Tomato products provide just the right amount of pizzazz to pasta recipes, such as this hearty, plant-based Lentil Walnut Bolognese with Spaghetti dish. The deep red color of tomatoes is a calling card for lycopene—the plant compound linked with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. In fact, lycopene is more available to the body in its cooked form, as in cooked tomato products, like pasta sauce, canned tomatoes, and tomato paste. Including these healthy plant foods in your diet more often is linked with prostate cancer protection.
Eating more pulses—beans, lentils, dried peas—is a healthy, cancer-fighting strategy too. In this super easy, one-dish meal, you swap out a traditional meat-based sauce for a tomato-forward, lentil and walnut Bolognese sauce, smothered over spaghetti noodles. Savory and delicious, your whole family will love it. Plus, it’s easy on the pocketbook and makes great leftovers the next day!
Check out the video for this delicious, plant-based recipe here.
Yield: 6 servings
Lentil Walnut Bolognese with Spaghetti
Tomato products provide just the right amount of pizzazz to pasta recipes, such as this hearty, plant-based Lentil Walnut Bolognese with Spaghetti dish.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Total Time50 minutes
1 cup brown lentils, dried
4 cups water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely shredded
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 28-ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes, with juice
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce, reduced sodium
1/3 cup red wine
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning blend
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt (optional)
12 ounces spaghetti noodles, uncooked
Garnish: 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
Place a Dutch oven or large saucepan on medium heat and add lentils and water to the pot. Cover with a lid, bring to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes.
Remove lid and continue to cook lentils for about 2 minutes until almost tender and liquid is absorbed.
Add olive oil, finely chopped onion, minced garlic, finely chopped celery, finely shredded carrot, and finely chopped walnuts, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add canned tomatoes, tomato paste, soy sauce, red wine, Italian seasoning, black pepper, and salt (optional). Stir well and cover. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened and vegetables are tender.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil to cook pasta. Add dry spaghetti noodles, and cook until al dente, according to package instructions (about 7 minutes). Drain noodles in colander.
To serve: Divide spaghetti noodles among 6 serving plates or pasta bowls (about 1 ¼ cups each). Top with 1 cup of Bolognese sauce. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon chopped basil. Alternatively, place spaghetti noodles in one large serving bowl, Bolognese sauce in another large serving bowl, and chopped basil in a small dish, allowing guests to serve themselves as desired.
If you’re looking for a rich, easy, creamy dip or spread, try out this flavorful and healthy Tomato Pesto Hummus. Packed with the nutrition and flavor power of tomatoes, you can whip up this 100% plant-based (vegan), gluten-free hummus recipe in seconds—relying mostly on shelf-stable, economical staples, such as canned tomatoes and chickpeas. With only 7 ingredients (not including pantry items and the garnish), this recipe only takes about 5 minutes to prepare. It’s so good, you’ll stop buying store-made hummus! Serve it with your next party vegetable platter, with whole grain pita bread or crackers, in a wrap, on top of a salad, as an accompaniment for veggie balls or falafels, or with toasted whole grain bread. It’s also great packed away in kids’ (or grownups’!) lunchboxes as a dip with fresh veggies. There are so many places this hummus will go! This Tomato Pesto Hummus recipe is a great way to showcase healthy chickpeas (rich in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals) and disease-fighting tomatoes (packed with lycopene antioxidants).
Packed with the nutrition and flavor power of tomatoes, you can whip up this 100% plant-based (vegan), gluten-free hummus recipe in seconds—relying mostly on shelf-stable, economical staples, such as canned tomatoes and chickpeas.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time10 minutes
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed, drained well
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained well
¼ cup pine nuts (additional for garnish)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt, as desired (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
To prepare hummus, place drained chickpeas, drained tomatoes, pine nuts, lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, paprika, and red pepper flakes in the container of a food processor or blender.
Process until smooth and creamy, pausing to scrape down sides if necessary. Should make a thick, creamy consistency. Adjust seasonings with salt, if desired.
Pour hummus into a serving dish and garnish with chopped fresh basil, pine nuts, a swirl of balsamic vinegar, and a swirl of olive oil.
Turn to marinara sauce and a cornucopia of vegetables—summer squash, eggplant, bell peppers, and onions—to make this Pasta with Marinara and Roasted Vegetables sing with rustic simplicity.
