This is the time of the year to enjoy this wonderful fruit (yes, it is a fruit despite being generally considered and cooked as a vegetable) at its best. Summer conveys images of juicy, sweet & colourful (red, orange, yellow, green, purple) tomato salads, sprinkled with olive oil and basil or simply prepared as a sauce for a delicious pasta dish.
Tomatoes belong to the nightshade family & originated in South America. They are rich in water, fibre, vitamins (B, C, K), minerals (potassium, folate/B9) & antioxidants (lycopene, beta carotene, naringenin, chlorogenic acid, chlorophyll, lutein, zeaxanthin). However, it is important to note that the levels of these compounds vary significantly from one variety to the next as well as depending on their ripeness, hence the importance of eating them in season. Lycopene is mostly found in the skin of tomatoes & is at its highest level in tomato products such as tomato paste, juice & sauces. As well as ketchup: however, bear in mind that ketchup also has high levels of sugar so should be consumed in moderation.
What are the benefits of tomatoes?
- Heart health (blood pressure regulation, decreases blood clotting, lowering “bad“ LDL cholesterol)
- Eye health
- Bone health
- Immune support
- Oral health
- Skin health
Nighshades also contain solanine which can make you feel ill if eaten in large amounts. For some people with certain inflammatory & auto-immune issues such as arthritis or IBD, nightshades can increase the levels of inflammation in the body so test if they are an issue for you by eliminating them from your diet for a few weeks then reintroducing them & checking how & if you react.
Otherwise, just enjoy them right now whilst in season. They are delicious & so easy to prepare: when ripe at this time of year, in a simple salad…et voilà!
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