Add Tomatoes to Your Plate for Better Health
Author: be well™ with Big Y® Registered Dietitian Team
Best ways to select, store and cook these end-of-summer sweeties.
We’re beginning to see locally grown tomatoes appearing in stores, and, if you’ve planted your own tomato varieties, you know it’s only a matter of time until outdoor-grown, vine-ripened tomatoes are ready for picking, if they’re not already!
When selecting, look for tomatoes with firm flesh and bright, shiny skin. Keep in mind, tomatoes taste best when they are stored at room temperature—so only refrigerate these red beauties if you can’t enjoy them within about 1 week of becoming ripe.
Since there are over 25,000 tomato varieties, it’s no wonder there are so many uses for them. And with jarred tomato products—like canned tomatoes, marinara sauce and salsa—providing equally impressive nutritional benefits, there is no shortage of ways to enjoy them on a regular basis.
When it comes to the nutritional perks of tomatoes, they are plentiful. Besides the fact that 1 medium tomato contains just 25 calories, the same serving size delivers 1 gram fiber, 340 milligrams potassium and 25% the Daily Value for vitamin C, as well as protective antioxidant-acting compounds like lycopene and beta-carotene. These features make tomatoes a powerhouse veggie (or fruit, if you want to get technical!) touted for protecting vision and eye health, reducing blood pressure and maintaining heart health, reducing risk for certain cancers (most notably prostate cancer) and even offering protection to our skin against sun damage.
As one of the best sources of lycopene, tomatoes are a homerun way to benefit from this plant compound. According to the Tomato Wellness Council, a range of 9–21 milligrams lycopene per day appears to be most beneficial. One cup chopped fresh tomatoes and one cup tomato sauce contain 4.5 milligrams and 46 milligrams, respectively. Since heating tomatoes makes lycopene 2.5 times more bioavailable to the body, aiming to include a variety of fresh and processed tomato sources—like with this refreshing summer recipe—is a great way to meet those goals.
Feeling inspired to cook up these summer sweeties? Check out one of our favorite recipes: Barbara’s Spaghetti with Herbs & Tomato Sauce. We promise: One bite, and you’ll be a true believer in the power of fresh tomato sauce!