To me there’s nothing better than stepping outside my back door to harvest fresh juicy tomatoes and immediately whip up a nutritious and tasty meal with the fruits of my labor. Tomatoes are chock-full of nutrients. Starting with the basics, tomatoes contain large amounts of vitamin C, providing 40 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). The red pigment in tomatoes is called lycopene. Lycopene acts as a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect the body from free radical damage. Several studies suggest a diet rich in lycopene offers a significant reduction in the risk of developing prostate cancer and may offer protection against other cancers such as lung, breast, colorectal, esophageal, cervical, and oral. Furthermore, research indicates that lycopene may promote heart health. The vitamins A, C, and E in tomatoes also act as antioxidants. We know that antioxidants neutralize the damage of free radicals and provide anti-aging benefits.
Additional health benefits include:
- Tomatoes are rich in vitamin K, a bone-building vitamin.
- The fiber in tomatoes aids in healthy digestion and weight loss, and the lutein promotes healthy eyes.
- Recent studies boast that the liquid around the seeds of the tomato has anti-clotting properties much like aspirin, thereby reducing the risk of blood clots and stroke.
- The tomato is low on the glycemic index, therefore no spikes in insulin levels.
- Tomatoes are very low in calories, one medium-sized tomato contains approximately 25 calories.
- Fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes contain more vitamin C than cooked tomatoes as the cooking process destroys some of the vitamin C. However, cooked or processed tomatoes contain higher concentrations of lycopene! It has also been reported that eating or cooking tomatoes with a small amount of healthy fat or oil increases the body’s absorption of lycopene.
- There are several studies (and of course heated debate) suggesting organically grown tomatoes contain higher levels of antioxidants.
Here are two of my favorite nutritious recipes using homegrown tomatoes harvested just minutes before cooking. Delicious and SIMPLE!
Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes with Thyme & Parsley
2 tablespoons vegetable or chicken broth
1 package packaged Quinoa & Brown Rice (Seeds of Change-Organic)
4 large ripe but firm organic tomatoes
1/2 small organic onion, diced
3 organic garlic cloves, sliced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 400°F. Slice the top off each tomato to expose the inside. Use a spoon to hollow out pulp and seeds and place in a bowl. Chop the tomato tops and add to the bowl. Set bowl and tomato shells aside.
In a large skillet combine coconut oil and onion. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until onion begins to brown, about 6 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme, pepper and reserved tomato trimmings and cook, stirring frequently. Add the quinoa and brown rice package contents and the broth and cook, stirring frequently, until most liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley.
Stuff tomato shells with quinoa mixture, mounding it on top, and place tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until tomatoes are soft and filling is just browned on top, about 15 minutes. Garnish with parsley.
Red Pepper & Tomato Soup
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut in half
2 red peppers, cut into chunks
1 large onion
6 garlic cloves
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
fresh basil leaves, chopped
fresh thyme leaves
Transfer the roasted vegetables to a soup pot with their juices, and add the vegetable or chicken stock. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes with fresh thyme and basil leaves. Blend in food processor. Pour into serving bowls and garnish with herbs.