Delicious and versatile, ripe tomatoes have finally descended upon Central New York and I am rich in tomatoes from my mother’s greenhouse. Tomatoes can be consumed raw or cooked and can easily be preserved at home (we are down to just two canned pints from last year’s harvest, perfect timing!). Although most people receive numerous health benefits from eating tomatoes, these little gems do belong to the nightshade family and can cause adverse reactions in some individuals – so enjoy with caution.
Tomatoes are filled with lycopene, an antioxidant that helps protect the skin from sun exposure, provides protection to the heart and keeps bones strong. The lycopene content is dramatically increased when tomatoes are cooked. But however you eat your tomatoes, fat needs to be present (dietary, not stored body fat!) in order for the lycopene to be absorbed by your intestinal cells.
Tomato consumption has been scientifically linked to keeping cholesterol and triglyceride levels in check as well as preventing platelet cells from clumping together in the blood.
I find the anti-cancer role that tomatoes play extremely interesting. Tomatoes have been shown to help lower the risk of prostate cancer in men. Alpha-tomatine, a phytonutrient found in tomatoes, has been demonstrated to cause apoptosis in fully formed prostate cancer cells – this means that the cancer cells literally commit suicide!
Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamins A, C & K, a very good source of potassium, molybdenum, manganese, fiber, vitamin B6 & folate as well as a good source of copper, vitamin B3, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin B1, phosphorus, protein, tryptophan, choline & iron…that’s a whole lotta health.
I recommend eating fresh, locally grown tomatoes for the highest nutrient content and the yummiest taste. Take a look at the pale, rounded things labeled “tomato” in your supermarket this winter – does it really compare to your backyard tomato?