In Northeast PA, the tomatoes are starting to ripen. Other fruits and vegetables like peaches and cucumbers are ripening as well. This is a great time to enjoy local produce without the guilt of eating too many calories.
All fruits and vegetables do have carbohydrates. Tomatoes are exceptionally low because they contain a lot of water. If you are trying to lose a few pounds, include tomatoes in all your meals — breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Carbohydrates do get a bad rap. They alone don’t cause us to gain weight, unless, of course, we overeat. A carbohydrate contains 4 calories per gram just like protein. Fat contains 9 calories per gram, however, food sources of fat usually fill us up and we stop eating or choose a smaller portion.
Carbohydrates like pretzels, crackers and bagels may not fill us up as quickly, hence we may continue to eat more. Some exceptions are those sources of carbohydrates that contain water. Fruits and vegetable are good examples. They contain water and are more filling.
Tomatoes are not only low in calories; they are also rich in vitamins and minerals. They have Vitamin C, beta-carotene, potassium, folic acid, iron and fiber. For just a few calories we get a lot of nutrients.
Tomatoes also contain a valuable phytochemical called lycopene. Lycopene is a plant chemical found to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. A cooked tomato has more lycopene than raw tomatoes. It is important to slightly cook your tomatoes if prostate cancer is a concern of yours.
When buying tomatoes, look for those that are firm, smooth-skinned and at least pink in color. Tomatoes that are partially green will ripen if left at room temperature. Unless they are fully ripened, do not store tomatoes in a refrigerator. The cold temperature might keep them from ripening and will ruin the flavor. Once sliced, however, place in the refrigerator.
Here is a great way to enjoy tomatoes for breakfast. My husband and I enjoy this recipe as it slightly sweetens their flavor.
Skillet tomatoes and eggs
1/2 tsp olive oil
1 large tomato
4 basil leaves
Fresh ground pepper
Place olive oil in skillet, warm gently. Slice tomato into 4-5 slices. Add to skillet. Cook 2-3 minutes on one side, turn over. Cook 1-2 minutes more than break open eggs on top of tomatoes. Add basil leaves and freshly ground pepper. Cover with cover slightly tilted to let steam escape. Cook until eggs are firm or reaches 160 degrees. Note you may add an extra egg white.
Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford Counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at firstname.lastname@example.org