Amazing ingredients: Tasty tomatoes
The humble tomato is a staple in our diets, and whether you refer to tomatoes as a fruit or vegetable, we're in no doubt that this super-food should form part of any healthy diet. But tomatoes haven't always been popular - did you know that 200 years ago they were believed to be poisonous because the tomato plant is part of the nightshade family, some of which are poisonous?
1 medium tomato contains just 22 calories, 5g carbs and 1g protein - with no fat. Tomatoes are loaded with vitamins A and C, folic acid and antioxidants including alpha-lipoic acid, folic acid, choline, lycopene, lutein and beta-carotene. Lycopene is responsible for the rich red colour of tomatoes. Choline can help with learning and memory, muscle movements and sleep whilst alpha-lipoic acid can help your body convert glucose into energy. There's evidence to suggest that tomatoes could protect your eyesight in diabetic patients and prevent retinopathy (1).
Tomatoes can help to protect against free radical formation which could protect against cancer, lycopene has been linked to prostrate cancer prevention and tomatoes can support a healthy heart too. Did you know the folic acid in tomatoes could prevent too much homocysteine from forming in the brain? Excess homocysteine can prevent nutrients from reaching the brain and interfere with serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine production, which could affect sleep, appetite and mood.
Whether you're using cherry, plum, beef or vine tomatoes, this versatile, delicious vegetable (or fruit) can be used in a variety of dishes - if you're looking for some inspiration, we have some recipes for you!
Forget the creamy, canned variety - home-made tomato soup is SO easy to make - and it's delicious! This Jamie Oliver recipe uses immune-boosting garlic and onions, heart-healthy olive oil and ripe tomatoes; it takes just minutes to make and is the ultimate comfort food.
Most of us have never thought to make our own tomato ketchup but it's well worth it to cut back on the sugar and salt in store-bought varieties. With ginger, garlic and chilli, and 1kg of tomatoes, this home-made version is loaded with antioxidants.and flavour - it's a grown up, spicy alternative to your favourite brand that tastes as good with chips as it does with fish.
You can't go wrong with a good home-made tomato pasta sauce - it's the basis of many Italian dishes, from spaghetti bolognese to lasagne - but it's equally good served with plain old pasta (and maybe some veggies) for a quick dinner. When you bear in mind how much sugar is contained in many supermarket jars of tomato pasta sauce, making your own makes perfect sense - and it's easy to pick up the store cupboard ingredients on your weekly shop, so you'll always have pasta sauce to hand. Make a big batch as this freezes well too.
Tartlets are great served with roast veggies or salad for a light lunch, and these ones use sweet, juicy cherry tomatoes. Buying ready-to-use shortcrust pastry (available fresh or frozen at your local supermarket) means this dish is quick and easy to serve - you can add extra veggies of your choice, depending on what you have in the fridge.
This super-healthy vegan curry packs a triple whammy of goodness into dinner time thanks to protein-packed chickpeas, vitamin C and iron loaded spinach and of course tomatoes. It counts as 2 of your 5 a day and has less than 200 calories per serving - we recommend serving up with some tasty naan bread or brown rice (or small portions of both, if you're treating yourself). Yum!
This tasty salad is amazing served alone, with a light dressing of olive oil and wine vinegar, but equally good on toasted ciabatta for lunch or dinner. Tomatoes take on a really sweet, delicious flavour when roasted, which complements the creamy mozzarella and peppery rocket perfectly. Even if you're not the biggest tomato fan - this salad is sure to convert you!
You know the sad looking little back of fresh chutney/salad that you get when you order an Indian takeaway? You can make your own at home, and it tastes amazing. The perfect accompaniment to curry or spicy food such as Mexican meals, this fresh-tasting tomato chutney recipe includes red onions, coriander, good fats from the olive oil, cumin and plenty of juicy tomatoes. Make a big batch as this is sure to be popular.
If you're a fan of Moroccan cuisine, you've probably picked up a jar of spicy Harissa paste at some point. But making your own is surprisingly simple and will add a whole extra layer of depth and flavour to home-cooked tagines and spicy Moroccan chicken. With cumin, caraway and coriander seeds, smoked paprika, red chillies, tomatoes, immune-boosting garlic, olive oil and rosewater, this fiery paste is a delicious way to marinate chicken or fish and will keep for several months in the fridge!
Of course, you're not limited by these recipes or ideas - you can add tomatoes to anything you like! Try chopping some and adding to an omelette for an antioxidant boost, including tomatoes in your wraps or sandwiches, adding to dips such as salsa or guacamole or making a fresh, juicy tomato salad. Tomatoes are one of the most versatile veggies around and they're the perfect way to add colour, flavour and nutrition to your cooking!
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