From heart to skin - the benefits of tomatoes
In Italian it is called ‘pomodoro’, from the latin “fruit of gold” and this is not exaggerated.
We all know how tasty and versatile the tomato is, but this wonderful fruit does not only look after our palate. It is a powerhouse of phytochemical goodness – even when from a tin.
Like many plant-food, it is a good source of fibre - It will help regulating your digestion, feeding your benevolent microbiota that is nested in your colon.
It is rich in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin E and Potassium. These essential nutrients play a crucial part in supporting your immune system, helping with the production of collagen, insuring cell integrity against oxidative stress and regulating your blood pressure.
But less known is that tomatoes are a wonderful source of a particularly interesting polyphenol, the lycopene (also found, in smaller quantities, in watermelon, pink grapefruit and pink guavas).
Scientists are currently investigating this phytochemical as it is a powerful anti-oxidant that could prevent cell damage in many levels. In particular, many studies have highlighted its protective effect against heart disease, UV, certain cancers and for bone health. Bigger and stronger studies are required to confirm lycopene potential but it is, for sure, a nutrient that should be on our plate.
Interestingly, the bioavailability (or, in other words, the availability for absorption when ingested) of lycopene in tomatoes increases when they are cooked. This means that, for lycopene, a tomato pasta sauce is even better than a raw tomato salad.
So, have no guilt using shop-bought tomato soup or Bolognese sauce (just make sure that it isn’t too loaded in added-sugar and salt) or try this simple recipe:
Homemade Tomato sauce
800g ripen tomatoes
3 garlic clove, slightly crushed
5 leaves basil, roughly shredded
1 tsp sugar
Chop roughly your tomatoes and place them in a large bowl with the garlic cloves, basil, sugar and a pinch of salt. Stir.
Seal with cling film and leave it to “rest” for at least 2 hours (This will enable the subtle flavours to be revealed but if you are in a rush, skip this stage and go straight to the next step.)
In a deep, heavy-based pan, over medium heat, heat-up a bit of olive oil and add the tomato mix. Leave it to reduce for 15-20 mins until it reaches the right thickness. Remove and discard the garlic cloves.
Serve as a sauce with pasta or as a soup with rustic bread, or use as the tomato base for a pizza.