With tomatoes, opt for processed
When it comes to processed foods, dietitians’ advice is usually along the lines of “avoid them.”
But with tomatoes, Emmaline Rasmussen has a different take.
“Tomatoes are really the one exception where I’m saying to people, ‘Go for the processed version,’” said Rasmussen, a dietitian at Chicago’s NorthShore University HealthSystem.
Tomatoes are an extremely rich source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties.
Several studies have suggested that consuming lycopene-containing foods may reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Preparation: The way tomatoes are prepared can impact how much of a health benefit we derive.
Crushing or finely dicing tomatoes helps liberate the lycopene from cell walls, Rasmussen said. And lycopene is better absorbed by the body after it’s been heated, either during the canning process or by cooking — especially with a little dietary fat, such as extra-virgin olive oil.
“The heating kind of does
the work for our bodies,”
Rasmussen likes to simmer finely diced tomatoes with garlic and leeks or onions in olive oil over low, or medium-low, heat. She lets it cook for about 45 minutes, making a batch and keeping it in the refrigerator to use throughout the week. She suggested serving it over spaghetti squash, for example, or with chicken.
You can still get the lycopene boost through store-bought tomato paste or sauce, she added.
Just grab one of the low-
sodium varieties to avoid the unhealthy side effects of too much salt.