Spreading the Love with Heart Healthy Tomatoes!
by Sharon Palmer, RD
Valentine’s Day – whether you can take it or leave it – has a nice message. It’s the day dedicated to love, which many may argue is a good thing to celebrate. And you don’t necessarily have to spend Valentine’s Day with a significant other to spread the love; you can show your friends, family, neighbors, or even yourself some love and compassion by celebrating over a delicious meal packed with heart-healthy ingredients.
It’s interesting to point out that a multitude of heart-protecting ingredients seem to fit the Valentine’s Day theme – many heart-healthy foods, such as berries, pomegranates, cherries, beets, and you guessed it…tomatoes are yes, red! The red color in tomatoes is a result of the antioxidant lycopene, which provides tomatoes with the anti-inflammatory, heart-protecting properties nutrition professionals have grown to love.
But, tomatoes do much more than protect your heart.
According to a study in The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, a diet rich in tomato products may help protect post-menopausal women from developing breast cancer. The researchers examined a group of 70 postmenopausal women for a total of 20 weeks. The researchers found that adiponectin – a hormone involved in regulating blood sugar and fat levels – climbed nine percent when the women followed an eating pattern high in tomato products. And since breast cancer risk increases as body mass index increases, experts suggest these findings may play role in breast cancer prevention.
This Valentine’s Day, treat yourself to a romantic meal, which coincidentally protects your heart, too.
Inside-out Heart-Healthy Lasagna
It doesn’t get much easier than this mixed-up version of lasagna. This variation is a fun spin on a traditional favorite recipe while still packing in a heart-healthy punch.
8 ounces whole wheat rotini
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 ½ cups mushrooms, sliced
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon thyme
8 cups baby spinach or other leafy green, such as kale
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional
3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese or plant-based alternative, divided 4 ways, optional
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add pasta; cook until al dente, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic in oil until tender, but not browned (about 3 minutes).
- Add mushrooms, stirring, until the mushrooms release their liquid (about 4-6 minutes).
- Add tomatoes, oregano, thyme, spinach and crushed pepper (if using).
- Increase heat to medium-high; stirring occasionally until the spinach is wilted (about 4 minutes).
- Toss the sauce with pasta and divide among 4 bowls. Add salt and pepper, as desired.
Optional: Dollop each serving with 3 tablespoons of ricotta cheese or plant-based alternative, if desired.
Makes 4 servings.