For January 2021, the “Tomato Wellness Dietitian of the Month” is none other than our RD advisor for the last decade, Sharon Palmer! Known as The Plant–Powered Dietitian, Sharon has established an award–winning career in the field of nutrition and sustainability. One of the most widely recognized registered dietitians in the world, Sharon is an accomplished writer, editor, blogger, author, speaker, and media expert. In particular, she has gained recognition for her expertise in plant–based nutrition and sustainability. Sharon has authored over 1000 articles in a variety of publications, including Better Homes and Gardens, Oprah Magazine, and LA Times. Sharon recently completed her Master of Science in Sustainable Food Systems from Green Mountain College in Vermont. Living in the sustainability mecca of Ojai, California with her husband and two dogs, Sharon enjoys tending to her own organic garden, visiting the local farmers market, volunteering in local environmental organizations, and cooking for friends and family. Visit her at www.SharonPalmer.com for more tips and recipes.
During the winter, with snow piled up in many cities across the country, it’s hard not to daydream about summer. And there certainly is a lot to love about summertime: hot days, warm nights, the easy-breezy lifestyle, and, of course, the in-season produce. Perfectly ripe tomatoes personify the sweetness of summertime. But, thankfully, there is a way to get the taste of summertime year-round, even when temperatures are sub-zero. All you have to do is simply open a can of tomatoes from your pantry.
Preserving the flavor and nutrition of tomatoes through canning makes this red vegetable an economical way to enjoy them all year long. Tomatoes that are harvested and used for tomato products (which makes up 75% of the entire tomato crop!) such as salsa, ketchup, tomato paste, and tomato sauce, are grown to their full nutrient and flavor potential. They’re picked at the peak of ripeness to ensure that all those good-for-you antioxidants make their way into your recipes, even in the midst of winter.
But, there’s an added bonus by opting for the canned varieties of tomatoes. When tomatoes are heated during processing or canning, the antioxidant, lycopene becomes more bioavailable to our bodies, offering potentially more cancer protection and anti-inflammatory benefits. That’s why you could be doing your body so much good by opting for canned varieties even during the hot days of summer, or tomato season. On top of lycopene, tomatoes contain a variety of other beneficial nutrients that may be responsible for tomatoes’ health-preserving properties, including vitamins A and C, fiber, and potassium, as well as a variety of carotenoids, antioxidant compounds which give tomatoes their red, yellow, and orange colors.
2. Dig into a Lycopene Mother Lode. Tomato products are rich in the powerful antioxidant group, carotenoids, which have been shown to inactivate free radicals, protect against cancer, and slow development of atherosclerosis. The most plentiful carotenoid is lycopene, followed by phytoene, phytofluene, zeta-carotene, gamma-carotene, beta-carotene, eurosporene, and lutein. Tomato products are responsible for more than 80% of the lycopene in the U.S. diet, and research suggests that lycopene may be a big factor behind the health-protective effects of tomato products. Lycopene in processed tomatoes is much better absorbed than that of fresh tomatoes. In addition, the lycopene in tomatoes appears to have synergistic effects with other nutrients in foods.
3. Fight Inflammation. Tomato products may help cool down inflammation, which is becoming more widely understood as a root in many chronic diseases. Scientists discovered that in a group of 30 healthy adult women (ages 20-30), those that drank 280 milliliters of tomato juice for two months reduced waist circumference, serum cholesterol, and inflammatory adipokine levels, effects unrelated to body fat changes (Nutrition, 2015).
4. Protect Against Oxidative Stress. Eating foods rich in antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids, such as tomato products, is linked with reducing oxidative stress markers. In a randomized controlled clinical https://www.fertileheart.com/clomid-clomiphene-infertility-treatment/ trial of 64 overweight/obese women, those who drank 330 ml of tomato juice daily for 20 days reduced their oxidative stress, which may prevent obesity-related diseases and promote health (Clinical Nutrition, 2015).
5. Score Powerful Heart-health Benefits. Regular intake of tomato products has been consistently associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease. So, it may not be surprising to hear that a recent study performed by Tufts researchers found individuals with the highest intakes of lycopene over an 11-year period had a 17% and 26% reduction in the incidence of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease, respectively (British Journal of Medicine, 2012).
6. Improve Cholesterol Levels. One of tomato products’ heart health benefits is improved lipid profiles, according to some studies. In a study including 35 female participants, those who consumed a raw, ripe tomato before lunch for four weeks experienced a significant decrease in cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as body weight and fat percentage (International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 2014).
7. Capitalize on Anti-Platelet Activity. Tomato products appear to have anti-platelet compounds that are concentrated in the yellow fluid around the seeds. These compounds inhibit platelet aggregation, further protecting against cardiovascular disease. Tomato extract significantly reduced platelet aggregation three hours after consumption in a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled crossover trial with 90 healthy subjects (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2006).
