Tomatoes are a beloved staple in any summertime diet, from salads to soups to sandwiches (and even on their own with a bit of sea salt and vinegar). Loaded with lycopene, an antioxidant linked to improved vision, lowered risk of heart disease, lower ‘bad’ cholesterol and even anti-cancer properties, these wee fruit are not only nutrient dense but also calorically light, with a cup of tomatoes clocking in at a mere 32 calories.
Despite their overall greatness, there are a few simple tips and tricks that can help you get the most out of your tomatoes:
- Go red or go home. Though the many shades of orange, yellow and green may add a visual oomph to your dish, the deeper red tomatoes are the most nutrient dense.
- Size does count… (just not how you think). Smaller tomato varieties, such as the grape or cherry tomato, are the highest in lycopene and are frequently the tastiest.
- Keep them on the counter. Refrigerating tomatoes can break down their flavor compounds and cause crystallization in the interior of the fruit, resulting in bland, pulpy tomatoes. Try to buy only what you need and keep them in a room-temperature location, safe from fruit flies.
- Cook them up! Cooking tomatoes causes lycopene to undergo a transformation that makes it easier for the body to absorb. Pasta primavera, anyone?
- Don’t fear the process. Amazingly enough, canned (BPA-free, of course) tomatoes are actually higher in nutritional value than fresh tomatoes, with cooked and canned tomato products such as tomato paste coming in at the highest levels of lycopene in the grocery store.
For more info on the benefits of lycopene-rich tomatoes:
And for a round up of summer recipes to maximize your heatwave-menus: