Our vegetable of the week is Tomatoes!
Ready to learn the health benefits of Tomatoes?
Tomatoes are the most consumed vegetable worldwide and with over 10,000 varieties of tomatoes grown in the world, you are surely able to find a tomato you like! When we think of a tomato, we normally envision a red one but they actually can be yellow, pink, orange, purple, black and even white. They almost all start off green and ripen to their final color based on the type of plant.
Botanically speaking, tomatoes are a fruit but legally they are a vegetable. Say what?!? Yep, it’s true! In 1893 the US Supreme Court ruled tomatoes a vegetable based on the ways it was used so therefore, tomatoes could be taxed as such. No surprise there….
Some FUN random tomato facts…. The largest tomato ever grown weighed over 9 pounds! The water content of a tomato is around 95%. The largest tomato plant on record reached 65’ TALL! It was grown hydroponically in the UK. Tomato plants are technically a perennial vine but we grow them as an annual.
Tomatoes are a great addition to your plate if you are trying to lose weight. 1 medium tomato only has 25 nutrient dense calories. If you are reducing calories to lose weight, you want to be sure to consume nutrient dense foods to provide your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to keep you healthy and full of energy!
Think of it like this… 25 calories of potato chips (so basically 2 chips, who evens eat just 2 chips?! NOT ME!) Anyways, 25 calories of a potato chips are not the same as 25 calories of tomatoes. While foods like potato chips are delsih, they do not provide many, if any nutrients to fuel our bodies and protect it from diseases. I promise you, you would NOT feel satisfied with just 2 potato chips either!
But…. You would feel more satisfied and way FULLER after eating 1 whole tomato.
So, let’s jump into the health benefits of tomatoes and the magic that fills them!
What are the Health Benefits of Tomatoes?
Tomatoes are our main dietary source of a powerful antioxidant called lycopene. You can read more on importance of antioxidants and their benefits here, but let’s focus on lycopene for a minute…
Lycopene has been shown in test tube studies to slow the growth of breast and prostate cancer tumors.
When men consume 2 servings a week of lycopene rich tomato sauce, they reduce their chances of prostate cancer by 30%!
Those who consume diets rich in lycopene have shown to have up to a 25% decrease in heart disease.
Is raw or cooked tomato best?
Surprisingly, cooked! Lycopene is even more concentrated in tomato-based products like tomato sauce, juice, paste or even ketchup. The process of heating up the tomato to make these products changes the lycopene and makes it more readily absorbed by our bodies. Plus, the tomato “meat” is more concentrate as these tomato products remove much of the water found naturally in a tomato. Be watchful of added sugars though.
Important to note that consuming heart healthy fats like olive oil with lycopene helps improve the absorption rate. Simply add a little olive oil to your tomatoes before consuming.
Do you suffer from exercise induced asthma? A recent study showed that after just 1 week of consuming more lycopene, 55% of the people felt significant improvement in their lung function during exercise.
Tomatoes also have lutein and beta carotene in addition to lycopene. All 3 of these antioxidants help protect our eyes from age related macular degeneration. This is the leading cause of blindness as we age. You can read more on the health benefits of beta carotene found in carrots here.
Are you prone to sunburns? A recent study showed that those who consumed 16mg of lycopene, about ½ cup of spaghetti sauce, along with olive oil every day for 10 weeks, had 40% less sunburns than those who didn’t. This is by no way meant to replace sunblock and more research needs to be done. Like previously mentioned, consuming oil with lycopene helps improve the digestion rate.
In addition to lycopene, tomatoes are extremely rich in vitamin C! 1 medium tomato gives us 40% of the RDA. Vitamin C is an amazing antioxidant that gives our immune system a boost to reduce the length and severity of colds. Vitamin C helps to fight off germs and is great for keeping our skin younger and healthier looking. Studies are showing promise that it can even help fight skin cancer. Click here to read about how this 1 simple vitamin has shaped the world in which we now live!
Just 1 medium tomato supplies 20% of our recommended daily amount (RDA) of vitamin A! Consuming vitamin A rich foods has been shown to decrease our chances of certain cancers like lung, bladder, breast and ovarian cancer. Read more here (insert link) on how vitamin A helps improves our vision, and why it’s called the anti-infection vitamin.
What about cherry tomatoes? There is very little nutritional difference between cherry tomatoes and regular tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes tend to be a tad less sweet but both have similar vitamins and nutrients.
Tomatoes are fabulous for weight loss. They are low in calories, low carb and have fiber! 1 tomato provides 2 grams of fiber. Fiber is critical for digestion and gut health. It helps us feel fuller longer and prevents constipation. Most people only eat 15 grams a day where women should eat 25 grams per day and men should eat 38 grams per day or more. To learn more about how eating a diet high in fiber has been shown to reduce our cholesterol and reduce our chances of developing type 2 diabetes click here.
Tomatoes are most certainly a SUPERFOOD that are loaded with vitamins and antioxidants! Were you surprised about some of the health benefits of tomatoes?
How to choose the perfect tomatoes to maximize the health benefits of tomatoes
Tomatoes are readily available year-round, but tomatoes are in peak season from May-October in North America.
When choosing your tomatoes, look for heavy and plump tomatoes. There should be no blemishes or bruises. Make sure there are no large or deep cracks.
How to store, cook and prepare tomatoes:
Storing your tomatoes
Tomatoes continue to ripen at room temperature so think about when you are planning to eat the tomato. If soon, leave on the counter. If you arent’ going to eat it for a few days, place a perfectly ripe tomato in the fridge. Just know that refrigerator tomatoes lose some of the fresh flavor and won’t taste the same however, they will keep for an additional 5-7 days.
