Tomatoes are a superfood that contain several vitamins and nutrients that promote health. Here are 5 key nutrients present in canned tomatoes that pack a powerful nutrition punch.
When you think of the word superfood what comes to mind? Is it a tomato? Tomatoes are such a commonly eaten food filled with so much nutritional power, yet you may not think of them as a superfood. Not only are tomatoes packed with flavor, but they are also filled with important nutrients that are vital for overall health. Let’s unpack what science has to say about some of these key nutrients.
Lycopene. Lycopene belongs to a class of compounds called carotenoids, and are powerful antioxidants that promote skin health, protect against certain cancers, and decrease the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, but heat during the cooking process makes the lycopene even more bioavailable to our bodies, which makes canned and cooked tomato products an excellent choice.
Beta-carotene. This is a phytochemical that is converted to retinol in the body which then becomes vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for supporting eye health and protects against cataracts and macular degeneration.
Vitamin K. This is a fat soluble vitamin that is important for protein production. These proteins are necessary for the formation of blood clots, and the prevention of bone loss. Vitamin K has also been shown to protect against heart disease.
Fiber. This nutrient has so many benefits, yet many people don’t get enough in their diets. Most know that fiber can promote bowel health and encourage regular bowel movements. However, it also can lower cholesterol levels, control blood glucose levels, and help maintain a healthy weight.
Tomato products should be a staple in every kitchen pantry. Not only are they quick and convenient, they contain many nutrients that promote health! The heating process that all tomatoes go through for preparation actually helps break down the cell walls and make the nutrients easier to absorb. For example, when cooked tomatoes deliver 2-3X more lycopene than a raw tomato! So, what are you waiting for? The next time you’re at the store go ahead and grab a can (or three) of some canned tomato products to use in the kitchen this week.
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Tomatoes (and their canned varieties) are one of the most versatile produce items available, and while they are beloved by many, there may be some things that you didn’t know about them. From their origin to classification, here are some fun facts about tomatoes.
5 fun facts about tomatoes
Tomatoes originated in South America.
Researchers have recently discovered a tomato plant that originated 80,000 years ago. By using genetic testing, they were able to trace it back to Ecuador and determined it was a wild variety that produced a cherry sized fruit. Around 7,000 years ago the plant was domesticated and it evolved into the tomatoes we are familiar with today (1).
Tomatoes are technically a fruit.
While nobody would ever claim that tomatoes are as sweet a melon or berry, botanically they are classified as a fruit. Tomatoes contain seeds which puts them in the fruit category, along with cucumbers, peppers, squash, and many more. However, to make things more confusing, in 1893 the US Supreme Court ruled that they are in fact a vegetable (2).
There are more than 10,000 varieties of tomatoes.
Beyond the various sizes (grape, cherry, plum, and beefsteak), there are many different varieties that are grown in a wide range of conditions. Heirloom tomatoes have been around for a long time and are considered pure (ie. no crossbreeding). Others have been crossbred to grow in small spaces or regions that have shorter growing seasons (3).
Tomatoes aren’t always red.
With so many varieties, it should come as no surprise that there would be different colors of tomatoes. They can be yellow, purple, green, orange, or white. In fact, some of the first tomatoes to arrive in Europe were a yellow variety that were referred to as golden apples (3).
Tomatoes have been to space.
Scientists sent tomato seeds to the International Space Station to grow in the Advanced Plant Habitat. They wanted to determine if they could grow and thrive for longer space missions. Along with this study, NASA scientists created a program where students can grow seeds that have been to space and report their findings back to the researchers (4).
Can’t get enough of tomatoes? Check out some of these recipes:
The history of tomatoes: How a tropical became a global crop. University of Illinois Extension. (2022). Retrieved from https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/garden-scoop/2020-07-25-history-tomatoes-how-tropical-became-global-crop.
Is a Tomato a Fruit or a Vegetable?. The Spruce Eats. (2022). Retrieved from https://www.thespruceeats.com/tomato-vegetable-or-fruit-1807061.
Vegetable Tomato Varieties. GardenersNet.Com. Retrieved from https://www.gardenersnet.com/vegetable/tomatovarieties.htm.
Astronauts might soon grow SPACE tomatoes. Phys.org. Retrieved from https://phys.org/news/2019-04-astronauts-space-tomatoes.html.
Take a trip to Greece without ever leaving your kitchen! This recipe for Eggplant Moussaka is a popular Mediterranean dish that will have your taste buds singing its praises.
In the mood for comfort food? We’ve got you covered with this amazing recipe for Eggplant Moussaka! This traditional Greek casserole is made with eggplants, potatoes, a rich, tomatoey lamb mixture and topped off with a deliciously creamy sauce–in other words, pure food perfection at its finest.
