Although tomatoes are a grocery staple they can tend to fade into the background because so much attention is directed at all the amazing 'new' superfoods we're incorporating into our diets. But your garden variety tomato has very impressive superfood qualities of its own, especially for your heart. We wanted to share some of these qualities with you in honour of the fact that February is Heart Health Month.
First of all, tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamins E and C, both of which are essential to basic cardiovascular antioxidant support. Beyond this, tomatoes have an array of nutrients that positively regulate fats—and even blood platelets themselves—in the bloodstream. The high concentration of lycopene in tomatoes helps protect healthy fats from oxidization damage as they are being transported through the bloodstream. This in turn decreases the risk of inflammation that can block blood vessels. Recently discovered phytonutrients in tomatoes also show promising clinical results in their ability to regulate blood fats. And many of the better-known phytonutrients found in tomatoes have been demonstrated to discourage platelets from clumping. In other words, they discourage the platelets from forming potentially dangerous clots as they circulate through the body. Tomatoes also offer a healthy dose of potassium and fibre! Over all, they can effectively decrease your cholesterol and triglyceride levels which can have a critical impact on the health of your heart.
One of the most common ways people use tomatoes is adding a few slices to a salad and while this is great, there are so many ways to work higher doses of tomato into your diet! They can be stewed and stuffed and incorporated into flaky, savoury pastries. They are also wonderful just freshly chopped and served with herbs and some soft cheese, as in this recipe for Pasta with Ricotta and Tomatoes, which we think would be really lovely for a Valentine’s Day dinner. Treat your heart as well as your taste buds!
. 2 pounds tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
. 1/4 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (such as chives, flat-leaf parsley, basil, and tarragon)
. 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
. 1 tablespoon olive oil
. kosher salt and black pepper
. 12 ounces penne (3/4 box)
. 2 tablespoons pine nuts
. 1/2 cup ricotta
. 1/4 cup grated Parmesan (1 ounce), plus more for serving
. Heat oven to 400° F. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, herbs, lemon juice, oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Let stand, tossing occasionally.
. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve ½ cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta, and return it to the pot.
. Spread the pine nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven, tossing occasionally, until golden, 5 to 6 minutes.
. Toss the pasta with the ricotta, Parmesan, and enough of the reserved pasta water to create a creamy sauce. Top with the tomato mixture and pine nuts. Serve with more Parmesan, if desired.