Tuesday 23 July 2013

Week 30 Nutrition Tip: Eat Tomatoes

In North America, we eat the majority of our tomatoes in the form of ketchup or a paper-thin tomato slice on a Big Mac. Or we take healthy tomato variations (e.g. tomato sauce) and mix it foods such as pasta or pepperoni pizza which are not helpful to our health, performance or body composition. Too bad, because tomatoes are a truly a superfood. This week in our 52 Weeks to Better Nutrition and a New You series, let's look at just why these little red balls of goodness are so good for you and some healthy ways to get them into your diet.
Health Benefits of Tomatoes:
Tomatoes contain a lot of great nutrients, but they are most famous for lycopene. This gives tomatoes their bright red color and has some amazing benefits which include:

  • Powerful antioxidant
  • Reduced risk of prostate cancer
  • Reduced risk of other cancers such as breast, digestive tract, cervix, bladder and lung
  • Improved sun protection for the skin
  • Decreased risk of age-related macular degeneration
  • Improved functioning in the elderly
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease

Other Great Nutrients Found in Tomatoes:
  • Alpha-carotene
  • Beta-carotene
  • Biotin
  • B vitamins
  • Chromium
  • Fiber
  • Lutein/zeaxanthin
  • Phytuene & phytofluene (antioxidant and anticarcinogenic) 
  • Potassium (cardiovascular health, blood pressure)
  • Vitamin C
Raw or Cooked?
While raw foods are great and you should try to eat raw foods, cooking has its advantages. Cooking tomatoes helps to release the lycopene which is is bound to the cell walls and fiber of the tomato. Cooked tomatoes contain 2-8 times more available lycopene than raw tomatoes.

Eat tomatoes with fat
Lycopene is fat-soluble so try having tomatoes with a good fat (e.g. olive oil)

Interesting tomato fact:
Tomatoes are technically a fruit, but have been classified as a vegetable in the US since 1893.

Pratt, S. & Matthews, K. SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life. New York, NY: HarperCollins; 2005. 

The Application
If you do not have tomatoes in your fridge, hit the store or farm market and get some! Then, look at having tomatoes most days. Here are my 3 favorite ways tomatoes into my diet. 
  • Add tomatoes to scrambled eggs or an omelette (note: consider including other great veggies such as spinach)
  • Add fresh tomato to your salads with olive oil dressing
  • Add tomato to your steamed veggies or stir fries (steamed is obviously the better choice)

Steamed vegetables (including tomatoes)
Below are links to the previous nutrition habits in this series in case you missed any:

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