full of vitamins and minerals and make a healthy, low-calorie addition to meals and snacks, but what exactly are they offering your body?

Nutrition 101

  1. Vitamins and Minerals: Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, offering the body over 30% DV in one serving. Additional notable nutrients include biotin, potassium, vitamin A and K.1
  2. Lycopene: A carotenoid and phytonutrient responsible for giving vegetables their red color, lycopene offers many positive health benefits. Preliminary research suggest that people who have diets rich in tomatoes, which contain lycopene, appear in some studies to have a lower risk of certain types of cancer.2  
  3. Antioxidants: Lycopene isn’t the only antioxidant tomatoes are rich in. Other antioxidants help to eliminate dangerous free radicals (that damage DNA and cell structures) from the body.

Tips for Buying

If you don’t have a bountiful tomato plant in your backyard. choose tomatoes from the store that are sourced locally whenever possible. Better yet, visit your local farm stand! Local tomatoes are often are even less expensive than the mass produced variety.

Choose tomatoes that have firm and shiny skin. The color should be deep and uniform with no tears or bruises on the skin.

Once home, show off your harvest by keeping tomatoes at room temperature. Avoid keeping tomatoes in the refrigerator, as the cold temperature breaks down the cell walls of the vegetable faster, making them become softer and more quickly lose their texture and flavor.

Recipes to Enjoy

Thrive Kitchen guest expert and renowned raw food Chef Matthew Kenney shares how “great food starts with great ingredients” in Thrive Forward chapter on raw foods. There’s an entire chapter dedicated to seasonality and some fantastic recipes including a delicious Olive, Tomato and Mushroom Salad, and a Plant-Based BLT. Use up the extra zucchini by making Matthew’s raw Zucchini Pesto Pasta with fresh tomatoes too!

Feeling overwhelmed with the number of tomatoes coming out of your garden? You can freeze your fresh tomatoes whole, making the perfect addition to a snowy evening dinner of pasta with homemade tomato sauce.

For lots more inspiration head over to the MyVega.com Recipe Center.

What’s your favorite way to eat tomatoes?

References

  1. United States Department of Agriculture. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Tomatoes, red, ripe, raw. Accessed on 7/20/14 from: http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3270
  2. American Cancer Society. (2010). Lycopene. Accessed 7/21/14 from: http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/dietandnutrition/lycopene