Going on Holiday? Eat Tomatoes!

Unless you have an allergy or sensitivity to the nightshade family of vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and potatoes), tomatoes are a great food to regularly include in the diet for a number of reasons. Adda Bjarnadottir, MS at Authority Nutrition, lists the following benefit:

Tomatoes are a good source of several vitamins and minerals.

Vitamin C: An essential nutrient and antioxidant. One medium sized tomato can provide about 28% of the recommended daily intake.

Potassium: An essential mineral, beneficial for blood pressure control and cardiovascular disease prevention

Vitamin K1: Also known as phylloquinone, vitamin K is important for blood coagulation and bone health .

Folate (B9): One of the B-vitamins, important for normal tissue growth and cell function . It is particularly important for pregnant women.

Here is a list of the main plant compounds in tomatoes.

Lycopene: A red pigment and antioxidant, which has been extensively studied for its beneficial health effects .

Beta-Carotene: A yellow antioxidant, which is converted into vitamin A in the body.
Naringenin: Found in tomato skin, this flavonoid has been shown to decrease inflammation and protect against various diseases in mice .

Chlorogenic acid: A powerful antioxidant compound, which may lower blood pressure in patients with high blood pressure.

It is the Lycopene content of tomatoes that I want to particularly draw attention to, since research shows it may be beneficial in supporting skin health – reducing damage from the sun. Interestingly, although eating fresh, raw tomatoes has many benefits, the lycopene content actually increases when tomatoes are cooked. This makes the use of tomato puree and passata an ideal food to include in meals.

A 2010 study concluded that Tomato paste containing lycopene provides protection against acute and potentially longer-term aspects of photo-damage. In the study, 55g (about 3 tablespoons) of tomato paste was eaten every day for 12 weeks, providing the participants with significant reduction in sun damage.

There are so many recipes for using tomato puree, and I will add some of my favourites in the next few blog posts. It also means that cooking fresh tomatoes provides an increase in lycopene. Poached tomatoes are easy for breakfasts, served sprinkled with pumpkin seeds or with eggs, and roasted tomatoes are a wonderful addition to salads and vegetable side dishes.

Some other points to bear in mind is that lycopene is actually most concentrated in the tomato peel, so serve tomatoes with skin-on, while a number of nutrients are best absorbed when eaten with healthy fats, and lycopene is one of these. Serving a fresh or roasted tomato salad with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and herbs would enhance lycopene absorption.

Get chopping those tomatoes!


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