Today I was about to prepare lunch when I realized the only feasible food options I had in the refrigerator was a few fillets of basa fish I fried the night before. They were good, but they didn’t spark any enthusiasm when I looked at them. And I knew my family was going to feel the same way.

So, I cut up a few tomatoes, added thin slices of onion, a little olive oil, sherry vinegar and some salt and voila! The shiny red tomatoes placed around the plate of microwaved-day-old fish really saved my lunch.

I find myself doing this tomato trick a lot. After all, tomatoes are very good for you.

This vegetable-fruit produce originated in South America; it was brought by the Spaniards to Europe in the 1550’s and from there to the rest of the world. The Spaniards also introduced tomatoes to the Philippines and to Asia.

The nutritional properties are countless. They contain vitamin A and C; they are rich in fiber, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, vitamin B and lycopene. And it is this last ingredient that is creating a lot of attention for the tomato plant. Lycopene is an antioxidant, that is, it has the property of decreasing free radicals that ultimately are responsible for the growth of cancer cells. So, it decreases the incidence of cancer. It also influences the health of the heart and the skin. Ladies, eating tomatoes regularly can prevent premature aging and chronic disease.

Another interesting fact is that lycopene is released from the tomato cells when heated. We know that cooked and processed tomatoes contain more lycopene than raw ones. Which brings us to what I have advised many times before in this blog. My multi-purpose tomato sauce, described in previous blogs, is not only convenient but also very healthy indeed.

Although I’ve always liked the flavor of tomatoes, I must admit I’m often unable to find good tasting ones. I often feel like the tomatoes I find in the store need a bit more sun exposure to develop a deeper aroma. But I recently found a brand of tomatoes that taste great, the way I remember from decades ago. I found them at my local HEB store and they come from Village Farms L.P. in Eatontown, New Jersey. They come in a transparent plastic box, on the vine, and they are marketed as “Sinfully Sweet Campari”. I must add that I don’t have any financial agreement with HEB, Village Farms or any other company; I am reporting to you what I see and like.

Next time you don’t know how to add sparkle to your food, just add tomatoes!

About the Author

Dr. Katalenas

Dr. Katalenas is a pediatrician and owner of The Pediatric Center of Round Rock and the author of the book "The Step Up Diet: From Scratch… The Quality, Quantity, and Timing Solution to Childhood Obesity", a guide to healthy cooking and eating for busy families.