3 Italian Secrets That Prove We’ve Been Eating Tomatoes Wrong Our Whole Life

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Tomato Tomatoe! A vegetable that we all know and love whether we pronounce it one way or another. A common staple kind of like potatoe potatoo! (pronunciation enhanced for comedic effect). We love tomatoes. We love our pasta sauce, our sphaghetti, our salsa and even our ketchup! If you’re Italian – ‘Forget about it!’ nothing could be more Italian than a pasta sauce, tomatoe rich dish.

Most of us enjoy eating tomatoes and tomatoe dieshes. However, some of us don’t like the taste or have allergies. More tomatoes for the rest of us. It wasn’t until I was having a conversation with an Italian friend that I realized I was eating tomatoes wrong my entire life.

My friend shared with me how Italians eat tomatoes, and how much different it is in the US. But first, what are some of the nutritional benefits of tomatoes?

The Nutritonal Value Of Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a rich source carotenouds, as well as of vitamin C, folate, potassium and lycopene. These are all valuable for specific purposes. In particular tomatoes are a rich source of carotenoids, a class of antioxidants that help to reduce inflammation as well as improving arterial and cardiovascular health. Vitamin C is also in tomatoes and is the most researched antioxidant in the world with 10’s of thousands of research papers showing the value of this powerful vitamin.

One nutrient in tomatoes often overlooked and misunderstood is lycopene. Lycopene actually helps to balance LDL and HDL cholesterol, often called the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol, which is really not the case. It’s simply about a proper balance of it in the body similar to salt and sugar. Not good or bad, just a ratio in the body that is optimal for health which often gets thrown off with a western diet.

You might be asking at this piont how have we consumed tomatoes wrong our entire lives? That’s a good question. Being a health and wellness researcher allows me to find some insightful information that I always enjoy sharing with you here, on GreenLivingTribe.com.

How Tomatoes Are Cooked Different in Italy

In Italy tomatoes aren’t processed and cooked like we do with them here in the United States. There are three main things that are worth knowing.

  1. Italians Tend To Peel Tomatoe Skins:

    Italians have long peeled tomatoes as it is a way to preserve tomatoes and keep them lasting longer. This is a tradition in Italy, and when the skin is removed. This allows tomatoes to last longer. It also makes the cooking of the tomatoe easier as the skin becomes rough when cooked causing inconsistency in a sauce or dish with the skin as well.

  2. Italians Remove Tomatoe Seeds:

    Beyond removing the skins from tomatoes Italians also deseed them as well. Why? A study by the University of Reading and Heston Blumenthal found out that the tomato’s jelly-like seeds contain more Glutamate than its flesh. What is glutamate you might ask? Glutamate is actually beneficial for the brain and central nervous system, however when in high concentrations this can cause overexciting of nerve cells as well as being toxic to nerve cells, causing damage over time. It has an effect that is known as exitotoxicity. Removing the seeds in tomatoes can ensure that you don’t have too much of this excitoxin especially if it’s a tomatoe rich dinner dish!

  3. Cooking Tomatoes Instead Of Raw:

    While tomatoes are cooked and eaten raw in Italy it is important to know that tomatoes that are cooked can provide an increase of up to 154% of lycopene absorption in the body. Cooking tomatoes is a double edged sword however. Cooking tomatoes increases the absorption and bioavailability of lycopene while decreasing the bioavailablity and absorption of vitamin C. A bit of a catch twenty two here. It’s valuable for your lycopene absorption but less valuable for vitamin C absorption. This is the upside and downside of cooking tomatoes!

And there you have it. Three key distinctions with cooking and eating tomatoes that most Italians are more keenly aware of than Americans. You might still be wondering though, what makes some tomatoes taste better and some taste worse?

Why Do Tomatoes Taste Better in Italy?

Italy has volcanic rich, black fertile soil. This soil is rich in microbes (bacteria) as well as minerals that the tomatoe plant pulls up from it’s roots into the tomatoes. This make for a redder, richer, more nutrient dense tomatoe. Giving it much more flavor. Tomatoes that aren’t as red and taste more bland and watery were simply grown in soil that wasn’t that healthy.

The health of a tomatoe and the nutrients within are dependent on the quality of the soil, sunshine and water that it was exposed to. If you grow tomatoes in your garden be sure to add epsom salt and eggshells to the soil, this will add both magnesium and calcium to the soil giving your tomatoes a richer and more delicous flavor! Plus, more nutritionally dense.

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