To-may-toe, to-mah-toe – however you say it, there's nothing quite like a tomato picked at the height of summer. The "love apple," as it's sometimes known in France, is in full bloom after soaking up some sun, and it's ready for action on your plate. Tomatoes come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors, including red, pink, yellow, orange, green, purple, brown and even black. Another interesting tidbit: While most of us commonly associate this superfood with Italian cuisine, the tomato is originally native to South America.
In addition to its interesting history, bright colors and delicious taste, this seemingly humble salad ingredient is a nutritional all-star. While tomatoes are packed with vitamin C, K and potassium, it's the abundant lycopene that deserves special attention. Lycopene fights free radicals and protects tissue against damage from oxidation. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to prevent prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease and even bone deterioration. As a bonus for those watching their waistlines, tomatoes are naturally low in calories and high in fiber, so they help you feel fuller for longer.
If you're not sold on tomatoes yet, keep this next benefit in mind while sporting those summer tank tops: Tomatoes are great for your skin. By helping to maintain collagen (a structural component of skin), vitamin C makes your skin appear smooth and youthful and helps prevent skin from becoming dry. Plus, the dose of vitamin A in tomatoes helps moisturize and heal skin tissue, while the lycopene helps to protect your skin from sun damage. (But you still have to wear sunscreen no matter how many tomatoes you eat!)
Ready to get in on some tomato action? Much more than just a great salad topper, here are a few ways to enjoy this versatile food.
In a refreshing summer salad:
Fresh Tomato, Corn and Green Bean Salad (Serves 6)
Cut kernels from cobs and set aside. Add salt and pepper to taste.
To make the basil chiffonade, clean and dry basil leaves. Stack them on top of each other; roll into a log, then slice very finely. Add 1/2 to the corn and toss.
In a separate bowl, toss the green beans with the walnut oil.
Slice the heirloom tomatoes, then divide and arrange on 6 separate plates. Divide and place the green beans on the tomato slices, lay the corn next to the beans and garnish with remaining basil.
As part of your healthy skin regimen:
As a delicious, refreshing cocktail:
Bloody Mary Remix
Put a twist on the traditional bloody mary by using a homemade veggie blend and substituting sake for the usual vodka. Sake has a lower alcohol content than vodka and is free of sulfites and other additives, so it's less likely to give you a hangover. Try this recipe from Ty Ku Sake.
Mix tomato juice and sake. Add soy sauce, lime and wasabi, and mix again. Serve over ice and enjoy!
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Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, is the founder and president of Nutritious Life, a nutrition practice based in New York City, and Nutritious Life Meals, a gourmet, healthy, daily diet delivery program available across the country. She is a member of Women's Health Magazine's advisory board and has authored Slim Calm Sexy Diet, The O2 Diet, and The Snack Factor Diet. Her fourth book, The New You and Improved Diet, will be released in December. Her expertise is regularly featured on the Today show, Good Morning America, and Access Hollywood Live, among others, and she hosts "A Little Bit Better" on YouTube's Livestrong Woman channel. Read more of Keri's tips every day on Facebook!