Summer in Ireland is a traditionally soggy affair – but it just means we appreciate the sunny days even more…..
However, summer does bring with it beautiful tomatoes, full of flavour, calling for new ways to be used. Lycopene is the plant pigment that gives tomatoes their red colour, has been associated with prostate health in men but there is new evidence emerging showing that it may also be very useful for women, especially at peri-menopause.
In a study at the University of Toronto, women who increased their lycopene intake experienced significant decreases in N-telopeptide (a marker of bone breakdown). Leticia Rao, PhD, the study author, attributed the bone health benefits to lycopene’s antioxidant properties. In her study, the recommended intake of lycopene was 30-7-mg of lycopene daily (roughly the amount found in 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of tomato sauce (cooked tomatoes are significantly higher in bioavailable lycopene than raw, and using a healthy fat like olive oil also boosts absorption)
Another interesting study, published recently in Nutrition Journal, involved women aged 40-60, who had at least one menopausal symptom such as anxiety, irritability or hot flashes. Participants drank 200 mls of unsalted tomato juice twice a day for eight weeks, and they were monitored for heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol and menopausal symptoms
After just 4 weeks, those with high triglyceride levels saw a substantial decrease and menopausal symptoms were reduced by 16%
The cardiac benefits were attributed to compounds like 13-oxo-ODA which is only found in tomato juice and prevents metabolic syndrome, and esculeoside A, which supports cardiac function. But it was GABA, a neurotransmitter also naturally found in tomato juice, which may have helped with the hot flashes and stress management.
Making your own tomato juice couldn’t be easier: cut the tomatoes into wedges and gently cook in some olive oil or good butter for about 15 minutes (I like to add a little chopped garlic, turmeric and black aepper for antioxidant & anti-inflammatory benefits, as well as for flavour, along with a dash of tamari). Strain through a sieve, using the back of a spoon to get the most out of the pulp, let it cool and serve. You could also pour into an ice cube tray and freeze to keep a taste of summer in the middle of winter
These tomatoes were sauteed with some butter, garlic and spinach and made into an omelette with some pecorino, which was gobbled before I had the chance to take any pictures – sorry!!
(but it was really good!)