I love tomatoes. It´s part of my daily diet and I love my avocado-feta cheese-tomato salad for lunch. A light, tasty and energizing meal (find the recipe at the end of the article). Looks like I have a natural craving for this brain boosting food.
Tomatoes can be found in so many dishes that people don’t even notice them sometimes. Salads, pasta sauces, ketchup, pizza, drinks – you name it. Around 150 mio. tonnes of tomatoes are produced and consumed around the world every year. 70% of which are consumed raw and 30% as processed products.
Tomatoes originate from South America, but they have been farmed and consumed all over Europe for hundreds of years. The first tomato was a little yellow fruit cultivated by the Aztecs of Central Mexico. Writings from around 500 BC mention tomatoes ( the Aztec word “tomatl” means “the swelling fruit”) being prepared with peppers, corn and salt.
The Spanish propagated the tomato throughout their colonies in the Caribbean and the Philippines, from where it spread to Southeast Asia and the entire Asian continent. They also brought it to Europe – Mediterranean climates turned out to be very appropriate and farming began in the early 16th century.
The first tomato recipe published in a cookbook was 1692 in Naples. In some areas of Italy, such as Milan and Florence, the fruit was only used as a tabletop decoration before it became part of the local cuisine in the early 18hundreds.
Tomatoes are low in fat, high in fibre and a source of many vitamins and minerals with very little calories. But did you know that tomatoes are rich in a substance called lycopene? Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to be a brain boosting food. Chemicals like lycopene help prevent degenerative conditions like dementia. People living in the West get 85 per cent of this substance from tomatoes. It helps to reduce cancer, age-related macular degeneration. Studies have suggested lycopene may also help reducing bad cholesterol. It also makes you look good: studies carried out by the dermatology department at Charite University, in Berlin, discovered a connection between lycopene based supplements and smoother, less-wrinkled skin.
Apart from the lycopene, a single tomato contains the following nutrients:
And this is just half of the good stuff that you will find in a tomato. So it’s no wonder why the humble tomato has been hailed as one of the best brain boosting foods in the world. It really does give people a lot of benefits!
Ripe, red tomatoes are will contain more lycopene than paler, watery ones simply because the lycopene gives them their red color. Cherry tomatoes and the piccolo type like ‘Ferrari’ and ‘Jack Hawkins’ tomatoes are also good for lycopene.
Slow-ripening, imported types tend to have lower levels of lycopene since they´ve been bred for long-life, and this interferes with the ripening process. Some cheap imported types are farmed in hoop greenhouses, picked under-ripe and artificially ripened with ethylene gas. The resulting product is often smell – and tasteless. Use your nose to make the best buying decision!
Cooked Or Raw – Both Is Good
Lycopene is found in the cell walls of the tomato. By cooking it, more if it is fully released. Lycopene is fat soluble, so it´s recommended to cook tomatoes in oil, such as olive oil – the basis of any Mediterranean cuisine. However, since cooking spoils vitamin C, the British Tomato Growers’ Association suggests eating a mix of fresh and cooked tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes can be added to salads, sandwiches or as garnishes to a main meal. Sauces based on tomato can be eaten as a soup, added to pasta, tomato-based curries, as a pizza topping or as a spicy topping for meatballs. So in any form you prefer, cooked or raw, the tomato still is a brain boosting food.
(For one person)
1 big, 2 small or a hand full of cherry tomatoes
1/2 red onion, garlic
2 spoons of feta cheese marinated in oil with olives and herbs
some olive oil (extra vergine), balsamico vinegar, salt and pepper
Simply chop up the ingredients and mix everything together. Let it sit for 15-30 minutes if you have the time for a better blend of the tastes. That´s it – your power lunch is ready in 10 minutes. It combines nicely with a slice of toasted wholemeal bread.
Here are many more tomato recipes to choose from
You will find more tips on brain boosting food in the “Increasing Your Brain Power” eBook.