How to Use Tomatoes as a Functional Food

How to Use Tomatoes as a Functional Food

What role do tomatoes play in the American diet? They’re one of the most nutrient-packed foods that can easily be integrated into any of your favorite dishes! Keep reading to learn more about how to use tomatoes as a functional food.

Did you know that tomatoes are the 4th most commonly consumed fresh AND canned vegetable in the American diet? Other than a few other vegetables, such as onions, lettuce, and potatoes, tomatoes play an integral role in the recipes we make in our kitchens, eat at restaurants, and order for take-out. Tomatoes come in numerous sources— diced, canned, sauce, paste, and juice. This is great news because tomato products contain a ton of important nutrients our bodies need to function properly and achieve optimal health. Some of these include vitamins A, C, and E, potassium, antioxidants, and folate. They also contain an important carotenoid called lycopene, which contains phytochemicals that help to fight and reduce risk of certain diseases and cancers.

American tomato-lovers consume approximately 17.9 pounds of fresh tomatoes and 68.7 pounds of tomato products each year. This study provides evidence-based research that shows tomatoes are considered a functional food, meaning they have numerous health benefits that help to reduce the risk of prostate cancer and cardiovascular diseases, contain numerous micronutrients, are jam-packed with phytochemicals, and more! Unfortunately, cardiovascular diseases have caused more deaths in females than males while prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in men. Given these statistics, it’s assumed that these common types of cancers and diseases have increased mortality rates in the general population, making them a large threat to the lives of many. With advanced research and studies on discovering the correlation between tomato consumption and reduced risks of diseases, researchers have been able to identify that tomato products can have a positive impact on peoples’ lives—especially those in high risk categories, such as older men and women. 

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to whip up a delicious tomato-based recipe that you can make, share, and enjoy with friends and family. Creating meals with tomato products is just as easy to make as it is to eat. Not only are these meals packed with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer abilities, they are full of flavor that will have you wanting more!

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?
Health Connection Between Tomatoes and Lycopene

Why Canned Tomatoes are a Staple in the Gen Z Kitchen

Why Canned Tomatoes are a Staple in the Gen Z Kitchen

Each generation’s food values are unique, and Gen Z tends to prioritize healthy, plant-based, easy meals that still taste delicious and are totally instagrammable. Tomatoes are the ideal food for the flexitarian-focused generation, packing in the nutrition, color, and taste they crave in a convenient can. Read more about why canned tomatoes are a staple in the Gen Z kitchen with this guest blog from RD2Be, Ally Mirin.

According to the latest research, Gen Z (that’s people born between 1996 and 2010) is setting the stage for food trends. Gen Z’ers have embraced several core values when it comes to food choices, including nutrition, convenience, and a tendency towards plant based. Fruits and vegetables are stars of all three of these categories, which has great implications for our future health. Diets that are rich in fruits and vegetables can help lower blood pressure, reduce risk of chronic disease, and promote a healthy weight. Choosing more plant-based meals is a great way for the youngest generation to help improve health outcomes, as well as decrease the harmful impacts of animal agriculture on the planet. Luckily, a recent survey from Aramark found that 65% of Gen Z’ers were interested in plant-forward eating, and 79% would eat meatless one to two times a week.

So what foods fit into the core values of Generation Z? Canned tomato products hit all the marks. From pasta sauce to salsa, tomatoes are versatile veggies that are chock full of nutrients, convenient to buy, store, and use, and taste delicious in a wide variety of dishes. Gen Z tends to lean towards fresh products, and canned tomatoes are picked at the peak of freshness and packaged immediately, so flavor and quality are perfectly preserved. When it comes to nutrition, tomatoes are rich sources of Vitamin C, potassium, iron, fiber, and beta carotene. Many people don’t realize that cooking and processing can actually increase the bioavailabity of certain nutrients. Lycopene is one of the more unique compounds found in tomatoes and is responsible for their signature red hue and cancer-fighting properties. Lycopene becomes more readily absorbed by your body during the cooking process, making canned tomatoes an excellent choice for Gen Z’ers focused on maximizing nutrition.

Gen Z loves to get creative in the kitchen and is more willing to try out foods from international cuisines than older generations. Tomatoes are key ingredients in classic dishes in many cultures, from Italian spaghetti Pomodoro to Indian tikka masala, to North African shakshuka. Using canned tomatoes enhances the flavor and nutrition of these diverse meals and makes preparing them easy and convenient for a generation who’s always on the go.

Gen Z is also known for their dedication to social media, and the bright red pigment in tomatoes provides a pop of color perfect for sharing via photo or video on Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. Canned tomatoes make it easy for busy young people to create delicious, nutritious, plant-forward meals that taste and look incredible.

The up-and-coming generation has been breaking down barriers and fighting for change across all fronts, and food is no exception. With a focus on health, sustainability, and convenience, Gen Z has the power to shift food trends in a nutrition-focused, environment-friendly direction. Canned tomatoes are a prime example of a food that checks all the boxes and can hold a critical space in the Gen Z pantry.

RD2Be Initiative: Tomato Wellness is a big supporter of Registered Dietitians and has a new series featuring the Registered Dietitians of Tomorrow! Get to know the future leaders in nutrition and dietetics. #RD2Be 

Ally Mirin is an RD2Be from Ithaca, NY. She received her bachelor’s degree in Biology and Society with a minor in Nutrition and Health from Cornell University and is currently working on her Master of Science in Nutrition Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Ally is passionate about plant-based nutrition and cooking up healthy, delicious recipes, and hopes to work as a clinical dietitian in the future.

Liz Weiss, MS, RDN: May 2021 #RDofTheMonth

Liz Weiss, MS, RDN: May 2021 #RDofTheMonth

Meet family nutrition expert, Liz Weiss, MS, RDN! Liz is our Tomato Wellness Registered Dietitian for May 2021, and she’ll be busy all month sharing family-pleasing recipes starring tomato products — salsa, canned tomatoes, and marinara. Liz is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and host of the Liz’s Healthy Table blog and podcast. If you head to her website, you’ll find easy and nourishing recipes aimed at making family mealtime doable and delicious; entertaining cooking videos; e-cookbooks; and free printables including her aisle-by-aisle Supermarket Shopping List and 7-Day Meal Planner. Liz has written several cookbooks including the playful Color, Cook, Eat!  coloring cookbook series, and she is a content contributor to Today’s Dietitian magazine and the American Institute for Cancer Research. Liz received her undergrad nutrition degree from the University of Rhode Island, her Master’s in Nutrition Communications from Boston University, and a Professional Chef’s Certificate from the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. You can find Liz on various social platforms including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Head over to the Tomato Wellness Facebook page on May 26th at 1pm ET to tune into a cooking demo with Liz! She will be whipping up a new recipe for Hummus Shakshuka Bowls, so you don’t want to miss it!

Liz says, “Like many busy parents and working professionals, a well-stocked pantry saved the day at mealtime during the pandemic. With fewer trips to the grocery store, I turned to pantry staples like jarred pasta sauce, salsa, and canned crushed tomatoes to get healthy meals on my family’s table night after night. From my Last-Minute Black Bean Soup made with salsa to my Pantry Peanut Butter Chickpea Soup made with canned tomato sauce, tomato products saved the day (and provided important nourishment) as we gathered around the table.”

Need more dinner inspiration? Check out some of Liz’s favorite recipes featuring tomato products!

8 Family-Friendly Dinner Recipes from Liz Weiss, MS, RDN

Make dinner a cinch with these delicious recipes! They are all designed to make feeding families easier and healthier, so go ahead and get cooking today.