Not only are tomatoes a super food, they’re an easy superfood to include in the diet. Tomatoes are so widely used that we often forget that they were largely unknown outside their country of origin, just 400 years ago.
All about tomatoes
Tomatoes have a fleshy outer covering surrounded by a thin skin. They can be a variety of colours ranging from yellow, to orange, green and sometimes even brown. The sizes and shapes are equally varied and there are about 1000 varieties known.
Botanically, the tomato should be considered a fruit since it is the engorged ovary or seed covering enclosing the seeds of the plant. It doesn’t however taste like everyone’s traditional idea of a fruit (which is largely accepted as sweet) and so it is often categorised as a vegetable.
Selection and Storage
- Chose well-formed, plump, ripe and un-bruised tomatoes. Tomatoes should not show any signs of decay.
- Tomatoes should not be puffy and should yield to a slight pressure. Smell a tomato when purchasing it. It should have a typical sweet scent.
- Chose to buy processed tomato products in tetra-packs rather than in cans. Most countries (apart from the USA and The EU) do not control the percentage of led in their cans and the acidic nature of tomatoes may corrode the lining of cans and allow the lead to contaminate the product.
- Store under-ripe tomatoes at room temperature as the cold will prevent them from ripening.
- To ripen tomatoes quickly, place them in a plastic bag with a banana or an apple. The ethylene gas that these fruits exude will quicken the ripening process.
- Remove tomatoes from the refrigerator half an hour before using them. This will help them to regain their flavour and juiciness.
- Tomatoes freeze extremely well in all forms- whole, chopped and as paste.
- Sun-dried tomatoes should be kept in an air-tight container, both in and out of oil.
- Cooked tomatoes will last a week or so in the refrigerator.
Tomatoes are categorised as one of the World’s Healthiest Foods
- Fully ripe tomatoes have a low calorie count and are packed with nutritives.
- Red tomatoes contain 4 times the beta-carotene than those available in green tomatoes.
- Tomatoes are a super source of beta carotene especially lycopene, Biotin, and Vitamin K
- They are also an excellent source of Vitamin B6, Panthothenic acid, niacin, folic acid and dietary fiber.
- 100gms of cooked tomato contains 32 calories and 2 gms of fibre.
Nutritive Values of Tomato: Per 100 gm
Tomato and health
Tomato is a [super food]. Just remember the one rule of fresh tomatoes: don't put them in the refrigerator. The refrigerator destroys not only the flavor, it also destroys the nutrients.
- Lycopene --Lycopene is a carotenoid found in large measure in ripe tomatoes. This is now known to have many health benefits. Cooked tomatoes contain more lycopene than raw ones. This is so because that the lycopene found in the skins and cells is released by the cooking process. Tomatoes eaten with a small amount of fat increases their health benefit. The ingested fat is an aid to the absorption of the fat soluble lycopene.
- The highest levels of lycopene are found in organic tomatoes and organic tomato produce.
- Lycopene is a very powerful antioxidant and helps control damage to cell structures.
- Phytoene and phytofluene -- There are other lesser known compounds namely Phytoene and phytofluene present in tomatoes that may be even more efficacious than lycopene. Though not much study has been undertaken into the effects of these compounds, they do seem to have a beneficial effect on health. For more details see Scientists probe tomato's benefits beyond lycopene
- Cancer -- The US National Cancer Institute says that the increased intake of tomatoes can now be linked directly to the lower incidence of many kinds of cancers. Prostatic, Colonic and pancreatic cancers all benefit from increased intake. Tomatoes, when consumed along with Brocolli and Green Tea are able to fight prostate cancer far more effectively than they would be able to on their own.
- Heart disease -- Studies show that increasing the intake of tomatoes reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. Tomatoes help to dissolve the animal fats in foods like cheese, butter, meats and deep-fried foods. This helps control the hardening and clogging of the arteries. An increased intake of tomatoes is directly linked with improved blood cholesterol levels.
