Is a tomato a vegetable or a fruit? Or could it really be both? Read on to see what history has to say about it!
This is always a fun bit of trivia, but while people might think they know the answer, they might not know technically why. It is all the more murky because in 1893 the supreme court ruled in the case of “NIX v. HEDDEN” tomatoes were to be considered vegetables. You can actually read the original court filings here for you history nuts: NIX v. HEDDEN, 149 U.S. 304 (1893).
So, why is a tomato a vegetable and not a fruit? The age-old question actually has an answer—it’s both! According to the Encyclopedia Britannica: Tomatoes are fruits that are considered vegetables by nutritionists. Botanically, a fruit is a ripened flower ovary and contains seeds. Tomatoes, plums, zucchinis, and melons are all edible fruits, but things like maple “helicopters” and floating dandelion puffs are fruits too. For some reason, people got hung up on tomatoes, but the “fruit or vegetable” question could also work for any vegetable with seeds.
Now, nutritionally, the term “fruit” is used to describe sweet and fleshy botanical fruits, and “vegetable” is used to indicate a wide variety of plant parts that are not so high in fructose. In many cultures, vegetables tend to be served as part of the main dish or side, whereas sweet fruits are typically snacks or desserts. Thus, roots, tubers, stems, flower buds, leaves, and certain botanical fruits, including green beans, pumpkins, and of course tomatoes, are all considered vegetables by nutritionists. There is no hard-and-fast rule that clearly designates a botanical fruit as a vegetable, but, given that tomatoes are generally not used in desserts and are closely related to other fruit-vegetables (e.g., eggplants and peppers), it is not too counterintuitive for tomatoes to be classified as vegetables.
Our general feeling is that no matter how you classify it, tomatoes are delicious, nutritious, and we should all be eating more!
For other tomato-related content, check out:
Can Pizza Be a Health Food?
Reducing Cardiovascular Disease with Tomato Products
How Tomatoes Help Fight Prostate Cancer
How does tomato consumption affect prostate cancer in men? The most common type of cancer among Western men is prostate cancer, but some studies suggest that men who consume more tomato products can reduce the risk of prostate cancer. In a recent Adventist Health Study, researchers wanted to determine the correlation between tomato intake and prostate cancer. The participants of the study included 27,934 Adventist men who did not have prostate cancer in the beginning of the study. After a 7.9 year follow-up, there were 1,226 men who ended up having prostate cancer and 355 of these men were greatly affected, as their cancer was aggressive. The results of the study showed that those who consumed 64-71 grams of canned and cooked tomato products per day had a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Though other factors need to be taken into consideration when making this assumption, there seems to be a significant inverse relationship between lycopene consumption and prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is a serious issue among men, so it’s important to spread awareness about this topic and discover preventive measures. More than 1.3 million men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, and numerous studies suggest that lycopene has cancer-fighting properties. Lycopene can be found in tomato products, which contain anti-carcinogenic compounds, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber. With early detection and higher intake of fruits and vegetables, prostate cancer can be reduced. Thus, it’s important to ensure that you are eating healthy, well-balanced meals and staying active on a daily basis. With so many benefits surrounding canned tomatoes, go ahead and incorporate more tomato products into your daily diet to ensure maximum health!
For other tomato news, check out:
Top 11 Reasons to Go Red with Tomato Products
Can Tomatoes Help Your Kid Eat More Veggies?
What is Lycopene?
Brrrr baby, it’s cold outside! Between the snow, ice, and wind, the winter season has got us feeling chilly (*chili?). But there’s no need to fear the cold when you have comforting recipes to warm you up! That’s why we are sharing this collection of 10 BEST Recipes to Stay Warm this Winter. From soups to casseroles to sheet pan dinners, we have something for everyone!
This collection features recipes from our own collection and several friends, including Toby Amidor (who is the Tomato Wellness Registered Dietitian of the month for February 2021). These recipes all tote health benefits thanks to canned tomatoes, vegetables, and whole grains, so you can feel good about serving these to friends and family.
So, without further adieu, here are the 10 BEST Recipes to Stay Warm this Winter!
Who doesn't love a good eggplant parm? This recipe is wholesome, comforting, and easy to make, which is ideal for family dinners.
Red Gold Tomatoes
This is an easy pasta dish that the whole family is going to devour! Thanks to your pressure cooker, you can have dinner ready in a few minutes and it couldn't be any easier to make. A one-pot meal that will be a new family favorite.