While you can make this recipe any time of year, it’s especially delicious in the fall and winter months. It also has a high nutrition profile thanks to the canned tomato products used, as they provide a plethora of antioxidants (such as lycopene) that play an integral role in the reduction of certain types of diseases and cancers. In fact, numerous studies have linked lycopene consumption with prostate cancer protection. While lycopene is present in other fruits such as watermelon and pink grapefruit, tomatoes (which are the second most consumed vegetable second to potatoes in the U.S.), account for more than 85% of the lycopene in the American diet. Interestingly, cooked tomato products may hold particular significance, as the lycopene from cooked and processed tomatoes is more bioavailable than that of fresh tomatoes. Heating or processing breaks down the tomato cell matrix and promotes isomerization of lycopene from all-trans isomers to the more bioavailable form of cis-isomers. Research shows that single daily servings of processed tomato products produce significant increases of lycopene concentrations in blood and buccal mucosal cells in healthy adults.
So what are you waiting for? Whip up this Eggplant Moussaka for a comfort food delight that you won’t soon forget!
Take a trip to Greece without ever leaving your kitchen! This recipe for Greek Moussaka is a popular, traditional Mediterranean dish that will have your taste buds singing its praises.
Prep Time50 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Total Time1 hour35 minutes
3 eggplants, cut into ½-inch slices
1 lb. russet potatoes
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. ground lamb
5 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 (28 oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 sprig rosemary
½ tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
5 Tbsp. all purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
1 large egg
pinch of ground nutmeg
salt and pepper, to taste
vegetable oil, for frying
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
Line your work surface with paper towels. Arrange the slices of eggplant on top of the paper towels. Sprinkle salt over the eggplant and let it sit for 20 minutes.
Place the potatoes into a pot filled with cold water. Bring the water to a boil and cook the potatoes for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain the potatoes and set them aside to cool. When the potatoes are cool enough to touch, slice them into ¼-½ inch thick slices.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add in the lamb. Cook and crumble the lamb until it has browned and fully cooked. Then add in the onion and garlic. Sauté until the onions turn translucent and then mix in the tomato paste and whole tomatoes. Use a wooden spoon to crush and break apart the whole tomatoes. Stir in the cumin seeds, rosemary, cinnamon, and salt to taste. Reduce the heat to low so that the mixture is simmering. Simmer for about 50 minutes.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 400˚F. Pat the salted eggplant dry with paper towels. Heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil to a pan, enough to coat the bottom of it, over medium-high heat. Fry the eggplant slices on both sides until golden brown then transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
Melt the butter in a sauce-pot over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and mix until it turns into a paste. Gradually pour in the milk while whisking constantly. Reduce the heat so that the sauce is simmering. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, while whisking constantly, until the sauce thickens. Remove the sauce-pot from the heat and mix in the egg, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.
Spray a large cast iron with cooking spray. Arrange the sliced potatoes in an even layer on the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Then layer the eggplant slices on top. Spread the meat sauce evenly over the eggplant then sprinkle the parmesan on top. Finish with pouring the cream sauce over top. Bake it in the oven for 45 minutes until the top is set and golden brown. Enjoy!
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You don’t have to break the budget to enjoy a healthful meal! Canned goods are making a comeback thanks to their versatility and affordability. From tomato products to chickpeas, give these tried and true pantry staples a fresh look.
Even for the most organized among us, it can feel like a overwhelming task to get any dinner on the table for the family during the week, let alone a healthy one. So, what’s the secret to making weeknight dinners a cinch? According to dietitian Ellie Krieger, three components are key: a well-stocked pantry, a little bit of planning, and not overthinking it.
With the right ingredients in your pantry and freezer, dinner is never as hard as it might seem. Ellie says that she always keeps canned goods (like tomatoes) in her pantry, since she says they are a busy home cook’s best friend. Not only do they make a great base for sauces, but they offer a powerful nutrition punch with their high lycopene content. She is also a big fan of beans (more specifically, white beans, pinto beans, chickpeas), as well as frozen seafood, as these high protein options can create endless delicious combinations in the kitchen.
Learn more about how Ellie keeps weeknight dinners healthy here.
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Who said that soups can’t be filling and hearty? This sausage tortellini soup is a warming and filling meal that can be eaten on its own as an entire meal or served alongside your favorite dishes!
This soup combines the delicious flavors of Italian sausage, garlic, oregano, and parsley for an Italian style meal that can be made in under 30 minutes. This is the type of meal that only requires a few steps, which is perfect for busy weeknights since it cuts back on the cooking time while still adding nutrition and flavor.
One of the notable flavors in this dish is an herb called marjoram. It is a Mediterranean herb that has a similar flavor to oregano, and it is a perfect pairing with the other flavors in this soup. Additionally, this recipe calls for cannellini beans (which are a great plant-based addition that provides both extra protein and fiber) and three cheese tortellini to increase the heartiness.
In addition to these nutritious (and filling) ingredients, this Sausage Tortellini Soup calls for canned tomatoes. This is a great ingredient to add to soups and stews, as they provide a depth of flavor and added nutrition. Moreover, they add great color and flavor to the dishes as well as a powerful boost of nutrition through the antioxidant called lycopene. This has powerful health benefits like preventing chronic diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease, so grab a few cans of diced tomatoes to pop into your weeknight soups and stews!