Pasta with Marinara and Roasted Vegetables
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time45 minutes
3 assorted small summer squash (i.e., scallop, yellow, zucchini), sliced
1 small eggplant, sliced
½ red onion, sliced
1 bell pepper (red, yellow, or green), sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 teaspoons ground oregano
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt to taste (optional)
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
12 ounces fresh pasta (may substitute dried pasta)
2 cups marinara sauce
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Arrange summer squash, eggplant, onions, and bell pepper on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Sprinkle with garlic, oregano, black pepper and sea salt. Toss together on pan to distribute ingredients.
Place on top rack of oven and roast for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and tender. When done, remove from oven and set aside.
To toast pine nuts, place them in a small baking dish in the hot oven for about 5 minutes while vegetables are roasting. Remove and set aside.
Meanwhile, bring water to boil in a medium pot. Add pasta and cook to al dente stage (according to package directions). Place in colander and rinse and drain.
Add marinara sauce to pot and heat until bubbling. Remove from heat and add cooked pasta, stirring gently to distribute ingredients.
Divide pasta with marinara sauce among 4 pasta bowls (or plates). Top with roasted vegetables, pinenuts, and fresh basil.
How can something as delicious and healthy as tomatoes be so maligned by so many people? That’s why we’re tackling the top 5 myths about tomato products!
There’s a lot of health and nutrition advice out there on these interwebs. Too much really. One article contradicting the next. It’s long been documented (often) that these ‘influencers’ are usually wrong, but they continue to be widely listened to and shared on the internet. These celebrities, influencers or sports stars that may have wonderful six-pack abs, but in no way should they be considered nutrition experts. We have always prided ourselves in going to the experts for nutrition. We have over 700 academic, peer-reviewed scientific studies hosted on our website, and we work with the World’s top Registered Dietitians to break down the science and nutrition facts about tomato products. To be a registered dietitian you must get a degree from a university in nutrition, often it includes advanced degrees or Masters, and then 1200 internship hours, as well as taking continuing education courses on the latest science and nutrition. These are the experts we go to for our nutrition advice and this is what they have to say about some of the myths right now you may see shared on Facebook from your favorite quarterback, actress, or your Aunt’s neighbor’s sister’s cousin on social media.
Canned tomato products have been around since the canning process was first invented in 1809. Since then, millions of people have relied upon canned tomatoes to capture the essence of delicious, healthy tomatoes when they are at their absolute best during the harvest, so they can flavor their meals with delicious nutrition all year long. So, how can something as delicious and healthy as tomatoes be so maligned by so many people? Tomatoes are constantly being trashed by the media and so-called “health experts”, so we are here to set the record straight on the health benefits of tomatoes!
Busting 5 Myths About Canned Tomatoes
Here are the top five myths on canned tomatoes, and we’re busting each and every one of them.
Myth # 1: Tomatoes Contain Harmful BPA
BPA is an industrial chemical used to make certain plastics and resins, including plastic bottles, and the lining of food cans. Over the past several years, health concerns have arisen over BPA in our food system, as it has been linked with potential issues, such as endocrine disorders. However, the FDA says that our current levels of BPA are within safe limits. And, more importantly, the canned tomato industry has worked hard to remove BPA from the food chain, and it has been virtually eliminated in cans. Bottomline: There’s no need to worry about BPA in canned tomatoes. Read more about BPA in canned tomato products here.
Myth #2: Tomatoes Contain Dangerous Lectins
Lectins are anti-nutrients found in many healthy plant-based foods. Lots of so-called health gurus are warning people to stay away from plant foods we know are healthful—whole grains, beans, even vegetables—because of these so-called harmful compounds. The main reason they can be detrimental is that they can block absorption of other nutrients in foods. In fact, fiber was once considered an anti-nutrient, as it can block some of the nutrients from being absorbed in foods. Now scientists are finding that some of these compounds in the family of anti-nutrients may actually have benefits, like reducing glucose and cholesterol levels. In addition, cooking foods—as in canned tomatoes—helps reduce levels of anti-nutrients in foods. Keep in mind that over 650 human studies on tomato products finds nothing but benefits—not risks—from eating these healthy foods. Bottomline: There’s no need to worry about health risks of lectins in tomato products.