What's not to love about chili on a cold winter night? This version is filled with fiber-rich beans, canned diced tomatoes, and spicy jalapenos, plus it will be ready in under an hour!
Get ready to dive into this one dish recipe that's ready in under 30 minutes!
Get dinner on the table in under an hour thanks to these delicious stuffed shells. Filled with fennel, artichoke hearts, and greek yogurt, this recipe teeming with flavor and health.
Pacific Coast Producers
Cozy up to this delicious curry recipe! Filled with protein and flavorful spices, this dish is one you're going to want to keep on rotation.
Produce for Better Health - Fruits & Veggies Have a Plant
Dinner is made easy thanks to this slow cooker stuffed pepper soup! Throw all the ingredients in the slow cooker, set it on low, and enjoy 9 hours later.
Tomato products provide just the right amount of pizzazz to pasta recipes, such as this hearty, plant-based Lentil Walnut Bolognese with Spaghetti dish.
Based on the Italian flavors of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, beans, olives, and herbs, this flavorful, plant-based recipe takes about 10 minutes to get into the oven.
A savory Blue Cheese Mac and Cheese with Bacon recipe loaded with cheese, perfect for dinner or entertaining guests.
Meet Toby Amidor, who is the Tomato Wellness Registered Dietitian of the month for February 2021! You probably already know her as she’s EVERYWHERE! With over 20 years of experience in the food and nutrition industry, Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND is a Wall Street Journal best-selling cookbook author, spokesperson, speaker, leading dietitian, and recipe developer who believes that healthy and wholesome can also be appetizing and delicious. We have known and worked with her for many years, and she actually was on the very first RD Tomato Tour we helped to coordinate with our friends at Pacific Coast Producers. Having experienced the tomato harvest for herself, and being such a credible and widely respected expert on health, food safety and nutrition, we often turn to her to help explain the benefits of tomato products and to bust any negative myths about canned foods. Enjoy below some of her words on canned tomatoes, and a few of her delicious recipes featuring canned tomatoes!
Toby Amidor – As a registered dietitian, part of my role is to debunk nutrition myths and provide a science-based reason why they are myths. As I am a huge fan of canned tomatoes, one of my biggest pet peeves is when folks and media outlets trash canned foods without really knowing all the facts. Please stop trashing canned foods, especially canned tomatoes, and understand the agricultural facts and science. Click here for four common myths about canned foods debunked, plus a ton of ways to use canned tomatoes in your dishes.
Many believe that the foods being canned are rejected foods but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Fruits and vegetables, including canned tomatoes, are specifically bred to be canned for their stronger flavor and for their firmness so they can hold up to being harvested by machines (this doesn’t mean GMOs are used). Over the last 40 to 50 years, scientists have gotten very good at breeding tomatoes to get the perfect blend of flavor and structure. The tomatoes used for canned tomato products are machine picked, not handpicked so they need to be sturdy. After the tomatoes are handpicked, they are cooked to preserve them. No additional additives or preservatives are needed. .
Of course, fresh is certainly a healthy option too. There is a time and place to use both fresh and canned in a healthy eating plan. If the fruit or vegetable is in season, enjoy it as a snack or in a sandwich. However, if you’re cooking or the fruit or vegetable isn’t in season, turn to canned (like canned tomatoes) for the best and most consistent flavor.
Health Benefits of Canned Tomatoes
Tomatoes and tomato products contain a wide variety of nutrients, including vitamin C, Vitamin E, potassium, and fiber. They’re also loaded with powerful antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and lycopene. Tomatoes are actually cooked during the canning process, and lycopene has actually been found to be more absorbable by the body in its cooked form. Therefore, canned tomatoes actually have more of the cancer-fighting lycopene than the raw variety.
In The Kitchen
Canned tomatoes are a permanent staple in my pantry. You can find them in many different forms, such as whole peeled, diced, stewed, crushed in puree, tomato paste and tomato puree. Here are some of my favorite ways to use canned tomatoes:
- Crushed tomatoes are a great base for a creamy tomato soup.
- Diced tomatoes are a nice addition to chili and curry.
- Whole crushed or stewed tomatoes can be used to make a homemade pasta sauce.
- Add tomato paste and/or diced tomatoes to homemade soups.
- Use fire-roasted crushed tomatoes to make a salsa for chicken and fish.
For more recipes featuring canned tomato products, check out some of Toby’s favorites:
Easy Eggplant Parmesan
Warming Tomato Soup with Peas and Carrots
Chicken Parm Casserole