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Vegetable of the Month: Tomato
It’s the tail-end of summer, which means it’s also the tail-end of tomato season. Hopefully, for the past couple months, you’ve been enjoying the unique combination of sweet, sour, and savory tastes that a tomato brings. Tomatoes are more than just delicious, though. Coming in a wide assortment of colors and varieties, tomatoes have both internal and external health benefits.
You can thank carotenoids for that. These antioxidant phyto-nutrients, including alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene, are abundant in tomatoes. In fact, tomatoes are the richest food source of lycopene in existence.
Here are just some of the health benefits you may get from eating tomatoes:
- Protection against cancer, stroke, and heart disease. Lycopene and beta-carotene consumption have been linked to lower rates of all three of these.,,
- Because they are high in the mineral potassium, tomatoes may help lower blood pressure.
- Lycopene filters out harmful UV light, thus protecting skin from sun damage, the number one cause of visible aging.
Tomatoes are also a nutritious food. A one-cup serving of sliced tomatoes provides:
- 38% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin C, which aids immune function and is needed for the health of connective tissue
- 30% of the DV for vitamin A, which is necessary for healthy vision, immune strength, and the integrity of skin
- 18% of the DV for vitamin K, which the body needs for healthy blood coagulation and to metabolize calcium
- 12% of the DV for potassium, which is critical to a healthy heart
- 10% of the DV for manganese, a mineral that plays a role in bone, joint, and skin health
- 2 grams of fiber, which is necessary for normal digestion and reduces the risk of heart disease
- Only 32 calories!
Eat Tomatoes and Be Merry
In many parts of the country, tomatoes are still in season, so buy them at your local farmers' market.
I make caprese salad with fresh tomatoes every chance I get. Just layer sliced tomatoes, sliced fresh mozzarella, and a whole basil leaf, then top with olive oil and salt. You can also enjoy tomatoes in homemade salsa or as the featured ingredient of a BLT. But if you’d like some new recipes, check these out:
You have to trust me that this recipe for a simple pasta dish with fresh tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, olives, and red pepper flakes from the book The New Vegetarian Epicure is one of the most flavorful and delicious dishes I’ve ever tasted.
If you’re looking for a new way to eat tomatoes, try this savory tomato-cheddar cobbler.
As the weather turns colder, you may see green tomatoes at the market, and if you’re growing your own, you will have some that won’t fully ripen. You can ripen them on a windowsill or in a paper bag, but green tomatoes are still highly nutritious and have their own appeal. Fried green tomatoes is one classic option, but you can also substitute green tomatoes for tomatillos in salsa verde. If you like tomatoes, cabbage, and rice, adapt this recipe using half-ripened tomatoes for a uniquely tangy taste.
Tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables for home gardeners to grow, and they thrive in a Tower Garden. You can grow cherry tomatoes, standard varieties, or heirlooms -- it’s up to you. And you’ll be less likely to have to battle aphids, hornworms, or blight than in a traditional garden.
Do you grow tomatoes? What’s your favorite way to eat them? Share in the comments below!
 Llanos A, et al. Effects of tomato and soy on serum adipokine concentrations in postmenopausal women at increased breast cancer risk: a cross-over dietary intervention trial. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Feb;99(2):625-32.
 Hope J. Tomatoes ‘help keep skin young’ and protect against sunburn. Daily Mail. 2012 Jun 7. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2155595/Tomatoes-help-skin-young-protect-sunburn.html