September 1, 2008

By johnmac

September is such a great time of year. I love the weather and all of the delicious, local fruits and vegetables that are available.I have been enjoying, fresh, organic, vine-ripened tomatoes out of my garden for the past several weeks now, so I thought that tomatoes would be a great topic for this month.

Tomatoes are well known for being a fruit…not a vegetable. In addition to being an excellent source of vitamins C, A and K, tomatoes are packed with numerous, health-promoting antioxidants, such as lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are most popular for maintaining eye health, while lycopene has attracted much attention in the area of cancer prevention and especially prostate health. More recent studies are also finding that tomatoes are beneficial for cardiovascular health. While a tomato’s various nutrients all promote certain aspects of health on their own, it is the combination of them in the whole food state that provides the greatest benefits.

Tomatoes are members of the nightshade family, which also includes eggplants, peppers and potatoes. Nightshades may cause problems in individuals with certain health concerns, especially in cases of arthritic/rheumatic conditions. This is due to the fact that they contain alkaloids. Alkaloids are substances that can have a negative impact on the function of the nervous system, muscular system and digestive system, as well as damaging joints. It is also fairly common to have a food sensitivity to nightshades, so for some individuals, nightshades should be avoided. Note that potatoes with green spots and/or sprouts should be discarded as this is usually a sign of high alkaloid content.

Unfortunately, due to the delicate texture of fully vine-ripened tomatoes, many commercial operations pick them when they are green so that they can be more easily packaged and shipped. They are exposed to ethylene gas to make them turn red, thus appearing ripe without actually ripening. You can avoid this practice by buying organic tomatoes. The good news is that canned tomatoes are usually picked when they are fully ripened and processed quickly, so at certain times of the year, canned tomatoes will be higher in nutritional value that the tomatoes you buy in the produce department. Note that some sources claim that canned tomatoes are a tonic for the gall bladder.

Tomatoes are among the easiest vegetables to grow, so if you’ve never tried it, consider planting some next year. They also do very well in pots if yard space is an issue. It is always best to eat produce that is in season and grown locally.

Here is one of my favourite ways to enjoy tomatoes at this time of year. Chop up a couple of large, very ripe tomatoes into 1 cm cubes and put them in a mixing bowl. Add one clove of fresh, minced garlic and a handful of chopped, fresh basil leaves. Add a pinch or two of sea salt and drizzle generously with cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil. You can add more or less of any ingredient to suit your taste. Mix together, mashing the tomatoes slightly and let stand for 5 or 10 minutes to let the flavours blend.

The mixture is delicious on barbecued chicken and fish, or as a base for a veggie pizza. My favourite is to use it as a topping for sprouted-grain pasta. Ezekiel 4:9 (brand name) makes a great sprouted grain penne that cooks in just 4 to 5 minutes . Simply cook and drain the pasta then toss it with the tomato mixture. Sprinkle with fresh parmesan cheese (if you wish) and serve. It makes a lovely summer dish and it is so quick and easy.


p.s. October is just around the corner and is officially the start of the flu season. Please be prepared by having Oscillococcinum® on hand (see October 2007 in the Tip of the Month Archive section for more information). You can purchase Oscillococcinum® at the Natural Health Centre.


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