Time for tomatoes!

Tomato season is in full swing, so brace yourself for nutrition, taste and color — and the many ways to eat them, from fresh with a touch of salt or mayo, to stewed and baked in recipes or dried or frozen for later.

What's so great about tomatoes?

One serving of ripe raw tomatoes is packed with vitamins A, C, K, B6, folate, potassium, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus and copper — not to mention fiber.

Tomatoes also have just 18 calories per 1/2 cup and zero cholesterol. Dietitians often recommend them in cholesterol-control and weight-reduction diet programs.

They contain all four major carotenoids: alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein and the one you may know about — lycopene — which gives tomatoes their bright color. Lycopene helps increase bone mass, which is critical in preventing osteoporosis, and helps reduce the risk of prostate and other cancers.

The combination of being low in saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol and high in fiber helps your body battle against high blood pressure, high cholesterol, strokes, and heart disease.

And, the choline found in tomatoes can help with sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory. Choline also helps maintain your cell membranes, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, assists in the absorption of fat and reduces chronic inflammation.

So, the only reason not to eat tomatoes is food allergies or digestive conditions. 

Cooking ideas for every taste

Tuck them into your meals in soups, stews, sauces! Here are popular ways to eat them:

  • Dip grape or cherry tomatoes in hummus or plain yogurt dip for a snack.
  • Add sliced tomato to your sandwiches and wraps.
  • Add diced canned tomatoes (low sodium) to homemade or jarred marinara sauces when making pasta.
  • Used canned diced or stewed tomatoes in soups.
  • Have a piece of toast with avocado and tomato slices.
  • Make your own quick salsa with diced tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, cilantro and freshly squeezed lime.
  • Dice fresh tomatoes and add them to rice and beans, quesadillas or tacos. Add them to your omelets or scrambles.
  • Drizzle balsamic vinegar over freshly sliced tomatoes and mozzarella and top with chopped basil.
  • Make a quick bruschetta for an appetizer.

Important tip: Store fresh tomatoes at room temperature. Don’t refrigerate because this causes tomatoes to lose flavor and texture.

Preservation tips:  Freeze tomatoes whole; pour boiling water over them, wait until cool to the touch and easily “slip” off the skins before tucking into freezer bags, whole.

Tomatoes help your skin

Tomatoes contain a high level of lycopene, which is a substance that is used in some of the more pricy facial cleansers that are available for purchase over-the-counter.

If you want to try tomatoes for skin care, you need to start with about eight to twelve tomatoes. Peel the tomatoes and then place the tomato skins on your face with the inside touching your skin.

Leave them on your face for at least ten minutes, then wash. Your face will feel clean and shiny.