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Tomatoes: Beautiful to the Eye, Healthy for the Heart

By Blue Cross NC | June 7, 2019 | Healthy Lifestyle

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Nothing adds delightful color and taste to cooking more than tomatoes. There’s a huge variety to choose from in a multitude of colors and sizes. From soups to salads… to salsas and sauces for meats and pasta… tomatoes are a delicious part of many diets. And they are plentiful in North Carolina. Our farmers grow 96 million pounds of tomatoes every year!1

It turns out that tomatoes are also a great ingredient for maintaining good health.

What’s in a Tomato? Lycopene

Tomatoes are high in a nutrient called lycopene (that’s pronounced “lie-Koh-peen,” by the way). According to the US National Library of Medicine (National Institutes of Health), lycopene is an antioxidant linked to important heart benefits including protecting against high blood pressure and stroke.2

Antioxidants in diet block some of the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are made when your body breaks down food or if you’re exposed to tobacco smoke. Over time, the buildup of free radicals is largely responsible for the aging process — and may play a role in causing cancer, heart disease, and conditions such as arthritis.3

So don’t be shy about eating tomatoes — lots of tomatoes. They’re good for you!

[button link=”” type=”icon”] Learn how to eat your way to good health by seeing a Nutritionist[/button]


We recently reached out to Chef Vivian Howard (the innovative and award-winning host of PBS’ A Chef’s Life, and best-selling author of the book Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South). We were curious to see what Vivian might suggest as an interesting use of tomatoes. She offered up her recipe for versatile Stewed Tomatoes.

Vivian said, “I call it a Southern version of marinara. Like a classic marinara, it’s easy to make and it adds great flavor to so many dishes. It starts with sweating onions (sautéing them) in the pan, add your tomatoes, some basil, and a little bit of sugar — I guess the sugar is what makes it Southern. We also throw in some bread, in the end, to thicken it up a bit; but it’s not something you have to do. These stewed tomatoes should be a summer, fall, winter and spring staple in your kitchen!”

Stewed Tomatoes

Serves 4

2 cups onions, cut into small dice

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

7 cups tomatoes, diced with juice

1/2 cup cornbread or rustic white bread, torn into smallish pieces

3 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/3 cup packed basil leaves


Dice the onions into small pieces and dice the tomatoes. In a medium saucepan, sweat the onions, garlic and brown sugar in the butter for about 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, pieces of bread (optional) and the other remaining ingredients and stew, covered for 20 minutes.

Puree the stew if you wish. Otherwise, remove the basil, and serve as is.


One of the benefits of being a member of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC), is that seeing a Nutritional Counselor or Registered Dietitian is covered by most of our plans. That’s because we know that the healthier you eat, the healthier you can be.

Everyone can benefit from working with a Nutritional Counselor

For example, this counseling can help you:

  • manage diseases and chronic conditions (like high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes)
  • reach your ideal weight
  • relieve anxiety and depression
  • boost and maintain energy throughout the day
  • lessen aches, pain, and joint issues
  • address food allergies


Finding a Nutritional Counselor is easy. Blue Cross NC members can log into Blue Connect to look up your plan’s coverage, and then use the Find a Doctor tool to search for a “Dietitian” or “Nutritionist.” 

Enjoy Vivian’s tomato stew, all year round!