Tomato Cuisine, the Ultimate Comfort Food


by Sharon Palmer, RD

As the temperature falls outside, fill your home with the warmth and aroma of your favorite comfort food baking in the oven.  Whether it’s your own famous hearty chili or your mother’s classic meatloaf, we all have our go-to recipes that warm our souls on a brisk winter day.

Foods that Comfort Your Body

Sure, you love your favorite comfort foods, but do they love you back?  Many comfort foods can be loaded down with saturated fats and refined grains.  Try including healthier ingredients in your favorite comfort foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, beans, lentils, and lean meat, fish and poultry.  One way you can up the nutrition quotient of your favorite comfort food dish is to pump up the veggies.  Tomato products, such as canned tomatoes, tomato soup, tomato sauce, and pasta sauce, can provide your body with much more than just feel-good comfort and taste.  These plant foods are loaded with essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber in a low fat and low calorie package.  One cup of canned tomatoes contains 41 calories, 0 grams of fat, 2.4 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of protein, along with supplies of vitamins A, B6, C, and K; iron, potassium, and manganese.

Tomato products are also a significant source of antioxidants, such as the cancer-protective carotenoid lycopene.  Lycopene from tomatoes has been repeatedly studied in humans and found to be protective against a growing list of cancers.  These cancers now include colorectal, prostate, breast, endometrial, and one of the deadliest cancers, pancreatic.  In particular, tomato products seem to be the most promising in prostate cancer prevention.  A meta-analysis of 21 studies published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention found that eating tomatoes, especially cooked tomatoes, provides protection against prostate cancer.  In fact, men who are the highest amounts of tomatoes were found to have an 11% reduction in risk for prostate cancer.

And that’s not all.  Regular intake of tomato products has been consistently associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease, and research suggests that it can help lower blood pressure levels, protect against sun damage, and promote bone health.  How do tomatoes offer all of these health benefits?  It may be due to tomato’s anti-inflammatory effects.  Research continues to confirm that inflammation is at the root of many chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Get Cookin’ Up Comfort

Comfort foods are a major part of American cuisine, with many restaurants and chefs including feel-good recipes on their menus.  So whether you’re dining out or cuddled up at home, choose a comfort food, such as spaghetti, meatloaf, soup, chili, or stew, that contains tomato products to maximize the nutrient qualities of your meal.

Try this comfort food recipe for your next family meal—or serve it at the Superbowl this year.  It will give you a dose of disease-protective nutrients and comfort all in one sitting.




Superbowl Chili Mac

1 Tbsp. canola oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

3/4 lb. 93% lean ground sirloin

2 Tbsp. chili powder

1 Tbsp. ground cumin

1 Tbsp. dried oregano

Salt, to taste

1 can (28 oz.) tomatoes, drained

1 cup chopped cilantro

1 can (15 oz.) pink beans, rinsed and drained

4 cups cooked whole-wheat macaroni (4 oz.dry)

1 cup (2 oz.) shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, green pepper and garlic until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add the meat and, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, cook until it is browned, about 4 minutes.


Mix in the chili powder, cumin, oregano and salt. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with the spoon. Mix in the cilantro. Simmer 20 minutes, until the chili is moist and the meat is soft. Mix in the beans.

Just before serving, mix in the pasta. Divide the Chili Mac among six deep bowls, sprinkle with the cheese and serve.

Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 365 calories, 10 g. total fat (4 g. saturated fat), 46 g. carbohydrate, 27 g. protein, 8 g. dietary fiber, 331 mg. sodium.

Recipe courtesy American Institute for Cancer Research







By Sharon Palmer, RD