- High Blood Pressure --Tomatoes contain a large amount of potassium which is excellent for the kidneys and is known to stabilize blood pressure.
Blood Pressure Stabilizing Tomato Mocktail
- Ingredients -- 2 ripe large tomatoes; 1 tsp. ground tarragon; tsp. paprika; 1 tsp. ground turmeric; 1 tsp. ground basil; 1 tbsp. of lemon juice and 2/3 cup of spring or distilled water.
- Blend the ingredients thoroughly. Makes a delicious drink that contains approximately 1,200 mg. of potassium and only about 15 mg. of sodium. (80:1 ratio). It is an excellent blood pressure stabillizer.
Other health benefits
- Diarrhoea -- The beneficial effects of dried tomato powder on the treatment of diarrhoea were observed as far back as 1946 when Dr. Lester M. Morrison of the Philadelphia General Hospital published his findings in 100 in the American Journal of Digestive Diseases. He found that dried tomato powder mixed in milk could control diarrhoea.
- Clear eyes --Chinese doctors prescribe eating tomatoes to prevent bloodshot eyes. Since tomatoes contain both Vitamin C and flavonoids, their consumption strengthens the capillaries.
- Clear skin --The topical application of tomatoes helps reduce the ill-effects of sunburn and is also an excellent exfoliant. It can be added to face peels, face masks and to exfoliating face scrubs.
- Sores --Tomatoes can also be used to treat infected sores and wound. A pack made of raw tomatoes, reapplied regularly helps control infection and dry up pus.
- Liver -- Tomatoes contain naturally occurring chlorine and sulphur. Both of these, in their natural state are superb detoxifiers. Natural chlorine acts as a stimulant for the liver and the tomatoes help the liver rid the body of waste materials. Sulphur helps the liver recover from cirrhosis. Tomato juice is often prescribed to patients who have had liver resections. This is supposed to help heal and even in some cases regenerate the liver.
- Fatigue--Tomatoes help battle fatigue in three ways-
- Tomatoes are high in sugars, especially fructose and glucose. This provides energy to the body.
- Tomatoes are also a detoxificant for the liver, and by clearing the liver of contaminants, tomatoes help build up vitality.
- Tomato seeds are an excellent protein source and these too provide strength.
What can I do?
- Tomatoes are known to have the highest levels of pesticide residues. Choose organically grown tomatoes if you can.
- Tomatoes have the highest number of allergic reactions, so check allergies before serving people.
- There is anecdotal evidence to link the members of the nightshade family to increased levels of arthritic pain. While there is no scientific evidence to prove this, people with arthritis may benefit from limiting the intake of these foods.
- Since tomatoes have certain amounts of oxalate. People with kidney stones should not eat them.
Tips for preparing tomatoes
- Soak in a light additive free soap solution or vegetable rinse for a while before using
- Cut vertically rather than horizontally in order to help them retain their pulp
- Peel tomatoes by making a X shaped mark with a knife at the tail end of the tomato, scoring the skin. Plunge into boiling water and then immediately into ice water. The skins will peel off easily.
- De-seed tomatoes by cutting them horizontally and squeezing out the seeds gently. The seeds can also be scooped out with a metal spoon.
- NEVER use aluminium vessels to cook tomatoes as the acid of the tomatoes will cause the aluminium to migrate into the food, give it an unpleasant taste and also have seriously ill health effects.
- The Encyclopaedia of Healing Foods: Dr. Michael Murray and Dr. Joseph Pizzorno with Lara Pizzorno, MA, LMT. Time Warner Books, 2005.
- Medicinal (Healing) Applications of Tomatoes
- The world's healthiest food - tomato
- Health Benefits of Tomato67
- The World's Healthiest Foods
- For more on tomatoes and cancer see Tomatoes and Cancer
- See Medicinal (Healing) Applications of Tomatoes