Q&A with Tomato Products Wellness Council
This month, we chatted with Sharon Palmer RD, a dietitian and spokesperson on behalf of Tomato Wellness. Tomatoes and pasta go hand in hand, so we chatted with Sharon about all the benefits of adding tomato products to your pasta, how they fit into the Mediterranean diet, and tips for storing your leftover sauce. Read on for all this and more.
1. Can you tell our readers about the benefits of tomatoes and how they can be used in pasta meals above and beyond the traditional red sauce?
Tomato products are rich in fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and lycopene—a compound rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Tomatoes have been one of the most researched plant foods in the world, and they are linked with multiple benefits, including cardiovascular health, skin health, and prostate cancer prevention. One of the best things about tomato products is that they are easy, convenient and delicious. So you can fit in a serving of vegetables quite easily—just open a can and pour it in pasta, casseroles, curries, soups, stews, and chili.
2. What are your recommendations for storing leftover tomato-based pasta sauce? How long can it stay safe to eat?
Tomato products are fairly acidic, so they do not spoil easily. We recommend covering it, and refrigerating it for up to 1 week after it is opened.
3. Can you explain how tomato products fit into the Mediterranean Diet and share some ways to incorporate them into a healthy lifestyle?
Tomato products are one of the keys in the Mediterranean diet, which has been documented to have numerous health benefits. Mediterranean eating patterns and dishes use a great deal of tomatoes, which grow so easily in this sunny, warm climate. You will see them in soups, stews, pastas, dips, sauces, bean dishes, grain dishes, and pizza all over the Mediterranean region. The beauty of tomatoes in this diet is that they are part of simple, rustic food traditions—the heart of this diet. They are not over-complicated or fussy. It’s all about flavor and easy whole foods, such as a simple pasta putanesca or a thin pizza crust with thick rich sauce and cheese, or fleshy beans simmered in rosemary, tomatoes, and olive oil.
4. It’s not always realistic to have fresh tomatoes when you cook. Can you explain some of the benefits of using canned tomato products instead of fresh?
Canned tomatoes are harvested at their flavor and nutrition peak, so they always taste delicious, which cannot always be said of winter tomatoes, picked green and transported for miles. They are also economical and easy—no chopping, peeling, or cooking—just open and pour into sauces, casseroles, soups, or sauces. In fact, the lycopene in tomatoes is more bio-available to your body when it is in cooked form, rather than fresh.
5. Finally, can you share one of your favorite pasta recipes with us?
Here is our Pasta with Marinara and Roasted Vegetables.