A Red, White, & Blue 4th of July

A Red, White, & Blue 4th of July

A Red, White, & Blue 4th of July

Go red this 4th of July with canned tomatoes! Invite over some friends and celebrate good health with a simple, nutritious red, white, and blue appetizer from dietitian Sharon Palmer.

By Sharon Palmer, RD, author of Plant-Powered for Life

This 4th of July, let’s remember where our food roots come from. Most traditional, cultural diets—whether from Peru or Asia—are based on plants. Even in our own country, our diet once gravitated more towards plants. My mother, who grew up in Arkansas, enjoyed a wholesome plant-based diet; a typical meal was black-eyed peas, foraged greens, roasted tomatoes, and cornbread. It’s amazing to think about how far we’ve strayed away from a plant-centric diet in the United States in recent years.

Now when we think about most foods in the “Western diet,” we tend to think of foods characterized by large amounts of animal products, and few whole plant foods. It’s no surprise that this eating style has been linked with our current epidemic of chronic disease and obesity.

But there’s good news.

Many of America’s favorite foods can be made by better-tasting and better-for-you by piling on America’s favorite condiments – tomato products, including salsa, ketchup, and tomato sauce.

So healthy are tomato products that high intakes have been associated with important health benefits, including reduced risk of certain chronic diseases, such as heart disease and some forms of cancer, according to a 2012 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. And the best part is that there’s no need to break the bank to redeem the health benefits associated with tomato products. According to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, tomato juices and tomato soups, carrots, and broccoli all scored the highest Nutrient Rich Foods (NRF) index per dollar. NRF is based on nine nutrients to encourage: protein; fiber; vitamins A, C, and E; calcium; iron; magnesium; and potassium; and on three nutrients to limit: saturated fat, added sugar, and sodium.

So, this 4th of July, invite over some friends and celebrate good health with this simple, nutritious red, white, and blue appetizer, made better by tomato products!

Red, White & Blue Salsa Cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 12-ounce can of salsa
  • 16 ounces of non-fat plain Greek yogurt (2, 8-ounce containers)or vegan sour cream (recipe here)
  • 1 package of blue corn tortilla chips
  • 16 plastic cups

Instructions:

  1. In each plastic cup, layer ~ ¼ cup of non-fat Greek yogurt, followed by 2 tablespoons salsa.
  2. Garnish with two tortilla chips.
  3. Store in the refrigerator until serving and serve with chips.

Makes around 6-8 individual dips.

 

Sharon Palmer

Sharon Palmer

Writer and Author of The Plant-Powered Diet

Sharon Palmer, The Plant-Powered Dietitian™ is a writer and author of The Plant-Powered Diet. Over 850 of her articles have been published in national publications, including PreventionBetter Homes and Gardens and Today’s Dietitian. She is also the editor of the award-winning publication Environmental Nutrition and writes for her blog, The Plant-Powered Blog. Her specific expertise is in plant-based nutrition, including Mediterranean, vegetarian and vegan diets.Her second book, Plant-Powered For Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps and 125 Delicious Recipesis available for purchase now.


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What is Lycopene?

What is Lycopene?

What is Lycopene?

What is lycopene, and are there any health benefits associated with it? Dietitian Sharon Palmer explains this fascinating antioxidant and why you should consume more of it.

Maybe there’s a reason superheroes wear red capes! Lycopene [pronounced lie-kuh-peen], the naturally occurring compound that gives tomatoes their rich red color, has some pretty super powers. Natural chemical reactions in your body create free radicals, which move around the body setting off chain reactions that can damage cells and promote disease. Lycopene is an antioxidant compound in tomatoes that destroys these free radicals. Like other antioxidants, it has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects.

According to the American Cancer Society, lycopene helps prevent damage to our genes. Eating plenty of lycopene-rich foods, like tomato products (canned tomatoes, marinara sauce, salsa, and tomato soup), may lower risk of lung cancer and could protect against aggressive prostate cancer. Studies also show that people who eat plenty of plant foods rich in carotenoid antioxidants like lycopene have a lower risk of heart disease.

While this powerful antioxidant can also be found in foods like pink grapefruit, watermelon and papaya, around 80% of the lycopene in the American diet comes from tomatoes and tomato products. Cooking tomatoes makes lycopene more available to the body, so marinara sauce and tomato soup actually have more lycopene than the same amount of fresh tomatoes (see chart). Eating your tomatoes with a little fat, like a drizzle of olive oil or a slice of avocado, also increases the amount of lycopene your body can absorb.

 

Amount of Lycopene in Common Foods

  Serving Lycopene (milligrams)
Tomato puree 1 cup 54
Tomato sauce 1 cup 46
Tomato juice, canned 1 cup 22
Vegetable juice cocktail 1 cup 18
Tomato soup, canned, condensed 1 cup 16
Stewed tomatoes 1 cup 10
Watermelon* 1 ½ cups 9-13
Canned tomatoes 1 cup 6
Tomato, raw 1 cup chopped 4 ½
Pink grapefruit sections 1 cup (with juice) 3
Papaya 1 cup chunks 2 ½
Ketchup (catsup) 1 Tablespoon 2
Baked beans, canned 1 cup 1
SOURCE: USDA FOOD COMPOSITION DATABASE
*USDA AGRESERACH MAGAZINE, HTTPS://AGRESEARCHMAG.ARS.USDA.GOV/2002/JUN/LYCO

It’s better to get lycopene from food, not supplements. There are other compounds in foods like tomatoes that may help lycopene do its health-protecting work (every hero needs sidekicks!). So try these tips to get more mighty lycopene in your diet:

  • Enjoy red sauce, like marinara or spicy Arrabbiata, on whole grain pasta.
  • Pour salsa on burritos and tacos.
  • Add tomato puree to vegetable soups, stews or chili.
  • Serve tomato soup with a salad or sandwich for a quick, easy meal.
  • Try canned tomatoes in sandwich fillings, casseroles, dips, and curry dishes.
  • Drink a small glass of tomato juice with a savory meal.

