My grandfather ate tomatoes sliced with sugar on them. I prefer them with a sprinkling of sea salt and fresh ground pepper . . . or with a shot of rice vinegar. Tomatoes are the fruit you use as a vegetable, and they're even better for you than apples. Basically, all you have to do to them is wash them, slice them, and eat them. With the little cherry tomatoes you simply pop them into your mouth after washing them and eliminate the slicing step.
The tomato comes from the nightshade (sometimes known as the Deadly Nightshade) family: bell peppers, cayenne peppers, chili peppers, potatoes, eggplant. Some people do have reactions to tomatoes, but always remember that the tomato is one of the superfoods.
The tomato is rich in lycopene, it's low in sodium, and you don't have to worry about saturated fat or cholesterol. It's a good source of vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), thiamin, niacin, Vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, phosphorus and copper. The tomato packs a combination of antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium and lycopene.
Lycopene gives tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon, and guava their red color. It's thought that 80% of our lycopene in the U.S. comes from dishes prepared from tomatoes. When absorbed in the stomach, lycopene is transported by various lipoproteins and accumulates in the liver, adrenal glands, and testes.
In a study of more than 47,000 health professionals, there was a 21% lower risk of prostate cancer by those who had the highest intakes of lycopene. Those who had the highest intakes of tomatoes and tomato products had a 35% lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer and a 53% lower risk than those who consumed the lowest amounts of tomato products in their diets. Further studies of tomatoes and lycopene might be needed, however. A pro-tomato group petitioned FDA to approve a lycopene health claim but it was rejected, due to lack of clear evidence supporting their claims.
Another of the health benefits of tomato consumption is their high content of antioxidant compounds called carotenoids. The results of epidemiological studies suggest that carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, both found in tomatoes, may help slow the development of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Carotenoids are best absorbed with fat in a meal, which makes tomatoes ideal for sauces. Chopping, puréeing, and cooking generally increases and releases the powers of the carotenoids.
When we went to Tuscany, one of our favorite dishes was panzanella, a Tuscan bread and tomato salad. Although most recipes call for fresh tomatoes, it was served cooked. When I was growing up we called this breaded tomatoes. Of course coming from the mid-west it was served over-cooked. With breaded tomatoes, canned tomatoes are cooked in a sauce pan with slices of stale bread and a little sugar. In today's world I would saute onions and garlic in a little olive oil and then add the canned tomatoes to the pan mixing in pieces of whole grain bread and adding a pinch of sea salt, coarse ground black pepper, and a smidgen of sugar. Some people like to add in zucchini, olives, basil, and cucumbers as well. Here's an excellent recipe for Whole Grain Panzanella Bread Salad you might want to try.
There are many ways to enjoy tomatoes from fresh to canned. They are also found on many weight reduction programs; but, best of all they can be found in both inexpensive as well as gourmet dishes. With the rich taste of tomatoes, you never have to feel deprived, or feel like you're eating unhealthily. You're just eating something that tastes great.
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