Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tomatoes: Pride of the Kitchen

If you ever visited a typical Turkish kitchen during summertime, you'll see lots of ripe red tomatoes in every possible corner. If by chance, it's the winter time, you should look for some jars and cans full of tomato paste and sauce set aside before October arrives. The same scene is common in restaurants which is one of the keys to the healthy and satisfying way of eating in the Mediterranean area including Turkey. 

The reason why Turkish people consume such amounts of tomatoes in all their variety is very simple actually: They are bursting with health and goodness. Tomatoes are a top power food - nutirent-packed  and great tasting, with barely 40 calories per piece. Feel free to encourage yourself to eat plenty of tomatoes whose versatility makes them even more beautiful.

Tomatoes have the power of Phytochemicals*
Tomatoes are a strong ally in your healthy diet largely because part of their power comes from their rich array of phytochemicals that work together to protect your cardiovascular system. That makes tomatoes a classic heart-healthy Mediterranean food.
The carotenoid that gives red tomatoes their bright colour is tomatoes' most powerful component. It's also one of the most-studied nutrients in the last decade. The evidence has repeatedly shown that it reduces your risk of several cancers - including breast, cervix, prostate, pancreas, and lung cancers.
That puts tomatoes in a unique category. For most foods, the scientific case for their heart-protective benefits is solid, while evidence for their cancer-fighting property is strong but incomplete. Not so for tomatoes. Their anti-cancer action is even more proven than their heart benefits.
Eating tomatoes, then, will help you lose weight, keep your heart healthy, and stay cancer-free as you grow older.
Try tomatoes in all their many forms: fresh, canned, as a sauce, or as a paste. All forms are highly beneficial. Fresh tomatoes are best in the summer, so stock up and enjoy them at their peak. In the colder months, make your own tomato sauces and soups with canned tomatoes. Some canned tomatoes come with added flavours to make your cooking even easier.

Shopping Tip
Try to buy vine-ripened tomatoes. "Vine ripened" simply means the tomato reached full maturity before it was picked. Commercial suppliers generally harvest their tomatoes early and let them ripen in the store or on the way to it. That reduces spoilage but robs the tomatoes of much of their nutritional value and most of their naturally delicious flavor.

Cooking Tip:
Take advantage of tomatoes as a weight-loss food in all their variety - cut raw into salads, diced and sprinkled over lean meat, as a soup or stew base, bubbling in a flavorful tomato sauce, and in countless other guises. Canned tomatoes are a good option in the winter months. Unlike some other foods, tomatoes lose little of their nutritional potency when cooked. The research even tells us that tomatoes' cancer-preventing properties are more active in cooked tomatoes than in raw ones. Tomato paste and sauce, for example, are excellent sources of carotenoid.

Phytochemicals* are primarily responsible for the unique colors, flavors, and textures of fruits and vegetables. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of phytochemicals with an overwhelming vocabulary of hard-to-pronounce names and ways in which they provide health benefits. But two broad categories of phytochemicals are worth knowing: flavonoids and carotenoids. These nutrient types are responsible not only for the distinctive coloring of most of foods but also for their extensive health benefits.

From The Sonoma Diet by Dr. Connie Guttersen, R.D., PH.D.   


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