Let's talk about lycopene. Yes, we know: You came here for the delicious recipes, not discussion of scientific terms. Most people don't need another reason to eat tomato-based dishes. They're delicious, common to many styles of cuisine and a great addition to comfort foods. But if you'll allow us, we'd like to give you yet another reason to continue eating them.
Lycopene is the antioxidant compound in tomatoes that is responsible for giving them the rich, red color we know and love, but it also offers a more important benefit: It may help fight cancer. And medical experts like those at the American Cancer Society believe that cooking tomatoes actually increase the body's absorption of the antioxidant. So feel free to indulge more in favorite dishes like spaghetti or chili -- just make sure the recipe has other healthy ingredients as well. On the following pages, we offer several healthy stewed tomato recipes that will help you get more beneficial lycopene in your diet.
Stewed tomatoes are versatile and can be used as a base for many different foods. Take this spicy tomato sauce, for example. You can use it on anything from chili to baked or mixed pastas and smothered meats. Just combine two cans of stewed tomatoes with the usual suspects: olive oil, onion, garlic and oregano. Then for an extra kick of heat and interest, add chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, cloves and red pepper flakes. Blend and heat these ingredients together and you have a sauce that will liven up any Mexican or Italian dish.
Stewed tomatoes can be a great addition to any recipe, but if you're going for major health benefits, try combining them with other nutritious ingredients -- like those on the next page -- for a delicious meal.
Healthy foods can be delicious, but the key to eating right is to find tasty substitutions that offer a healthier alternative. This turkey sausage pasta toss does just that by including turkey sausage -- as opposed to its pork counterparts -- for lots of low-fat protein. A stewed tomato base gives the pasta a hearty taste. Add reduced-fat pesto, fresh asparagus or broccoli while the mixture cooks. After letting it simmer, serve it over cooked penne pasta. You're not done yet: Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over the dish for the finish.
Stewed tomatoes lend themselves well to soups, like the one on the next page.
Mediterranean food has been lauded by nutritionists, like those at the Mayo Clinic, as a heart- and brain-healthy diet because it contains lots of vegetables and fish -- as evidenced by this Mediterranean fish soup recipe. This soup contains white fish and stewed tomatoes with shrimp and chicken broth (both low-fat), pastina, onion, garlic, fennel seeds, parsley, black pepper and turmeric. Curcumin, the substance in turmeric that gives the spice its yellow color, is thought by researchers to provide a bit of protection against Alzheimer's disease, says the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research.
Italian food is one of the quintessential tomato-based cuisines. Our next stewed tomatoes recipe celebrates that tradition.
Stop for a moment and think of the components of a healthy dish. Chances are, some of the very things you were thinking of are ingredients you'll find in this Tuscan pasta. Veggies, like stewed tomatoes, that are filled with cancer-fighting antioxidants? Check. A heart-healthy lean meat like chicken? Check. Beans that provide lots of fiber for a healthy digestive system? Check. This recipe includes a variety of other vegetables, including tomato sauce, mushrooms, bell peppers, celery and onions, along with garlic and Italian seasoning. It's served over thin spaghetti.
Our next recipe is a real prize winner.
Not only is this blackened mahi mahi with mango salsa healthy, it's award winning, earning fourth place in Hunt's 2009 Best Meals, Best Moments recipe contest. The dish has plenty of stewed tomatoes, along with a number of seasonings: lime, garlic, cumin, cilantro, oregano, ginger, paprika, salt, pepper, ground black pepper and ground red pepper. Mango, red onion and jalapeño pepper add both sweetness and spice. With all of those ingredients, don't forget the most important one: the mahi mahi filets.
As you can see, stewed tomatoes can be just as at home in more exotic dishes as they are in traditional comfort foods like pastas. If you'd like to explore more tomato recipes and resources, keep reading for lots more information.
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- American Cancer Society. "Lycopene." (Nov. 5, 2010) http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/ComplementaryandAlternativeMedicine/DietandNutrition/lycopene
- BBC. "Tomato ingredients fight cancer." Nov. 5, 2003. (Nov. 5, 2010)http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3239483.stm
- First, Devra. "Red menace: How the 'strange and horrible' tomato conquered Italy, and America." Boston Globe. Aug. 15, 2010. (Nov. 5, 2010)http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2010/08/15/red_menace/
- FruitsAndVeggiesMatter.gov. "Vegetable of the Month: Tomato." (Nov. 5, 2010)http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/month/tomato.html
- Hunts. Tomato User's Guide. (Nov. 5, 2010)http://www.hunts.com/product_userguide.jsp
- Iowa Department of Public Health. "Featured Fruit: Tomato." (Nov. 5, 2010)http://www.idph.state.ia.us/pickabettersnack/common/pdf/factsheets/tomato.pdf
- Mayo Clinic. "Mediterranean diet: Choose this heart-healthy diet option." June 19, 2010. (Nov. 5, 2010)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mediterranean-diet/CL00011
- Penn State. "Tomatoes and Cancer." 2004. (Nov. 5, 2010)http://extension.psu.edu/HealthWellness/tomato/TOMATOfactsht.pdf
- Pennsylvania Nutrition. "What's so great about tomatoes?" (Nov. 5, 2010)http://www.panen.org/sites/default/files/SNAC%20Materials/Tomato_Newsletter2.pdf
- Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation. "Preserving Your Memory: The Latest News on Alzheimer's Disease and Brain Health." Summer 2009. (Nov. 5, 2010)http://www.alzinfo.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/PYM_Summer09.pdf