Tomatoes: In-Season Superfood

Tomatoes: In-Season Superfood

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  1. Tis the season for tomatoes. Baskets and bins at farmer’s markets around the country are overflowing with ripe, juicy tomatoes of all shapes and colors. 

    Late summer is the ideal time to take advantage of this Superfood in their natural form.  These rosy orbs pack a nutritional punch that is, indeed, noteworthy.  Even better, and definitely unusual in the food world, processed tomato products contain all the benefits of the fruit from the vine, so while enjoying a just picked tomato in August is one of life’s pleasures, the tomato paste used to bump up the flavor of your minestrone soup base in November will provide the same nutritional boost.

    Benefits of Tomatoes

    • Tomatoes contain lycopene, which may help prevent cancer, and acts as a powerful antioxidant.  Antioxidants are beneficial to your skin and may even help prevent and repair sun damage.
    • They also contain Vitamin C, Potassium, fiber and B Vitamins, which are getting some press recently for their benefits. 
    • There is also evidence that tomatoes can play a role in reducing risk of cardiovascular disease.  "In one study, German scientists compared the lycopene levels of the tissues of men who had suffered heart attacks with those of men who had not.  The men who had suffered heart attacks had lower lycopene levels than those who had not"…"men with the lowest levels of lycopene were twice as likely to suffer a heart attack as those with the lowest levels." 1

    Adding Tomatoes to Your Diet

    • When choosing fresh tomatoes, look for those that have firm, taut skin,  are heavy for their size, deep red (or whatever color they’re supposed to be if choosing heirlooms), and free of blemishes and dents.
    • Tomatoes will ripen on the kitchen counter.  Turn them stem side down for a few days.
    • Remember, tomatoes that are canned and sun-dried contain the same health benefits. Add a can of diced tomatoes or a few tablespoons of tomato paste to your favorite soup, start using salsa on more than chips, and make your own pizza so you can load on the sauce.
    • Lycopene needs a bit of dietary fat to transport it into the bloodstream, so while a fresh tomato eaten out of hand is certainly good for you, a tomato salad with some olive oil is even better.

    Quick and Easy Tomato Recipe

    Tomato Salad with Basil

     1Superfoods: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life, Steven Pratt, M.D., and Kathy Matthews, Harper, 2005 

    Photo Courtesy of Suat Eman at

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