Ways to cook and prepare tomatoes:
Tomatoes are so versatile and used in so many dishes. From sauce, to juice, to salsa, fresh, stewed, ketchup and even cocktail sauce…. It’s easy to consume more and reap the health benefits of tomatoes.
Who can resist perfectly ripe tomato slices added to a salad or sandwich? They taste great added to any garden salad or even pasta salad.
Try adding a few slices the next time you have eggs for breakfast. Or have avocado and tomato slices on toast.
Making homemade pizza? In addition to tomato sauce, add a few slices of tomato and let the oven roast them on top of your pizza. DELISH!
I know I’m crazy but I prefer an oven roasted or cooked tomato vs raw. I will take tomatoes, even cherry tomatoes, cut them into slices or cubes, spritz with olive oil and bake at 350* for about 45-60 minutes. I then use the oven roasted tomatoes to make homemade pasta sauce, salsa, add some to my pasta dishes, even add to my salads and subs. I just prefer oven roasted tomatoes.
I planted over 50 tomato plants this summer and made so many batches of sauce. I simply diced about 3 pounds of tomatoes and put them on a cookie sheet. I add 1 diced onion and ½ bell pepper to each tray, lots of garlic, 3-4 tbsp Italian seasoning and drizzled it all with olive oil. Oven roasted them at 350* for about an hour. Allow it to cool and then add it all to my blender. Pureed it and placed it in a freezer bag. We will have fresh pasta sauce for weeks to come! When I take it out of the freezer and reheat it, I will sometimes add tomato paste if needed and some stevia if I want it sweeten it more.
My oven roasted salsa is AMAZING!
I dice 3 pounds of tomatoes, 1 diced onion, 2-3 tbsp garlic, 2 diced poblano peppers, 1 diced jalapeno. Mix together and drizzle with olive oil. Oven roast about 45 minutes at 350*. Allow to cool. Place cooled tomato mix in a blender and add ½ tsp cumin, 2 tbsp lime juice, 6-8 leaves of cilantro. (I’m not a big cilantro fan so I go very light on cilantro. Feel free to add more) I also add 2-3 tsp salt. Normally 3. I like salty salsa. 😉
Lightly puree this all together. I prefer a chunkier salsa so I really lightly puree it. Delish as is but always better the next day! I have frozen this recipe to use up garden tomatoes and it freezes great! Feel free to play with this recipe. You can add more jalapeno too and make it spicier!
Sloppy Joes on the menu? Add cooked, diced tomatoes. Sneaky way to get kids to eat more veggies.
Looking for a quick and easy summer dinner? Stuff a perfectly ripe tomato with cottage cheese, chicken salad or tuna salad. Nutritious and delicious yet light and refreshing on a hot summer’s day!
Tomatoes pair so nicely with zucchini and yellow squash. Oven roast the trio together and then add some Italian dressing as a summer side dish. Can be eaten warm or cold.
Tomatoes paired with eggplant in any dish is sure to please!
Add diced tomatoes galore to your next pot of chili. Speaking of soup, nothing beats a bowl of tomato soup on a chilly winter’s day! One of my favorite soups is stuffed pepper soup. Basically it’s lots of diced tomatoes, diced bell peppers and either rice or riced cauliflower along with cooked ground beef or even turkey made into a soup. DELISH!
I have a sister that will take a saltshaker to the garden and pick a perfectly ripe tomato off the vine and eat it like an apple with a few shakes of salt. LOL
No wonder tomatoes are the most consumed vegetable in the world. Such a versatile veggie that can be added to almost any dish.
What is your favorite way to eat tomatoes? Do you prefer them fresh or cooked? Be sure to let us know in the Veggie Obsessed Facebook group!
How to grow Tomatoes
Now that you know the Health Benefits of Tomatoes, it’s time to dig into how to grow them!
Even if you don’t have a green thumb and have ZERO intention of growing your own tomatoes, I think it’s important that we know how our food grows and what it looks like as it grows.
Here is what a Seed of tomatoes looks like: If you’ve ever cut into a tomato you have likely seen the itty-bitty tiny seeds. Amazing how something so small can grow into a large plant! Most tomato plants get 6-10’ tall!
The seeds germinate in about 5-14 days. They are slow growing, and you need about 4-6 weeks before you can plant the seedlings in the garden. Always plant the seedling deep as new roots will grow along any point that the plant touches the ground.
By planting deep, you ensure a solid root system that will support the plant in times of high wind or rain. More roots also help the plant to absorb more nutrients from the soil to thrive.
Tomatoes take about 60-80 days from seed to harvest. They get lots of dainty, yellow flowers on them before setting fruit.
Once tomato plants get growing they are large vining plants and need staked. This is important as the weight of the tomatoes will snap off the branches. Tomatoes start green and turn red. You can see the green peppers turning to red on this plant.
It takes a couple of weeks for the bell pepper to change colors. A tomato plant is technically a perennial and will grow into a small bush but are quickly killed by cold and frost. In most parts they are planted as an annual.
Important to mention, there are 2 main types of tomatoes that determine the size of the plant. Determinate plants and indeterminate plants. Determinate means the plant will reach a certain size, set all of its fruit at once and then stop growing.
Indeterminate means that the plant will sporadically set fruit and continue to grow until weather or disease kills the plant. Read the tag to know what type of tomato you are planting.
Now that you know the Health Benefits of Tomatoes, will you be adding tomatoes to your shopping list and menu?
Have additional ways to cook and prepare tomatoes? I’d love to hear all about them! Be sure to comment below or share them in our Veggie Obsessed Facebook Group!
Hey there my friend! My name is Jodie Crandall and I’m a veggie loving certified health and nutrition coach on a journey to spread the word about how amazing veggies are for our health! I am a self-proclaimed “plant-based meat eater” who has recently lost almost 50 pounds by eating more veggies!