Eating unripe veggies may not seem particularly appetizing, but green tomatoes are delicious exceptions. Fried green tomatoes are a popular Southern treat, but these young tomatoes can also be versatile additions to healthy recipes. Packed with nutrients, green tomatoes also offer a few nutritional advantages over their ripe counterparts.
You should eat at least 2 1/2 cups of vegetables each day, and green tomatoes count toward your daily servings. The juicy texture of tomatoes is due to their high water content. This water adds bulk and fills you up without adding a lot of calories to your meal. One cup of green tomatoes contains only 41 calories and virtually no fat. Most of its calories come from small amounts of natural sugar.
During digestion and other natural processes, your body creates charged particles called free radicals. These particles sometimes react with healthy cells, causing cell damage. Green tomatoes contain vitamin A and vitamin C, natural antioxidants that protect against this damage. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, green tomatoes have double the vitamin C of red tomatoes. Red tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant pigment found in red fruits and vegetables. Green tomatoes lack lycopene, but a study published in the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry” found that a substance called tomatine in green tomatoes may be effective against breast, liver and colon cancer cells.
You need 90 micrograms of vitamin K a day for blood clotting, and green tomatoes are excellent sources. One cup of green tomatoes contains 18 micrograms of vitamin K, compared to 11 micrograms in 1 cup of ripe cherry tomatoes. Green tomatoes are good sources of potassium, a mineral that regulates blood pressure, contraction of muscles and fluid balance. These unripe veggies also offer advantages for cooking and storage. Green tomatoes have a high acid content, which is ideal for canning, and their firm texture makes them easier to grill than ripe varieties.
If you're craving fried green tomatoes, try a healthy baked version. Mix chopped tomatoes, whole-wheat bread crumbs, garlic, egg, Parmesan cheese and a little olive oil. Form the mixture into patties and bake in the oven until crispy. For an easy meal, make a caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, pesto and green tomatoes, or stuff green tomato halves with brown rice, garlic, chopped chicken and onions. If you need a healthy dip for a party, whip up a green tomato salsa. Dice tomatoes finely and mix with purple onion, green chili peppers and your favorite spices.
- USDA Nutrient Database: Tomatoes, Green, Raw
- Fruits and Veggies More Matters: Green Tomato: Nutrition . Selection .Storage
- Fruits and Veggies More Matters: What is the Best Way to Store Fresh Green Tomatoes and Apples So You Can Enjoy Them All Winter?
- USDA: How Many Vegetables Are Needed Daily or Weekly?
- Medline Plus: Vitamin K
- USDA: Tomatoes, Red, Ripe, Raw, Year Round Average
- Jourrnal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: Tomatine-containing Green Tomato Extracts Inhibit Growth of Human Breast, Colon, Liver, and Stomach Cancer Cells
Jennifer Dlugos is a Boston-based writer with more than 10 years of experience in the health-care and wellness industries. She is also an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter who teaches screenwriting and film production classes throughout New England. Dlugos holds a master's degree in dietetics.