Tomato For All Seasons

This "poor" man's apple is a power-packed food

TomatoThe fruit of a plant of the Nightshade family [Lycopersicum esculentun], tomato is nothing short of a plant by itself. The tomato fruit, or vegetable, which is also called love, or poor man's, apple is a rounded, flattened form, albeit it may sometimes be irregular in shape.

Tomato is generally bright red or yellow in colour, and is eaten either cooked or raw. It is highly nutritious. It contains a multitude of vitamins and minerals that work to support health.

However, it was not until the discovery of the red pigment carotenoid, lycopene, that modern science began to truly recognise the healing power of tomato.

Lycopene is one of the major bioactive substances found in food that has health benefits. Lycopene is suggested to reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate and breast cancer. It also appears to have a favourable effect in treating many other cancers - lung, stomach, colorectal, oral, oesophageal, pancreatic, bladder and cervical.

Research shows that lycopene helps to lower the oxidation of LDL ["bad"] cholesterol by free radicals and reduce the incidence of heart disease, as well as lung cancer and exercise-induced asthma. There is evidence that lycopene in tomatoes may help to prevent cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, or loss of vision, and sunburn too. New research appears to show that lycopene assists the immune system and protects the body from illness.

Lycopene, the star player

It is the whole tomato that provides superior benefits with regard to health.

The red colour found in tomatoes is due to lycopene; therefore, the redder the tomato, the higher its lycopene content. Thus, yellow and green tomatoes are relatively low in lycopene.

Lycopene is a potent anti-oxidant. It is also found in other fruits such as: watermelon, guava, grapefruit, papaya and apricots. However this may be, the benefits of lycopene found in tomatoes has been studied extensively in both humans and animals. One study investigated close to 40,000 women and their dietary habits. The results revealed that consumption of 7-10 servings of lycopene-rich tomato products produced a 29 per cent lower incidence of heart disease when compared to women consuming lower amounts.

Research suggests that a part of lycopene's benefits against heart disease may be due to its anti-oxidant effects on excess cholesterol. High levels of lycopene is also suggested to act as a natural sunscreen, offering us extra protection from UV-light.

Benefits

Along with lycopene, tomato also provides many other health-promoting nutrients. It is the synergy of the full array of compounds that makes the tomato a powerful medicinal food.

  • Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, a nutrient known for its anti-oxidant action
  • Tomato also contains a profusion of other carotenoids, including beta-carotene. This makes it a rich source of vitamin A
  • A high intake of vitamin C and beta-carotene is suggested to prevent atherosclerosis [hardening of the arteries], diabetes and asthma
  • Tomatoes are rich in fibre. Fibre works in concert with vitamins C and A to aid against diseases. While vitamins C and A deter free radical damage to cholesterol, the fibre in tomato lowers the amount of cholesterol in the body. It also helps the body to remove it more efficiently
  • Tomato has a rich supply of nutrients for its fight against illness. Potassium, vitamin B6, folate and niacin are all present in tomato and work together to help fight cardiovascular disease
  • Tomato also contains nutrients such as vitamin K, chromium and biotin. Vitamin K helps to build bone, while the latter two nutrients aid the body's ability to process sugar and fat, which may help control diabetes and improve nerve function
  • Riboflavin is another important nutrient in tomato that helps metabolise energy and ease migraine headaches.
  • Unlike isolated supplements or drugs which have one or two main actions, tomato-based food products deliver many nutrients with multiple mechanisms of action - in our fight against aging and disease.

Better when cooked

The wonderful thing about tomato is the many different culinary delights it can be used for. Tomato is widely used in salads, sauces, soups, ketch-ups. The best way to obtain the benefits of tomato is through concentrated and cooked forms. Tomato sauce may be the perfect way to obtain the beneficial lycopene and other useful compounds. Tomato sauce is said to prevent prostate affections, including hypertrophy and cancer.

Points to ponder

Tomatoes are one of the few foods that contain oxalates, which are naturally-occurring substances found in plants. The problem with oxalates in food is that they can form tiny little insoluble crystals with sharp edges. This can be irritating to tissue. People who suffer from kidney and gall bladder problems, gout, or rheumatoid arthritis, may need to avoid foods with oxalates. Besides, oxalates can impair calcium absorption. Also, those of us who need to increase calcium through supplementation should consider avoiding foods rich in oxalates.

Tomatoes can also be associated with allergic reactions. If food allergies are suspected, you need to avoid tomatoes until the allergenic substance is identified.

Recipes

Tomato Pasta

Ingredients

  • 4 diced tomatoes
  • 2 bowls of boiled pasta
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 sliced capsicum
  • 3 tbsp grated cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 green chillies
  • 1 tbsp butter

Method

  • Melt butter in a pan and fry onions for a minute
  • Add chillies, capsicum and tomatoes. Fry again for one minute
  • Add boiled pasta, pepper and salt
  • Cook the mixture for two minutes and keep in a bowl
  • Spread grated cheese over it and microwave for 30 seconds.

Tomato Omelette

Ingredients

  • 2 cups besan
  • 2 tomatoes chopped
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 3 green chillies chopped
  • 1 pinch turmeric powder
  • Coriander chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • Water to make the paste.

Method

  • Mix all the above ingredients in a bowl with little water in order to make the batter [The batter should be not watery, and also not thick]
  • Heat tava [griddle]. Pour very little oil to grease the tava
  • Use a spoonful of the above mixture on tava after greasing and spread it around - like dosa
  • Let one side cook and turn it over to the other side
  • Serve with sauce or pickle.

Sunburn Cure

Tomatoes are useful for healing sunburn. Soak peeled tomato slices in buttermilk. Apply them directly on the affected skin. It will close up the pores and relieve the pain.

Soup it, Gravy it or Juice it

You can include tomatoes in your diet in various ways:

  • Tomato soup. Tomato soup taken without butter is considered to be an excellent food for people who are on a weight-reduction diet
  • Add tomatoes in your green salads
  • While making a sandwich, don't forget to add tomato slices
  • Make vegetables in a tomato gravy
  • Make your snacks tasty by topping it with tomato ketch-up [home-made to ensure that there are no preservatives, added artificial flavours, or colours]
  • A glass of plain, fresh tomato juice with a pinch of salt, or sugar, taken in the morning, serves as an excellent coolant for your body.

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