One Dietitian’s Deep Dark (Tomato) Secret
I have a deep dark Dietitian secret. My closest friends and family know, but the rest of America? No way. Plus, being in the nutrition field, one would say that it’s something to be ashamed about.
Ready, for my deep dark Dietitian secret?
… I don’t like fresh uncooked tomatoes—eek! I never have.
As I’ve grown, I’ve of course tried fresh tomatoes in a variety of ways—as gazpacho, pure baby tomatoes, caprese salads, salsas, or simply tomatoes in sandwiches. Regardless of how many times or ways I’ve tried a fresh raw tomato, I have yet to enjoy one.
The Tomato Joke
For this very reason, those near and dear to me, thought it was rather ironic that I was going to be a spokesperson for the Tomato Products Wellness Council. I, on the other hand, did not. Because I loved and still love cooked tomatoes aka tomato products! And, that’s what the Tomato Products Wellness Council is all about!
Don’t get me wrong, fresh raw tomatoes are wonderful for your health, but tomato products, such as crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and sun-dried tomatoes are my preferred choice from a tastebud perspective as well as a nutrient perspective, in some regards.
Why Tomato Products?
Both fresh and cooked tomatoes are beneficial to health, but cooked tomatoes (as in tomato products) have the benefit in regards to the carotenoid, lycopene—a part of a powerful antioxidant group that inactivates free radicals, protects against cancer, and slows development of heart disease. In fact, tomato products are responsible for more than 80% of lycopene in the U.S. diet.
Some would say, the more tomato products in the diet, the better off you are. This is because when tomatoes are cooked, their lycopene content becomes even more available to your body. In other words, cooking tomatoes allows for their lycopene content to be better absorbed. Furthermore, if you’d like to make this disease-fighting antioxidant even better absorbed, simply eat your cooked tomatoes with a little bit of fat, such as olive oil. This helps because lycopene is a fat-soluble nutrient.
Beyond Lycopene—Why Tomato Products?
Personally, I also love tomato products because they’re quick, easy, affordable and kind to your waistline—a ½ cup serving of canned tomatoes contains only 32 calories. Plus, they’re a good source of Vitamins C, A and K; potassium; and fiber. Most importantly, when was the last time you cooked a meal and added tomato paste, marinara sauce, or crushed tomatoes and someone said it tasted awful?! I bet never because it’s pretty difficult to mess up a dish with tomato products, and if you do—it’s usually covered up!
My Top Tomato Products and Ways to Use Them
Here are some of my top everyday tomato product uses:
- Marinara sauce, as a vegetable sauce or over spinach, topped with turkey meatballs or beans/lentils, as a simple quick healthful meal.
- Ketchup, mixed with horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, lemon, and garlic for a shrimp cocktail sauce.
- Tomato paste and tomato sauce, pureed with cooked veggies and mixed with garlic, oregano, and paprika to taste for a vegetable-packed pizza sauce.
- Tomato paste, on top of an Ak Mak cracker with ricotta cheese. Yum!
- Tomato soup, instead of water to cook quinoa for extra flavor and nutrients.
- Crushed tomatoes, over poultry or fish, while baking for added moisture and taste.
We all know that tastebuds change, so I’ll keep on trying fresh raw tomatoes in a variety of ways, but until I find my raw-tomato love, I’ll stick with my healthful, easy, affordable tomato products. The saga continues!
Let’s hear your thoughts! Do you prefer cooked or raw tomatoes? Or, are you an equal opportunist?
Corinne Dobbas, MS, RD is a San Francisco-based registered dietitian specializing in nutrition, health communications, and social media. She develops news segments for television stations, writes articles for various health and wellness sites, speaks at conferences, frequently guests for wellness groups in the online social media realm, counsels, and serves as a nutrition and social media consultant. Passionate about empowering people to reach and maintain a state of optimal wellness, Corinne’s messages reach thousands of people every day. Corinne strives to help people cultivate the best, healthiest, and happiest “you” there is. To learn more about Corinne, visit http://www.corinnedobbas.com/.