It’s that time of year when the tomatoes are ripening on the vine! There’s nothing quite like a fresh tomato, and in addition to being delicious on their own and in so many foods, tomatoes are also good for you. Read on to learn about the health benefits of tomatoes and the many ways you can enjoy them.
Why eat tomatoes?
Sure, tomatoes taste good, especially if you can raise or get home-grown ones. They’re also incredibly nutritious. Tomatoes are technically a fruit, but most of us treat them like a vegetable, and they rank as the fourth most commonly eaten vegetable in the United States. Here’s why it’s a great idea to include tomatoes in your eating plan:
- They can help with diabetes management. The fiber in tomatoes combined with the low carb content can make it easier to keep your blood sugars within your target range.
- They can help maintain a healthy blood pressure. Tomatoes are a good source of potassium, a mineral that helps keep your blood pressure in a safe range.
- They promote heart health. In addition to potassium, tomatoes are ripe with vitamin C, fiber, folate and choline – nutrients that can help you lower your risk of heart disease. Remember, people with diabetes have at least twice the risk of getting heart disease compared to people without diabetes.
- They can fight cancer. The vitamin C and antioxidants in tomatoes help to combat free radicals which are linked to a higher cancer risk. In addition, tomatoes contain lycopene which has been shown in studies to protect against prostate cancer. Lycopene may also protect against breast and lung cancers. Beta carotene (which gives tomatoes their red color) also help fight prostate and colon cancers.
- They can make it easier to lose weight. Eating tomatoes is a great way to feel full without overdoing calories: one 3-inch diameter tomato has just 33 calories. 1 cup of cherry tomatoes contains just 27 calories.
What about other color tomatoes?
Tomatoes, like many vegetables, come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Heirloom tomatoes, for example, may be pink, yellow or brown. Green tomatoes have the highest vitamin C content compared to other colors, while yellow tomatoes provide the most phosphorus. Bottom line: all tomatoes, regardless of color, size and shape, are great for you!
How to enjoy tomatoes
The best way to enjoy a tomato might be straight off the plant. Of course, tomatoes make a tasty addition to salads, and summertime is the perfect time to enjoy a traditional Caprese salad (sliced tomato, fresh mozzarella cheese and fresh basil, drizzled with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar). Need more ideas?
- Whip up a batch of gazpacho: puree tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and onion. Season with pepper and pinch of salt. Serve cold.
- Snack on cherry or grape tomatoes.
- Make a quick and easy fresh tomato sauce (a great way to get that lycopene) and serve over pasta, or zucchini or spaghetti squash noodles.
- Chop up tomatoes and add them to your omelet or scrambled eggs.
- Make your own salsa with ripe tomatoes, red onion, jalapeno pepper, garlic, lime juice and cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips or raw veggies.
- Stuff large, hollowed-out tomatoes with tuna or chicken salad for a cool, low-carb summer meal.
- Try preserving or canning tomatoes so that you can enjoy them year-round. For a free guide, check out the USDA’s Complete Guide to Home Canning here: https://www.healthycanning.com/wp-content/uploads/USDA-Complete-Guide-to-Home-Canning-2015-revision.pdf