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       Volume I - June 20, 2008

5 Reasons to Continue Relishing Tomatoes
by Alice Osborne

Even though 17 States are under watch, re: the recent salmonella outbreak involving tomatoes, don’t swear off this miracle food. Know which variety is safe and continue to relish this versatile "blessing of summer".

There's abundant reason to overindulge in tomatoes. They’re stellar sources of vitamins A and C, folate, potassium, fiber, and all kinds of protective antioxidants.

And organic tomatoes are even better -- when they're grown without chemicals, tomatoes contain much higher amounts of flavonoids, which have antioxidant, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Here are five healthy reasons to add tomatoes to breakfast omelets, lunch sandwiches, and dinner sauces and salads:

1. Lower your blood pressure. Try snacking on cherry tomatoes while driving your kid’s carpool or prepping for your Toastmasters speech. These fruits (yes, tomatoes are fruits, not veggies) may keep your blood pressure in check. In just 8 weeks, people with mild hypertension who got a daily "dose" of tomatoes saw their systolic blood pressures (the top number) drop a whopping 10 points on average, and their diastolic blood pressures (the bottom number) drop by 4 points.

2. Avoid colds and flu. When men who are deficient in carotenoids (like lycopene and beta carotene) drink tomato juice regularly, they bump up their ability to fend off bacteria and viruses. However, the immunity-boosting effects take a while to kick in. So if you start upping your T-juice intake today, you may stay a step ahead of sore throats and colds tomorrow.

3. Save your skin. Who knew this thin-skinned fruit would make a terrific natural sunscreen? But people who include lycopene-rich tomato paste in their diets for at least 10 weeks get much less intense sunburns when they're exposed to UV light -- another reason to enjoy all those tomato-sauced dishes that are staples of Mediterranean diets.

4. Control cholesterol. A tomato a day may keep artery and heart problems at bay. Four weeks of daily tomato munching can increase good HDL cholesterol by 15% while lowering artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.

5. Fight aging. Tomatoes are rich in two spectacular antiaging free-radical squelchers: lycopene and beta carotene. In some cells, these antioxidants reduce free-radical damage to DNA by 42%. Both youth-protecting nutrients are enhanced when tomatoes are heated or eaten with a little fat, like virgin olive oil. This yummy recipe fits the bill: Grilled Pizza with Pesto, Tomatoes and Feta (from our friends at EatingWell).

Grilled Pizza with Pesto, Tomatoes and Feta
Serves 4

Dazzle your guests, and keep the kitchen cool, by baking pizza on the backyard grill. For convenience, this recipe uses prepared pizza dough, found in most supermarkets, and pesto from a jar.

1 pound prepared pizza dough, whole-wheat
1/2 C prepared pesto
4 each ripe plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp virgin, cold-pressed olive oil
1/2 C crumbled feta cheese
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 C lightly packed fresh basil leaves, torn

1. Heat grill to medium high
2. Meanwhile, place dough on lightly floured surface. Divide into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into an 8”-round crust, about ¼” thick. Place crusts on floured baking sheet. Carry crusts and toppings out to grill.
3. Lay crusts on grill (they won't stay perfectly round). Cover grill and cook until crusts are lightly puffed and undersides are lightly browned, about 3 minutes.
4. Using tongs, flip crusts. Immediately spread pesto over crusts. Top with tomatoes. Sprinkle with olive oil, feta and pepper. Cover grill and cook until the undersides are lightly browned, about 3 minutes more. Sprinkle with basil and serve immediately.


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