Tomatoes are a staple food item in our household. On days when I am busy or simply feeling a tad lazy to cook veggies, I will place a bowl of raw cherry tomatoes along with cucumbers on the dining table, just so the kids have their daily consumption of fiber and raws. This fruit that acts like a vegetable is loaded with health properties. Yep, tomatoes are citrus fruits, not veggie as many have mistaken.
My girls love tomatoes, fortunately! They like tomato omelette, tomato and beef bolognese, raw tomatoes, tomato soup and tomato rice. Yesterday, I whipped up a whole tomato rice dish in the rice cooker. A one-pot meal, that is. It is very very easy to cook and tastes very very good too, if you use the right ingredients.
My one-pot tomato rice — food ‘decor’ done by the drama queen
Just throw in a few whole tomatoes into your rice cooker and whatever ingredients that you fancy and walaaa… you get a very wholesome pot of yummy-ness! See, you do not even need to peel the tomato skin. Save the skin as it contains high concentration of carotenoids. And if you can afford it, get organic ones.
Don’t you just love the bright colors in this pot of rice? It even has shiitake mushrooms, another super food like the tomato.
Tomatoes contain all four major carotenoids: alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene. These carotenoids may have individual benefits, but also have synergy as a group (that is, they interact to provide health benefits).
In particular, tomatoes contain awesome amounts of lycopene,thought to have the highest antioxidant activity of all the carotenoids.
Tomatoes and broccoli have synergy that may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. One study showed that prostate tumors grew much more slowly in rats that were fed both tomato and broccoli powder than in rats given lycopene as a supplement or fed just the broccoli or tomato powder alone.
Tomatoes are rich in potassium, a mineral most of us don’t get enough of. A cup of tomato juice contains 534 milligrams of potassium, and 1/2 cup of tomato sauce has 454 milligrams.
When tomatoes are eaten along with healthier fats, like avocado or olive oil, the body’s absorption of the carotenoid phytochemicals in tomatoes can increase by two to 15 times, according to a study from Ohio State University.
Tomatoes are a big part of the famously healthy Mediterranean diet. Many Mediterranean dishes and recipes call for tomatoes or tomato paste or sauce. Some recent studies, including one from The University of Athens Medical School, have found that people who most closely follow the Mediterranean diet have lower death rates from heart disease and cancer. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, who followed more than 39,000 women for seven years, found that consumption of oil- and tomato-based products — particularly tomato and pizza sauce — was associated with cardiovascular benefits.
The tomato has been referred to as a “functional food,” a food that goes beyond providing just basic nutrition, additionally preventing chronic disease and delivering other health benefits, due to beneficial phytochemicals such as lycopene.
Tomato peels contribute a high concentration of the carotenoids found in tomatoes. The amount of carotenoids absorbed by human intestinal cells was much greater with tomato paste enriched with tomato peels compared to tomato paste without peels, according to a study from Marseille, France. The tomato skin also holds most of the flavonols (another family of phytochemicals that includes quercetin and kaempferol) as well. So to maximize the health propertiesof tomatoes, don’t peel them if you can help it!
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