Villainous free radicals are at work in your body every day. Call on lycopene’s antioxidant power to help protect your cells!

REFERENCES:
HIGDON J. CAROTENOIDS. OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY LINUS PAULING INSTITUTE MICRONUTIENT INFORMATION CENTER. UPDATED AUGUST 2016. AVAILABLE AT: HTTP://LPI.OREGONSTATE.EDU/MIC/DIETARY-FACTORS/PHYTOCHEMICALS/CAROTENOIDS#FOOD-SOURCES
PEISCH SF, VAN BLARIGAN EL, CHAN JM, STAMPFER MJ, KENFIELD SA. PROSTATE CANCER PROGRESSION AND MORTALITY: A REVIEW OF DIET AND LIFESTYLE FACTORS. WORLD JOURNAL OF UROLOGY. 2017 JUN; 35(6): 867-874. HTTPS://WWW.NCBI.NLM.NIH.GOV/PMC/ARTICLES/PMC5472048/
ARNOLD J. WATERMELON PACKS A POWERFUL LYCOPENE PUNCH. AGRESEARCH MAGAZINE. 2002. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://AGRESEARCHMAG.ARS.USDA.GOV/2002/JUN/LYCO
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Sharon Palmer

Sharon Palmer

RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian™

Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian™, is an award-winning food and nutrition expert, journalist, and editor. She is author of The Plant-Powered Diet: The Lifelong Eating Plan for Achieving Health, Beginning Today (The Experiment, 2012) and Plant-Powered for Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps & 125 Delicious Recipes (The Experiment, 2014). Sharon also is editor of Environmental Nutrition, nutrition editor of Today’s Dietitian, blogger for The Plant-Powered Dietitian, and publisher of her monthly The Plant-Powered Newsletter. Living in the chaparral hills overlooking Los Angeles with her husband and two sons, Sharon enjoys visiting her local farmers market, gardening, and cooking for friends and family.


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A Can of Tomatoes gets Dinner on the Table!

A Can of Tomatoes gets Dinner on the Table!

A Can of Tomatoes gets Dinner on the Table!

Did you know that a can of tomatoes gets dinner on the table? Dietitian Sharon Palmer shares her best tips for choosing canned goods, as well as a delicious recipe featuring canned tomatoes!

by Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian

We often hear that “fresh is best,” but did you know that canned options are not only convenient, but also offer similar health benefits as fresh fruits and vegetables? While there are hundreds of varieties of canned foods available, today I’d like to applaud canned tomatoes for their versatility. A simple can of tomatoes can help provide you with all the inspiration you need to get a delicious, healthy meal on the dinner table in minutes. Some of my favorite tomato-rich dishes include soups, stews, casseroles, and pasta dishes.

While canned products often have the reputation of being high in sodium, consumers today are offered a variety of low-sodium options, such as reduced sodium canned tomatoes, marinara sauce, tomato sauce, salsa, and tomato soup. So you don’t have to worry about upping your salt intake when you feature tomato-centric dishes on your menu.

Tomato products are also packed in nutrients, such as fiber, potassium and vitamin C. Research also shows that when tomatoes are heated—as they are in canned and processed tomatoes—the powerful antioxidant lycopene is more bioavailable in the body.

You can stock up on tomato products—canned tomatoes, pasta sauce, tomato paste, salsa, tomato juice, tomato soup—to kickstart your meal because they have a long shelf life. Canned tomatoes are also versatile since they fit well in a variety of delicious, ethnic recipes. If you aren’t already incorporating canned tomatoes into your recipes, it’s time to get started with three of my favorite plant-powered recipes, Tortilla Soup.

 

Sharon Palmer

Sharon Palmer

RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian™

Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian™, is an award-winning food and nutrition expert, journalist, and editor. She is author of The Plant-Powered Diet: The Lifelong Eating Plan for Achieving Health, Beginning Today (The Experiment, 2012) andPlant-Powered for Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps & 125 Delicious Recipes (The Experiment, 2014). Over 850 of her articles have been published in national publications, includingPreventionBetter Homes and Gardens and Yoga Journal. Sharon also is editor of Environmental Nutrition, nutrition editor of Today’s Dietitian, blogger for The Plant-Powered Blog, and publisher of her monthly The Plant-Powered Newsletter. Her specific expertise is in plant-based nutrition, including flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan diets. She serves as the consultant dietitian for the Oldways Vegetarian Network, an editor for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic’s website eatright.org, and judge for the prestigious James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards. Sharon is regularly invited to speak on food and nutrition at a number of events across the country. She is passionate about sharing her enthusiasm for sustainable, delicious, healthy food. Living in the chaparral hills overlooking Los Angeles with her husband and two sons, Sharon enjoys visiting her local farmers market, gardening, and cooking for friends and family.


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