Behold, the power of tomatoes!

A woman picks fresh tomatoes from the vine.

“You like tomato, and I like tomato,” sang Fred Astaire and Ginger Roberts, but however you pronounce it, don’t write this heart-healthy vegetable off.

February is American Heart Month, a time to pay a little extra attention to your cardiovascular health. Celebrate the month by incorporating a few tomatoes, a veggie that not only brightens your plate but may boost your heart function.

Tomatoes are the second most popular fresh-market vegetable, according to Produce Marketing Association.1 This highly versatile ingredient can be found in sauces, salsas, soups, juices and purees. Tomatoes also taste great raw on top of a salad or nestled into a sandwich.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits you can enjoy from tomatoes:

  • Help be heart healthy: Tomatoes contain lycopene, which may help lower your “bad” cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Lowering these numbers helps lower your chances of heart disease.2
  • Help ease constipation: Described as a “laxative fruit,” tomatoes are high in water content and fiber. Eating tomatoes might help your hydration level and support normal bowel movements.3
  • Help protect yourself against cancer: Tomatoes are a good source of vitamins A, C and E and other antioxidants. Together, these components help stop the creation of free radicals, which can cause cancer.4

Recipe spotlight: Pasta with marinara sauce and grilled vegetables

Ditch the store-bought marinara sauce and create your own. Check out this meal from Mayo Clinic’s list of healthy recipes.5

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 10 large fresh tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 red peppers, sliced into chunks
  • 1 yellow summer squash, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 sweet onion, sliced into 1/4-inch-wide rounds
  • 8 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti

Directions

  1. Start by making the marinara sauce. In a heavy skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes, sugar, garlic, chopped onion, basil, oregano and black pepper. Simmer uncovered until the sauce thickens, about 30 minutes.
  2. Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill or broiler. Away from the heat source, lightly coat the grill rack or broiler pan with cooking spray. Position the cooking rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat source.
  3. Brush the red peppers, squash, zucchini and sweet onion with the remaining olive oil. Place the vegetables on the grill rack or broiler pan. Grill or broil, turning as needed, until the vegetables are tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl and set aside.
  4. Fill a large pot 3/4 full with water and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package. Drain the pasta.
  5. Toss pasta with the sauce and grilled vegetables. Serve immediately.

Sources

  1. “Top 20 Fruits and Vegetables Sold in the U.S.,” Produce Marketing Association, last accessed November 19, 2021, https://www.pma.com/content/articles/top-20-fruits-and-vegetables-sold-in-the-us
  2. “The Health Benefits of Tomatoes,” WebMD, last accessed November 19, 2021,https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/ss/slideshow-tomato-health-benefits
  3. “Everything You Need to Know About Tomatoes,” Medical News Today, last accessed November 19, 2021, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/273031
  4. “Everything You Need to Know About Tomatoes.”
  5. “Pasta with Marinara Sauce and Grilled Vegetables,” Mayo Clinic, last accessed November 19, 2021, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/recipes/pasta-with-marinara-sauce-and-grilled-vegetables/rcp-20049691