There’s something about fresh tomatoes that just feels like summer. It could be their bright array of colors, or the distinctive sweet “grassy” smell of a tomato plant.
Maybe it’s the joy of watching a kid pick a tomato right off the vine and bite right into it, with juice dribbling down their chin.
Tomatoes are sweet, juicy, rich in antioxidants, and come in a bunch of colorful varieties.
Fruit or vegetable? Eh, To-may-to, to-mah-to. Tomatoes are prepared like a vegetable but are botanically a fruit; a nutrient rich fruit linked to reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, among other health benefits. Now that’s something we can support.
Here's the rundown.
The tomato is a fruit from the nightshade family native to South America.
1 small (100g) small raw tomato (according to the USDA)
Vitamins: Vitamin C, Vitamin K1. Folate (Vitamin B9)
Antioxidants and Plant Compounds: Lycopene, Beta Carotene, Naringenin, Chlorogenic Acid
Tomatoes really pack a (healthy) punch.
Keeping kids, and parents, heart healthy
Lycopene and beta-carotene (which is converted to Vitamin A by your body) have been shown to decrease the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Lycopene has also been studied by the National Institutes of Health as a supplement for lowering LDL cholesterol, which is bad cholesterol. Tomatoes are also a good source of potassium, which is beneficial for blood pressure control and heart disease prevention, as well as vitamin K which is key for blood clotting and bone health.
In case you were wondering, lycopene is the most abundant carotenoid in ripened tomatoes, particularly red tomatoes. It’s even found in tomato products such as ketchup, tomato juice, tomato paste and tomato sauce. The best part? You can increase your lycopene absorption by consuming it with a source of fat – so grab a rich, fatty dressing like ranch and get to dipping!
Helping lessen inflammation
Chronic inflammation causes and advances many common diseases, such as asthma, heart disease, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and some cancers. Poor nutrition, obesity, and sleep problems all increase a child’s risk of chronic inflammation.
Fortunately, there are many studies that indicate tomato products are anti-inflammatory and reduce oxidative stress. Naringenin in particular, which is found in tomato skins, has been shown to decrease inflammation.
Reducing risk of some types of cancer
The National Institutes of Health has documented numerous observational studies revealing links between tomatoes, and tomato products, to fewer cases of prostate, lung and stomach cancers, and possibly breast cancer too. More research is needed, but it’s believed that once again, lycopene is the sauce of this wonderful health benefit.
Promoting a glowing, youthful complexion
If you already thanked the lycopene in your tomato, better thank it again. Tomato-based foods rich in lycopene and other plant compounds may help protect against sunburns, which will really come in handy when you’re out in the garden harvesting your tomatoes and you forget the sunscreen. According to one study, people who consumed 16 mg of lycopene (from 1.3 ounces – or 40 grams – of tomato paste) with olive oil every day for 10 weeks experienced 40% fewer sunburns. Which is ironic, really, because when you get a sunburn, your face turns…red as a tomato.
Supporting you if you’ve got a bun in the oven
If your child is still on the way, tomatoes are an excellent snack for you. They’re a good source of Folate, one of the B vitamins, which is important for normal tissue growth and cell function, particularly for pregnant women.
How to enjoy your tomatoes
In Heinz sight, there are just too many choices to list here. We’ll try to narrow it down to our favorites. There’s fresh tomatoes sprinkled with salt, tomato slices dipped in ranch dressing, cold tomato and cheese sandwiches, grilled tomato and cheese sandwiches, caprese salad (fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and sweet basil), bruschetta (classic Italian antipasto of chopped tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil and vinegar on toast), chunky tomato sauce over pasta, ooh pizza margherita with sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella…there are just so many options!
How to grow your tomatoes
Tomatoes are easiest to grow from a plant rather than a seed. And cherry or grape tomatoes are the perfect size for little hands to pick. See them in our recent post – 5 Best Vegetables for Kids to Grow in the Garden.
Dear tomato, I love you from my head…to-ma-toes!
You haven’t gone to grab a tomato yet? Well come on, ketchup! We’re already halfway to our garden. Please also share this post with anyone you know who could use some help adding veggies into their kids' diets (or their own)!