Did you know that canned tomatoes have multiple health benefits? Yes, these antioxidant-rich plant foods can help fight disease and promote optimal health. Plus, canned tomatoes are easy, inexpensive, and delicious. Check out these top 9 tips for enjoying canned tomatoes plus my favorite collection of canned tomato recipes.
Did you know that every time you bite into a crunchy salsa-covered taco, a pile of pasta smothered in marinara, or a steaming bowl of tomato soup, you’re gaining health benefits associated with eating tomato products? Yes, canned tomato products, including canned diced, crushed or whole tomatoes, marinara sauce, pizza sauce, tomato paste, tomato sauce and soup, are rich in numerous health-protective nutrients, including fiber, potassium, vitamin C and lycopene—the antioxidant compound that gives tomatoes their beautiful red hue. And when tomatoes are cooked—as in canned tomatoes—lycopene is even more available to your body because cooking opens the cell walls in the tomato plant to allow the lycopene to be absorbed into your body. That’s why eating a few servings of tomato products per week is linked to health benefits, including reduced risks of prostate cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, sun-related skin damage, and more.
I asked top nutritionists for their favorite tips for getting more canned tomato products into your day. Check out these great canned tomato recipe ideas and suggestions and enjoy a batch of tomato products today!
Top 9 tips to enjoy canned tomatoes
1. Go for canned tomatoes more often than fresh ones
While nothing beats a fresh tomato on the vine during peak summer, it’s great fun to enjoy more canned tomatoes throughout the year, especially when fresh is out of season. Fresh, out-of-season tomatoes can lack flavor and texture, and have a higher environmental footprint than transport or growing in a heated greenhouse. And remember, these canned tomatoes are just as (if not more) nutritious as fresh ones. “Lycopene, an important plant nutrient found to be protective against cancer in lab work, is more readily absorbed in processed tomatoes,” he says. Jean Lamantia, RDN. So try to enjoy more processed tomatoes than fresh ones – you can even use canned tomatoes in dishes like bruschetta, sandwich fillings and hummus.
2. Get creative with tomatoes
There is so much you can do with just one can of tomatoes, from stews and casseroles to curries and rice dishes. “Processed tomatoes are very versatile and can be used in many dishes, such as chili, pasta or pizza sauce and soups. Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, an important antioxidant known to protect against cancer and is good for blood pressure and heart health. It’s also an excellent source of vitamin C,” says Janet Brancato, MS, RDN of My Nutopia.
3. Load up on potassium
Another reason to love tomatoes is that they are good at lowering blood pressure because of their potassium. “Tomatoes are a good source of potassium, a nutrient needed to help lower blood pressure. They’re also part of a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet,” said Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD, owner of Sound Bites Nutrition. So load more potassium-rich tomato products into recipes like soups, stews, and rice dishes like this recipe above.
4. Choose Low Sodium Tomato Products
Along with potassium, it’s a good idea to limit sodium intake for healthy blood pressure levels. “I recommend using low sodium tomatoes. Potassium helps offset high sodium intake, a notable problem in today’s highly processed food diet. High sodium intake is blamed for the increasing incidence of high blood pressure,” says Wendy Rice, RDN. So, opt for low-sodium tomato products such as reduced-sodium tomato juice, marinara sauce, and salsa. And make your own homemade tomato soup (pictured above) for lower sodium meals.
5. Fight free radicals with lycopene
One of the benefits of tomato’s antioxidant compounds is that it fights oxidative stress, which protects you from chronic diseases. “Tomatoes are packed with vitamins C, A and K. Tomatoes also contain the antioxidant lycopene, which helps your body fight harmful free radicals. Lycopene has shown anti-cancer activity in some studies. Processing tomatoes makes lycopene more easily absorbed, so tomato sauce, salsa, and soups are great ways to consume them,” says Wendy Kaplan, MS, RDN, CDN of Food 4 Health RD.
6. Increase your produce intake with processed tomatoes
Every time you enjoy tomato products in a recipe, you’re boosting your all-important vegetable intake. “The term ‘processed food’ is loaded with so many emotions, unfortunately fear is usually at the top of the list. I encourage my clients to take a step back and see the bigger picture. We know that fruits and vegetables protect our bodies from disease, and we know that Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Canned tomatoes offer an affordable and convenient way for all of us to increase our produce intake and improve the nutrient density of our diet. Pick up a can or two the next time you’re at the grocery store, you can even find ‘No Salt Added’ varieties that are perfect for mixing into your favorite dinner recipes,” says Lindsey McCoy, RD, CSSD. Find her at Instagram @cravenutritionrd.
7. Stock your pantry with canned tomatoes
Always keep a few cans of tomato products — especially diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and marinara sauce — rolling around in your pantry for easy, on-the-fly meal solutions like sloppy joes, lentil stew, or sofritas tacos. “For home kitchens, ‘preserved’ tomatoes are shelf-stable, affordable, a great ingredient as part of a quick meal, beautiful red color, considered a vegetable, and nutritious AND delicious. So apart from the diet, don’t forget how many wonderful dishes contain canned tomatoes!’ says Cathy Foreman, MS, RDN, LD.
8. Cooking tomatoes really counts for nutrition!
The power of cooked tomatoes, as in canned tomatoes, is real. “You have to break the cell wall to get better access to lycopene. Cooking and crushing tomatoes makes it affordable. Watermelon is also very high in lycopene, but we don’t absorb it as well because we don’t usually cook watermelon. You’ll get more lycopene from the ketchup on your veggie burger than the piece of watermelon on the barbecue,” he says. Tina Marinacio, RDN. So go ahead and pile these tomato products on your next plate of pasta or bowl of chili.
9. Boost fertility with lycopene
More research links a plant-based diet to increased fertility, particularly certain plant-based foods. “I recommend tomatoes, whether processed or fresh, to my male clients struggling with infertility. Lycopene intake is associated with improved parameters of male fertility, so depending on the specific situation, I would encourage intake of lycopene-rich foods such as tomato products,” he says. Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD. It’s the perfect time to enjoy more tomato recipes, like a delicious pizza, rellenos chile casserole, or eggplant parmesan.
For some of my favorite plant-based canned tomato recipes, check out the following:
Vegetarian Summer Chili
Instant Pot Chickpea Curry
Vegan tortilla soup
Ratatouille with white beans
Vegan Pasta Amatriciana
Swiss Chard Pecan Vegan Lasagna
Vegan Jambalaya with Red Beans and Okra
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