It’s What Makes a Tomato Red!
One of the things that set a homegrown tomato apart from the rest of the summer’s bounty is its beautiful red color. This color comes from a collection of beneficial plant chemicals called lycopenoids. The most common one is called lycopene. This carotenoid pigment is very rich in antioxidant activity to help prevent chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
While many of us work towards getting more raw foods in our daily meal plan, heat may actually help activate lycopene, making it even more powerful. A cooked spaghetti or pizza sauce is a great way to get a concentrated source of lycopene.
Research shows that taking a lycopene supplement does not have the same benefit as getting this nutrient from eating a tomato. So now is the time to take advantage of the fresh, local tomatoes coming into the garden and local farmer’s market. Consider canning or drying some to have a steady supply of salsa, spaghetti sauce and dried tomatoes throughout the year.
Because lycopene is a fat soluble carotenoid pigment, fat is needed to absorb it better from those tomatoes. Try adding a little drizzle of olive oil on top of sliced tomatoes, chunks of avocados with fresh salsa or a few walnuts on top of a tomato and mozzarella salad.
As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I love learning more about the connection to what we eat and how it affects our health. In addition to tomatoes tasting delicious and looking beautiful, it is nice to know that the beautiful red color also provides health benefit too!
I wanted to share a recipe that I hope that you will love. It is easy to make and rich in lycopene.
Recipe and article contributed by Denise Barratt, RDN and Slow Food Asheville board member. Learn more about Denise Barratt at www.vineripenutrition.com.
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