Monday, September 6, 2010

Fruit of the Week: Tomato (yes, it is a fruit but served as a vegetable!)

Sources: http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov, http://healthmad.com

Tomatoes are members of the fruit family, but they are served and prepared as a vegetable. This is why most people consider them a vegetable and not a fruit. Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of vitamin A.

Varieties
There are thousands of tomato varieties. The most widely available varieties are classified in three groups: cherry, plum, and slicing tomatoes. A new sweet variety like the cherry tomato is the grape tomato, really wonderful to eat alone or in a salad.

How To Select
Cold temperatures damage tomatoes, so never buy tomatoes that are stored in a cold area. Choose plump tomatoes with smooth skins that are free from bruises, cracks, or blemishes. Depending on the variety, ripe tomatoes should be completely red or reddish-orange.

Storage
Store tomatoes at room temperature (above 55 degrees) until they have fully ripened. This will allow them to ripen properly and develop good flavor and aroma. Try to store tomatoes out of direct sunlight, because sunlight will cause them to ripen unevenly. If you must store them for a longer period of time, place them in the refrigerator. Serve them at room temperature. Chopped tomatoes can be frozen for use in sauces or other cooked dishes.

Health Benefits of Tomatoes
- Anti-oxidant: Tomatoes contain a lot of vitamins A and C, mostly because of beta-carotene, and these vitamins act as an anti-oxidant, working to neutralize dangerous free radicals in the blood stream. These dangerous free radicals can cause cell damage. And keep in mind, the more red the tomato, the more beta-carotene it contains. Also, remember that cooking destroys much of vitamin C, so stick with raw tomatoes for these benefits.
- Diabetes: Tomatoes also have plenty of the mineral chromium, which helps diabetics to keep their blood sugar level under control.
- Smoking: No, tomatoes can’t help you stop smoking, but what they can do is to help reduce the damage smoking does to your body. Tomatoes contain chlorogenic acid and coumaric acid, which help to fight against some of the carcinogens brought about by cigarette smoke.
- Vision: Because of all that vitamin A, tomatoes are also an excellent food to help improve your vision. This also means tomatoes can help your eyes be better about night blindness.
- Heart troubles: Due to potassium and vitamin B, tomatoes help to lower blood pressure and to lower high cholesterol levels. This, in turn, could help prevent strokes, heart attack and other potentially life-threatening heart problems.
- Skin care: Because of high amounts of lycopene, a substance found in many of the more expensive over-the-counter facial cleansers, tomatoes are great for skin care. The best way to use tomatoes for skin care is to peel a bunch of them, then lay back and place the tomato skins on your face (or other skin areas) for at least 10 minutes.
- Hair: Remember all that vitamin A in tomatoes? Well, it’s good for keeping your hair strong and shiny, and its also good for your eyes, teeth, skin and bones.
- Cancer: Various studies have shown that because of all that lycopene in tomatoes, the red fruit helps to lessen the chances of prostate cancer in men, and also reduces the chance of stomach cancer and colorectal cancer. Lycopene is considered somewhat of a natural miracle anti-oxidant that may help to stop the growth of cancer cells. And, interestingly enough, cooked tomatoes produce more lycopene than do raw tomatoes, so enjoy that tomato soup!
- Bones: Tomatoes have a fair amount of vitamin K and calcium, both of which help to strengthen and possibly repair in minor ways bones and bone tissue.
- Kidney stones and gallstones: Eating tomatoes without the seeds has been shown in some studies to lessen the risk of gallstones and kidney stones.

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