8. Control Blood Pressure. Low-sodium tomato products, which are becoming more widely available in supermarkets, have the perfect nutritional profile to fit into the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet. Research is confirming that tomato products may aid in treating hypertension. Consuming gazpacho, a cold soup made of mostly tomatoes, was inversely associated with both systolic and diastolic blood pressure and the prevalence of hypertension among nearly 4,000 individuals (selected from the PREDIMED study) at high cardiovascular risk (Nutrition, Metabolism, Cardiovascular Diseases, 2013).
9. Take on Prostate Cancer. Research supports that eating lycopene-rich food sources like tomato products may help reduce the risk of some forms of cancer, such as digestive tract and pancreatic cancers, but the bulk of the cancer-protective evidence is linked with prostate cancer. Ten or more servings of tomatoes per week cut prostate cancer risk by 18%, according to one study (Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers Prevention, 2014). A new review further supports tomato products and lycopene in reducing the risk of prostate cancer progression and death (World Journal of Urology, 2016).
10. Defend Against Sun Damage. Tomato products may offer natural protection from the sun’s damaging UV rays. In a randomized controlled study, 20 healthy women consumed 55 g of tomato paste (16 mg lycopene) in olive oil or olive oil alone for 12 weeks. After various degrees of sun exposure, UV radiation was significantly reduced in the tomato paste group, supporting lycopene’s protective role against acute and potentially longer-term effects of sun damage (British Journal of Dermatology, 2011).
11. Maximize Bone Health. Laboratory research has shown that lycopene intake from tomatoes may protect bone health by increasing the antioxidant capacity of bones and decreasing oxidative stress, which may reduce risk of osteoporosis. In a study of 60 postmenopausal women who hadn’t ingested lycopene for one month, they consumed either 30, 70, or 0 mg of lycopene twice a day for four months in either regular tomato juice, lycopene-rich tomato juice, tomato lycopene capsules, or placebo capsules. Those who had juice or lycopene capsules had significantly higher serum lycopene levels and significantly decreased oxidative stress markers compared with placebo (Osteoporosis International, 2011).
For more plant-based tomato recipes, check out:
By Kaley Todd, MS, RDN
Enjoy the holiday season tomato style!
Too often the hustle and bustle of the holiday season leaves us undernourished, sleep deprived, and stressed. As we are thinking of others during this time of thanks and joy, it is also important to think of ourselves. We tend to sacrifice health and good eating to make sure turkeys are stuffed, presents are wrapped, the tree is trimmed, and gifts are bought. Planning ahead and making sure you have a well-stocked kitchen this time of year is essential to help put effortless nutritious and delicious meals on the table in minutes. In addition to spices and herbs, an ingredient that deserves a spot in your pantry are canned tomato products.
Embrace this ingredient as your “elf on the shelf” this holiday season. Not only are they red and already shouting the holiday season, but they also provide numerous vitamins and minerals, and are rich in the antioxidant lycopene. In fact, lycopene in processed tomatoes is much better absorbed than that of fresh tomatoes. Canned tomatoes can boost the nutrition in dishes, as well as save time in the kitchen. Make your New Year’s resolution early this year, and vow to take care of yourself this holiday season.
Here are some timesaving cooking tips the ”tomato elf” has developed to help promote good eating, as well as sanity this crazy time of year.
SUPER SOUPS: What better time to enjoy soups than during the chilly holiday winter season. In addition to being comforting, soups can be nutrient packed and are a great way to use up vegetables you have in the fridge. Make a big batch when you have time over the weekend. and enjoy it for lunch or for a quick and easy dinner after a long day of holiday shopping. Looking for inspiration? Try this vegetable chicken soup or classic tomato soup for a quick and easy meal that is sure to soothe the soul and nourish the body after a busy day.
HOLIDAY MEAL SWAP: The holiday season is a great excuse to have get-togethers. This is very different these days with COVID 19 concerns, but keep these tips in mind for how you can do safely, or save it for down the road. Often these parties revolve around cookies, alcohol, and other indulgences. Why not inspire a new type of get-together that is a healthier party and will offer you and your friends the gift that keeps on giving? Organize a holiday meal swap where everyone brings a casserole to share. Have to-go containers ready so you and your friends can divide the remaining leftovers for future dinners that can easily be reheated. Try this awesome garden patch lasagna for a nutritious and delicious dish to contribute and wow your friends.
TAKE IT SLOW: The go, go, go of this festive time of year can be stressful and take a toll on our mind and bodies. In addition to going to yoga, taking time to de-stress with a walk and getting adequate sleep, embrace the slow cooker. You can prep the meal early in the morning (before stores have opened) and let it do the work for you until dinner. For a unique twist to an American classic, try this Asian meatloaf and let the slow cooker do the work.
SANDWICH SUPPER: There is no reason sandwiches can only be enjoyed at lunch. Sandwiches are quick, easy, delicious and can be nutritious with the right ingredients. After a day of facing the chill and cold of the winter, a warm sandwich is a welcomed treat. Make sandwich night an interactive event in your household by pulling out the griddle pan or panini press and design a make-your-own sandwich bar. Tomato sauce or paste is a delicious spread and compliments cheese, vegetables and a variety of meats.