Myths #3: Tomatoes Are Inflammatory
Some would-be health experts warn that eating tomatoes promotes inflammation, which is at the root of many chronic diseases. However, the science doesn’t agree. Numerous studies have found that tomatoes actually decrease levels of inflammation, which means they can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, neurocognitive disorders, and cancer. So, pile on the tomatoes to reduce inflammation. Bottomline: Tomato products decrease inflammatory levels in the body, not increase them.
Myth #4: Canned Tomato Products Are Highly Processed and Contain Preservatives and Unhealthy Ingredients
The canning process means that tomatoes do not need additional preservatives. Because they have been cooked and sealed in the can, they will not spoil. Indeed, canned tomatoes are simply tomatoes, picked at their peak maturity, before they are canned with water and perhaps some salt (though you can buy unsalted varieties, too). Canned tomato products are considered minimally processed foods, in comparison to highly processed foods, like soda, chips, and candy. Some canned tomato products—such as salsa and marinara sauce may contain other ingredients and flavorings, so check out the ingredients label to see what is listed. Bottomline: Canned tomato products are minimally processed, healthful foods with few added ingredients.
Myth #5 Canned Tomato Products Don’t Count as Real Vegetables
Every can of tomato products contains real, farm-fresh tomatoes, harvested at its ripe maturity, before it gets placed in a can in just a few hours—sealing in all of that goodness. The USDA, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and Produce for Better Health Foundation all recognize canned tomatoes (as well as other canned produce) as a form of vegetables that counts as a serving of healthy, disease-protective vegetables that we all should get more of in our diets. In fact, only 9% of Americans get enough vegetables in their diets, so it’s important to fit in more servings like canned tomatoes. Eating more vegetables can decrease your risk of many chronic diseases and obesity. In addition, cooking tomatoes—as they are in canned tomatoes—actually makes the antioxidant compound lycopene even more available to your body, making them a superior source of this nutrient. Bottomline: Canned tomatoes are an easy, affordable way to fit more health-protective vegetables into your diet.
If you see these myths spread online, share with them this post. Start following registered Dietitians online! Their advice isn’t nearly as sexy or sensational, but they know what is really best for your body in the long run. When people stop listening to influencers and their pseudoscience fad diets we’ll all be a lot more happy and healthy.
Every time you open a can or jar of tomatoes, you release the essence of that warm, summer day in which those perfectly ripe tomatoes were harvested. These tomatoes are picked at their top flavor and nutrition peak on the field before they are quickly whisked away to the processing plant to be canned, sealing in all of that good flavor and nutrition within just a few hours of harvest.
Beyond good taste and nutrition, you also make a more sustainable choice by choosing those preserved tomatoes. Why is it a more sustainable choice than fresh? The fresh tomato crop is typically picked about two weeks before maturity to withstand transportation, during which it requires more energy to refrigerate and transport. In addition, many fresh tomatoes are grown in Mexico, requiring longer transportation distances, or in heated, energy-intensive greenhouses before reaching your supermarket shelf.
No wonder processed tomatoes can be a more sustainable option. Just look at the reasons why:
The cultivation of tomatoes results in a smaller environmental impact compared to other popular crops. An analysis of 20 common foods in the U.S. rated tomatoes as the second best food in terms of its greenhouse gas emissions (EWG).
Canned tomatoes have a lower environmental impact than fresh tomatoes, because they make use of tomatoes that cannot be sold as fresh, and storage and transportation is less intensive than for fresh tomatoes (Rocklinsberg & Sandin).
Canned tomatoes have a lower environmental impact than fresh tomatoes grown in heated greenhouses or from countries far away (Rocklinsberg & Sandin; Gibson, Farbotko, Grill, Head, & Waitt).
Food that is canned is food that is not wasted, which helps offset 72 million tons of food wasted in the U.S. (Feeding America).
The Environmental Working Group gives many tomato products their top scores in terms of nutrition, ingredients, and processing. For example, organic crushed tomatoes, organic whole peeled tomatoes, organic diced tomatoes, and organic stewed tomatoes received scores of 1.1 – 1.2, with 1.0 being the best and 10.0 being the worst (EWG).
Steel cans are 100% recyclable, over and over again, forever. An estimated 80-90% of all steel ever produced is still in use today. And about 71% of steel cans are recycled. (Can Manufacturers Institute)
Sharon Palmer tasting freshly harvested processing tomatoes in the fields in California.