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Tomatoes: Even Better for You Than You Thought!

Did you know that tomatoes are a rich source of vital antioxidants like vitamin A, vitamin C and lycopene, which has been attributed to preventing cancer and other diseases?

In fact, tomatoes are one of the richest sources of lycopene (a powerful antioxidant similar to beta carotene) in our diets.

Think Fresh is Best? Think Again.

Although Americans each eat more than 16 pounds of fresh tomatoes a year, we consume the equivalent of 79 pounds in processed tomatoes annually, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Canned tomatoes can be more nutritious than fresh because theyíre picked red and ripe and processed in a manner that helps retain all the goodness. Scientists have also discovered that packaged, heat-processed tomato products, such as spaghetti sauce, can deliver over six times more lycopene than the equivalent amount of fresh tomatoes. This is because the heat used during processing breaks down tomato cell walls, allowing the lycopene to be better absorbed into the digestive tract. Itís important to note that lycopene is fatsoluble, making it more easily absorbed if eaten with fat. So, add a little olive oil, cheese or meat to your favorite tomato-based dish to reap the full benefit of lycopene.

What Antioxidants Do for You

Antioxidants are vital parts of a healthy diet. Lycopene is known to be the most potent of all antioxidants. A diet rich in Vitamin C from fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, heart attack, and diabetes. Vitamin C lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, helps thin blood and protects it against oxidation. Fat-soluble vitamin A is involved in the formation and maintenance of healthy skin, hair and mucous membranes. It helps us to see in dim light and is necessary for proper bone growth, tooth development, and reproduction.

How Can I Make Tomatoes Part of My Diet?

Here are some quick and easy additional ways to get your daily dose of tomatoes:

 Eat Italian. Get in the habit of serving a side of pasta with red sauce at dinner. Use crushed tomatoes to make your own sauce at home, or use your favorite prepared spaghetti sauce.

Vegetarian chili. Make a fast, savory chili by mixing a can of whole tomatoes with a can of low-fat bean soup. Stir in diced, fresh carrots, onions and a handful or two of raisins. Season to taste with cumin and a shake of powdered cinnamon.

Add red to your greens. Toss some diced tomatoes in your salad. Try diced tomatoes with added seasonings to add great taste.

Tomato-meatloaf. Mix a small can of tomato sauce into meatloaf, along with the other ingredients, to add extra flavor.

Ravioli with Tomatoes, Onions and Zucchini

Ingredients needed:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium zucchini, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes with sweet onions
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 pound frozen, prepared jumbo cheese or meat ravioli, cooked, drained, kept warm
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Steps to prepare:

1. HEAT oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and garlic; cook about 5 minutes stirring frequently until zucchini is tender.

2. STIR in tomatoes, tomato paste and seasoning. Simmer over low heat, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

3. POUR about 3 cups of the zucchini-tomato sauce on serving platter. Place ravioli over it then top with remaining sauce. Garnish with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Prep time: 10 minutes; Cooking time: 15 minutes; Serving Size: 239g; Servings: 4; Nutrition Facts: Calories Per Serving: 320; Fat Calories Per Serving: 110; % Daily Values*: Total Fat: 12g (19%); Saturated Fat:3.5g (17%); Cholesterol: 115mg (38%); Sodium: 620mg (26%); Total Carbohydrates: 36g (12%); Dietary Fiber: 2g (9%); Sugars: 9g; Protein: 16g; Vitamin A: 15%; Vitamin C: 30%; Calcium: 20%; Iron: 10%

*Percent daily values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.


The American Dietetic Association Knowledge Center

For food and nutrition information or for a referral to a dietetics professional in your area call: 800/366-1655 or visit: http://www.eatright.org/.

This fact sheet is sponsored by Huntísģ. The contents have been reviewed by the American Dietetic Associationís Fact Sheet Review Board. The appearance of this information does not constitute an endorsement by ADA of the sponsorís products or services. This fact sheet was prepared for the general public. Questions regarding its content and use should be directed to a dietetics professional. This fact sheet expires 10/1/2005.

Visit http://www.hunts.com/ for other convenient and nutritious recipes.

©2002 ADA. Reproduction of this fact sheet is permitted for educational purposes. Reproduction for sales purposes is not authorized.


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