Heirlooom Tomatoes* | powerful, organic nutrition with every gnarly shape + Salsa Recipe

food facts recipe Aug 15, 2018

You might be inclined to keep your distance from those gnarly looking tomatoes with the quirky names showing up more often in grocery stores and at farmers’ markets.

As a Nutritionist, I encourage you to give heirloom tomatoes a try.

Heirloom tomatoes are loaded with health benefits that can, among many other things, reduce stress and strengthen your bones. And don’t be afraid of the odd shapes and diverse colours that signify an heirloom tomato, as these are the result of their rich genetic biodiversity. In short, they are supposed to have lines, bumps and wild colour variation, and as long as the skin has not split, you are in for a treat.

Heirloom tomato seeds, like your grandmother’s china, are viewed as precious family treasures, passed from generation to generation. For an heirloom tomato to qualify for heirloom status it has to have been around for at least 50 years. Newer genetic variations are classified as hybrids. Heirlooms are picked at the peak of ripeness, which gives them greater vitamin content. The rainbow of colours indicate their diversity of antioxidants, which help protect your cells from aging.

A good heirloom tomato, botanically a fruit, can have the juiciness and sweetness of a cherry or grape.

All of that is a sharp contrast to most hybrid supermarket tomatoes, many of which are picked green so they can survive thousands of miles of travel, and are then sprayed with CO2 so they blush red. As well, the skin of these tomatoes is bred to be thick and the flesh sturdy so they won’t bruise easily. All of these so-called ‘improvements’ create a compromise: these tomoatoes lack both the flavour and the nutrients that are created through the natural ripening process.

5 reasons to add heirloom tomatoes to your life

  1. Heirloom tomatoes are a rich source of Vitamin C, which helps to nourish your adrenal glands and reduce stress. One medium heirloom tomato provides 40% of your daily requirement of immune-building Vitamin C.
  2. Heirloom tomatoes protect cardiovascular health. They are rich in potassium, which is known to lower blood pressure, as well as folate, which has been shown to help lower the incidence of heart attacks.1
  3. Organically grown tomatoes tend to be higher in lycopene, a kind of carotenoid that plays a role in the prevention of cancer. Studies show that lycopene is protective against bladder, breast, cervical, colorectal, endometrial, lung, pancreatic, prostate and skin cancers.2
  4. Heirloom tomatoes are a good source of Vitamin K, which is necessary for healthy, strong bones. The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University suggests that if you consume Vitamin K early and consistently, it can help prevent osteoporosis.3
  5. Heirloom tomatoes add tremendous flavour to your cooking while being low in calories. With only 27 calories per cup, you can enjoy a sun-ripened tomato as a snack, just like an apple! Garnish your next soup or dip with a chopped heirloom tomato for an extra zip.

PLEASE NOTE: You will have to limit your tomato consumption if you are a dialysis patient on a potassium-restricted diet. Tomatoes contain an alkaloid called tomatine that may cause inflammation in those who are sensitive.

Where to get Heirloom Tomatoes

Farmers’ markets are bursting with wonderful varieties. Organic farmers are also selling to natural food stores, nationally. Most of the heirloom tomatoes pictured here were purchased from P & H Farms, east of Toronto.

Try my tasty Vine-Ripened Heirloom Tomato Salsa!

*nightshade alert

References

1. Lenore Arab  Susan Steck: "Lycopene and cardiovascular disease." The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 71, Issue 6, 1 June 2000, Pages 1691S–1695S https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/71/6/1691S/4729653

2. Seren, Soley MD; Lieberman, Ronald MD; Bayraktar, Ulas D MD; Heath, Elisabeth MD; Sahin, Kazim PhD; Andic, Fundagul MD; Kucuk, Omer MD: "Lycopene in Cancer Prevention and Treatment." American Journal of Therapeutics: January-February 2008 - Volume 15 - Issue 1 - p 66-81 doi: 10.1097/MJT.0b013e31804c7120 https://journals.lww.com/americantherapeutics/Abstract/2008/01000/Lycopene_in_Cancer_Prevention_and_Treatment.12.aspx

3. Jane Higdon, Ph.D. : "Naturally occurring forms of vitamin K include phylloquinone (vitamin K1) and a family of molecules called menaquinones (MKs or vitamin K2)." Linus Pauling Institute Oregon State University 2000 https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-K#authors-reviewers

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