Tomatoes are widely found throughout Haiti and can easily be added to a number of cultural dishes, such as bean and grain dishes, vegetable soups, and sauces. The vitamin C in tomatoes can help boost iron absorption from the non-heme iron found in plant foods, like grains and beans.

The second leading cause of death in Haiti is from strokes, followed by cancer and ischemic heart disease. Though these numbers are much smaller percentages than deaths from disasters, it should still be of concern that people are dying from preventable diseases. In lower income countries throughout the world there has been a shift in the way people are eating (eating more “Westernized diets”), and consequently, there has also been a rise in chronic diseases, like heart disease and cancer; this phenomenon is commonly referred to as the nutrition transition. Including phytonutrient rich fruits and vegetables in the diets of young children can help prevent chronic diseases early on in life! Equipping young children with the taste and skills for healthy eating is key for preparing their bright, healthy futures!

Tomatoes are found in a number of dishes throughout our plant-based challenge, including some of our soups, stews, and salads. Like beans, tomatoes are used widely across the world in a number of different cultural dishes. They are commonly used in salads, chili, soups, stews, sauces, salsa, and more. The versatile nature of tomatoes makes them a tasty addition to meals.

Tomatoes are a good source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber, and potassium  (*based on 1 cup of cherry or diced tomatoes). They are most widely known for their high lycopene content. Lycopene is a kind of phytochemical that gives tomatoes their bright red color. The phytochemicals found in tomatoes, as well as the vitamins and minerals may help reduce risk of heart disease and some cancers.

Cooking tomatoes enhances the body’s ability to absorb lycopene, which means your body can use more lycopene to protect your cells. If you like popping raw cherry tomatoes in your mouth for a mid-day snack, by all means— yes! Eat them! But also try tomatoes cooked in a stew, soup, sauce or stir fry from time- to-time to boost the amount of lycopene your body can use.

Image from Joseph Gonzales, RD and Blue Cure, a non-profit organization that is educating men, young and old, about prostate cancer prevention through lifestyle and diet.