POWER BREAKFAST: Breakfast is often the least of our worries this time of year and too often consists of a cup of coffee and holiday cookie. Making sure you and your family start the day on the right nutritional note is critical for keeping blood sugar levels stable, energy up and promoting good mood and overall health. It can also help keep you full and nourished, and prevent binging on holiday treats later in the day. Start your day off on the right note with this Zesty Tomato Smoothie.
TOMATO TREATS: There is no reason holiday treats have to be sweet and full of sugar. Instead of bringing cookies to your holiday festivity, consider wowing the guests with a tomato appetizer. Tomato Basil Hummus is the perfect dip to bring with your favorite crudité or dippers, and will please those of all ages. Bonus: Make festive recipe cards that people can take with them since you will be asked for the recipe!
HELPING HANDS: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is the perfect time to involve all members in the household to contribute to dinnertime. In fact, often kids want to help and contribute. This is a great time to involve them in figuring out menus and teaching them about good cooking and eating. Involve the little ones in making these Pizza Quesadillas. They can help add the tomato sauce and their favorite toppings. For an even healthier version, use whole-wheat tortillas for the “crust.”
Pass it on!
What We’re Thankful For, Now More Than Ever
Fun Fact: You can actually thank Napoleon for the invention of canned foods:
Napoleon offered 12,000 francs to improve upon the prevailing food preservation methods of the time. Not surprisingly, the purpose was to better feed his army “when an invaded country was not able or inclined to sell or provide food”. Fifteen years later, confectioner Nicolas François Appert claimed the prize. He devised a method involving heating, boiling and sealing food in airtight glass jars — the same basic technology still used to can foods.
If you’re still figuring out some Thanksgiving sides, or just want to try some new healthy variations on classics, check out a few of our favorites from our buddy, and registered dietitian Sharon Palmer.
It’s Movember, which means it’s time to get serious about men’s health. One of the most pressing health issues for men is prostate cancer, with more than 1.3 million men diagnosed each year. Use this month as motivation to take preventative steps to reduce your risk of getting prostate cancer, including getting screened at age 50, and following a healthy and balanced lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and veggies contain fiber and antioxidants that have been shown to help fight cancer and keep you healthy. One of the most potent antioxidants out there is called lycopene, which is the powerful pigment responsible for giving tomatoes their bright red color. According to several scientific studies, people who consume more tomato products have a reduced risk of developing prostate cancer, likely due to the powerful combination of lycopene, vitamin A, and vitamin C that occurs naturally in tomatoes.
While fresh tomatoes are relatively high in lycopene, the compound becomes more bioavailable as tomatoes are cooked, meaning your body can absorb more and take advantage of its anti-cancer properties. Why is this? Heat changes the structure of the lycopene molecule, making it easier for the body to take in, and helps break down cell walls, which frees lycopene and allows it to be absorbed. A recent study found that men who ate cooked tomatoes five to six times per week had a 28% decreased risk of developing prostate cancer versus those who didn’t. Eating tomato products such as tomato sauce, tomato juice, tomato soup, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and salsa is a great way to ensure you are getting in plenty of cancer-fighting lycopene.
How exactly does lycopene exert its cancer-fighting powers? Scientists have proposed several possible methods, including stopping the growth of cancerous cells in the prostate, controlling proteins that suppress tumors, and preventing damage to DNA that can have lasting impacts on the body. While lycopene is powerful on its own, tomatoes contain other anti-carcinogenic compounds, like vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber. That’s why you’re better off getting lycopene from dietary sources like tomatoes, rather than from a supplement.
In addition to cooking, adding a little bit of oil to your tomatoes can boost your ability to absorb lycopene even more. This is because lycopene is a fat-soluble compound, and the fat in oil helps lycopene get broken down to a form usable by the body. A serving of whole wheat pasta with tomato sauce and a side salad with olive oil and vinegar is the perfect prostate-cancer-preventing meal!
It’s so important for men to be aware of the most common conditions that can threaten health, both in Movember and beyond. Prostate cancer is a frightening possibility, but early detection and prevention is key in reducing your risk. Along with screenings and a healthy diet and exercise plan, incorporating cooked tomato products into your meals several times a week is an excellent way to make sure you are maximizing your dose of cancer-fighting lycopene.
To help raise awareness for Movember, we have partnered up with award-winning dietitian Sharon Palmer to host a giveaway to aid you on a plant-based diet journey. This giveaway features Sharon’s book, Plant-Powered for Life, which has 52 weeks’ worth of plant-based (vegan) recipes, as well as a cast iron skillet to cook all of your tomato-centric meals. The giveaway runs from November 9-23, so you can enter on our Instagram here.
In addition to the giveaway, we are also doing specialized merchandise this month to raise awareness. From shirts to tote bags, you’re sure to love our new Legalize Marinara merch. Get your SWAG today and help us rep Movember!