What’s Red All Over (Sometimes), But Always Good For You?

tomatoes

For the backyard gardener or farmers market forager, tomato season is one of the true joys of summer. They may not be around for long, but when they are  there is little you can put on your plate that so easily and simply (and healthily) packs so much flavor.

Some swear by the many, many interesting and wildly different heirloom varieties (in all sorts of colors and patterns). Others just as proudly show off the hybrids they grew in their backyards, passing out bags bursting with tomatoes to friends and neighbors when the bounty arrives. But either way, come August and September in most of the country those at the table are in for a delicious treat.

The tomato has long been a controversial fruit, er, vegetable, though. Did you know that on May 10, 1983 The U.S. Supreme Court officially declared the tomato a vegetable, based on the fact that they are generally served with dinner and not dessert? Botanists may argue the other way. Whichever side of the debate you fall on however, one thing is for sure: The tomato is a good for you food!

Tomatoes are not only extremely versatile and taste great; they also have many nutritional benefits. They are high lycopene. Lycopene is a phytochemical found in tomatoes (and fruit such as watermelon and pink grapefruit) that has potent antioxidant properties. Many studies have revealed evidence that lycopene may help decrease the risk of prostate cancer while working in concert with other nutrients.

Tomatoes are also high in vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and fiber. One medium tomato is approximately 95% water and has 22 calories. One cup of fresh tomatoes provides over 57% of the daily value for vitamin C, 22% of the daily value for vitamin A, and almost 8% of the daily value for fiber.

Sometimes it’s all we can do to wait to pop the deep red slices into our mouths as soon as the orbs are sliced. Others blanche and preserve their ruby treasures or boil them down into sauces so the late-summer treat can last months more.

But raw or cooked — which is better? Fat­soluble nutrients such as lycopene become more concentrated when tomatoes are cooked. Vitamin C, on the other hand, is more abundant in raw tomatoes. You’ll be happy to know that you should enjoy this anti-aging “fruit” both ways for optimal benefits.

Try this recipe I learned from a friend in Hawaii for a delicious tomato salad — you’ll find it at FlavorFirst.com.

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© Cheryl Forberg 2016