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Tomatoes

Tomatoes are amazing!

Apparently, most of us agree because we have come up with all sorts of ways to add them to our diet. Consider this! We have tomatoes as a sauce in pasta dishes, on pizzas, and in soups and stews. We include them in salads, stir-fry dishes and pasta meals. We place them sliced in sandwiches and on all sorts of burgers. We eat them as salsa with tortilla chips or bruschetta on hard toast. We even eat them plain such as cherry tomatoes, pear tomatoes or grape tomatoes. And if these foods have never crossed our plate, surely a squirt or two of ketchup has landed somewhere in our food.

While there are a few folks who may have allergies or truly dislike this fruit/vegetable, most of us consume tomatoes not realizing the benefits to our diets. First, tomatoes have a small amount of various minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper and manganese. It includes an array of vitamins too – vitamin C, A, D and K; and it also includes a small amount of the B vitamins. (1)

Lycopene is a plant chemical that gives tomatoes its beautiful red color. This plant chemical is a part of the orange and yellow family called carotenes. It is found in other foods such as watermelon, apricots and blood oranges. However, we get most of our lycopene from tomatoes.

Lycopene is an antioxidant, and researchers suggest that it protects our cells. It has been studied for its protective effects in age-related macular degeneration (AMD), Asthma, atherosclerosis or plaque buildup in the arteries, enlarged prostate, heart disease, cataracts. It may also have protective effects in breast, cervical, colon and rectal cancer, and so many other areas. Most of the research for these areas suggests benefits, but it is also inconclusive.(2)

In the meantime, whether or not tomatoes protect in all of these areas of study, eating tomatoes provide nutrients we need to stay healthy. In addition to all of these healthy ingredients, tomatoes have fiber and only 32 calories. (1)

If its been a while since eating this wonderful fruit/vegetable, try adding them to the favorite vegetable dishes. The flavor blends well with zucchini, fresh basil and a little olive oil, eggplant and onions, broccoli and cauliflower, and various greens with onions or garlic. They’re delicious!

References:
  1. S. Department of Agriculture. Tomatoes, red, ripe, raw, year round average. www.fdc.nal.usda.gov. Accessed September 29, 2019.
  2. Overview, Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosing. www.webmd.com. Accessed September 29, 2019.

Pamela Williams writes from Southern California.

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About Pamela A. Williams, MPH, R.D.

Pamela A. Williams, MPH, R.D.

is a dietitian in Southern California.

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