You Say Tomato...

You say Tomato…


Are canned tomato products good for you? You bet they are! Processed tomato products, and in particular canned tomatoes are an economical way to boost your fruit intake and they happen to boast significant health benefits. Tomatoes contain a carotenoid called Lycopene, a vitamin-like substance that makes tomatoes red. Lycopene is also found in grapefruit, watermelon, guava and papaya. Lycopene is a potent antioxidant and has been studied extensively for its potential anti-cancer and heart health benefits. Once absorbed into the body, lycopene helps prevent and repair cell damage caused by free radicals and oxidation.  


There is a greater concentration of lycopene in processed tomato products than fresh tomatoes, likely due to the removal of water in making these products. Fresh tomatoes contain 0.88-4.8mg lycopene/100ml wet weight whereas ketchup contains 9.8-15.9 mg/100ml. In addition, the lycopene from processed tomato products is more easily absorbed than the lycopene in fresh tomatoes. This is likely due to the breakdown of cellular membranes during processing. The presence of fat such as olive oil in a tomato sauce also increases absorption as lycopene is fat soluble.


The more concentrated a processed tomato product, the more lycopene. For example, tomato paste contains 42.2mg/100g whereas spaghetti sauce contains 21.9mg/100g.


Product                       Lycopene (mg/100g)

Tomato Juice                          9.5

Spaghetti Sauce                      21.9

Tomato Paste                          42.2

Condensed tomato soup          7.2

Tomato Sauce                         14.1

Chili Sauce                              19.5

Ketchup                                  15.9

Raw tomatoes                         3.0

V8                                           17.7

Clamato juice                          8.1


The average Canadian woman consumes 6mg lycopene per day. In contrast, Italians' average consumption is 14mg/day and that of the UK is 1.1mg/day. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3850026/

80% of the lycopene consumed in the Canadian diet is from tomatoes and tomato products. The advantages of eating tomato products are far greater than if you were taking lycopene supplements. Lycopene from tomato products may work synergistically with other carotenoids and nutrients found naturally in tomatoes to deliver the greatest health benefits.




Canned Tomato Products at the Grocery Store


Diced tomatoes are peeled and chopped and cooked in tomato juice. I love using these in chili, beef stew and chunky vegetable soup. They are also a shortcut for steamed mussels or drained you can use them for simple salsas with cilantro and jalepeno.

Crushed tomatoes are simmered in tomato puree and are not as chunky as diced tomatoes. Use them in a smoother soup, curry sauce and pasta sauces. Add garlic, diced zucchini and bell peppers for extra hearty sauces.

Stewed tomatoes are peeled and usually sliced into rings and then simmered with other vegetables such as onion and celery and seasonings. They often contain added sugar and salt. They can be blended for a quick spaghetti sauce.

Whole tomatoes are typically the highest quality canned tomato product. They can be served as a side dish or chopped for chili or stew.

Tomato paste is a concentrated and strained tomato product used in small amounts for soups, stews and stocks.

Tomato puree is thinner than the paste

Tomato Soup can be used to season fish or poultry or to eat as is. Choose lower sodium versions.

Pizza sauce typically has seasoning and sugar added and is of course good on pizzas, bagels or as a dip for raw veggies.


Buying and Storing Tips:

Be sure to choose cans that are without dents or bulging lids. Acidic foods such as canned tomatoes only last 12-18 months in your pantry so be sure to use the first-in-first out principle. After this time frame they will begin to change colour, texture and flavor and lose nutrient content.


Once opened, never store canned tomato products in their tin. Transfer them to a glass storage container and store them in the fridge for up to 3-4 day or freezer for 3 months.


This fall and winter when our local fresh tomato season is over here in BC, explore the wide selection of canned tomato products in the grocery aisle and boost your intake of lycopene.

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