The red-faced fruit (treated at par with vegetables) is among the few that gets healthier with cooking. Nothing captures the feel of summer better than a sun-warmed, juicy, just-picked tomato. This ubiquitous fruit (yes, it’s a fruit — even though it is prepared and eaten like a vegetable) is somehow not taken seriously, despite its immense health benefits.

The ripe red fruit contains impressive amounts of vitamins — including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, B6, folate and thiamine, besides significant amounts of potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous and copper, plus some dietary fibre too.

It is also very high on the antioxidants metre. The best news is that some of the benefits of tomatoes actually get enhanced when it is cooked, unlike most other vegetables. That is why tomato ketchup is widely considered as a healthy condiment.

But the fact is that all the benefits get shortchanged by the negatives that come as a part of this highly processed and preserved food. The bottled ketchup — a staple in a grocery list of every household — basically consists overcooked tomatoes, water, and large amounts of sugar, or worse some form of genetically engineered corn syrup, plus some flavour-boosting chemicals.

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Perils of Ketchup
Ketchup is packed with preservatives, so it’s possibly not the best thing for a serious health kick. It is important to understand why one has to go back to the humble tomato chutney made in home kitchens.

To make the ketchup, tomatoes are overcooked over very high heat and the seeds and skin are usually removed — cutting down the fibre and nutrients amount drastically. Most commercially available ketchup brands contain lots of added sugar — just one tablespoon of commercially prepared ketchup typically contains approximately four grams of sugar. This makes it tastier, but very detrimental for health. We are all consuming way too much sugar, so one good way of cutting down sugar is by reducing ketchup consumption.

Often ketchup also contains High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), which is a huge factor leading to diabetes and obesity. Too much sodium (salt) is always a part of the mix, and this negatively affects our health. It is well-known that consumption of too much salt can increase the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, etc.

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Many brands also add flavour boosting monosodium glutamate (MSG) — too much of which is not advisable.

Further, most of us consume more than one tablespoon at a time, and this quickly builds up into our daily sugar, salt and additives load. Plus, ketchup tends to be addictive due to the taste. It is important to consciously and carefully control the amount of tomato ketchup in ours, and particularity, our children’s diets.

Benefits of tomato chutney
There’s everything going for the tomatoes, particularly tomato chutney. Moderation is the key, or better still switch to homemade chutney.

100 grams of chutney gives just 16 calories, one gram fibre and a whopping 1496 IU of beta carotene (Vitamin A), which is great of our vision and some vitamin C (good for our immunity) too. Plus they are naturally low in sodium and fat.

Vitamin K and calcium in tomatoes both help strengthen and repair bones, besides the antioxidant lycopene content that helps improve bone mass and keeps osteoporosis (bone thinning) at bay.

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Tomatoes are a very good source of chromium, which helps to regulate blood sugar. A natural cancer fighter, lycopene helps reduce the risk of several cancers, including prostate, cervical, mouth, pharynx, throat, oesophagus, stomach, colon, rectal, prostate and ovarian cancer; it also boosts male fertility and increases sperm count.

The best news is that cooked tomatoes are preferable for our health, as the heat allows more antioxidants in tomatoes available to the body. And as lycopene is fat-soluble, eating tomatoes with oil helps to improve its absorption. That is why a dollop of tomato chutney with every meal (at least one meal) is a sure winner.

Make it at home
You can easily make tomato chutney in your own kitchen (dig out your mother’s recipe), as this gives you the advantage of controlling the amount and type of ingredients. Homemade chutney is much better in every respect than anything that’s been bottled commercially, and will actually give you the cumulative benefits of eating the cooked tomato. And believe me, it is tastier too, as the taste of fresh food is unparalleled. #KhabarLive