How laziness can be healthy

My first job in a restaurant was as the Saturday morning prep girl.

Tomato wedgeOnce I’d proven to the chef that I could pick thyme and reduce parsley to green dust, he trusted me with a day’s supply of concassé. That meant blanching a case of tomatoes and then shocking them in iced water. Then peeling them. Then seeding them. Then dicing them.

Now that I cook only for family and friends, who don’t seem to mind the occasional seed or wisp of peel, preparing concassé is a distant memory. Cook’s confession: When reading tomato sauce recipes, I skip over those dreaded modifiers, “peeled and seeded.”

My inner sloth can tell my chef-ego that dropping all that prep is a good thing, especially for my heart. Earlier this year, the Rowett Research Institute in Scotland released studies showing compounds found in the yellow pulp around tomato seeds help thin blood. Those who suffer from heart disease or fear deep vein thrombosis on long airline flights might benefit if they eat tomatoes. That is, if they manage to ingest the equivalent of ten tomatoes a day. Every day.

So you can understand the appeal of nutraceuticals like Fruitflow, “a bioactive, patented extract from ripe tomatoes”. Products that reduce a big pile of vegetables into a squirt of liquid certainly make staying healthy easier, especially if you have a bag of organic, cracked pepper potato chips to finish.  (But then again, for us frequent flyers…ten tomatoes would make a mighty fine batch of Bloody Mary’s.)

Food and pharmaceuticals may soon be one industry, but as cook and diner, I still prefer a nice salad or salsa to a dose of chemicals. Granted, my medical history doesn’t include a triple bypass, and I’m still expecting to enjoy a few more decades in my current incarnation. For now, I can depend on fresh, whole vegetables to provide the nutrients I need.

A Sweet 100 plant is flowering bravely on my fire escape, and I look forward roving the farmers markets for another summer of sun-warm tomatoes—with all their seeds and peels.

An introduction to “functional food” and their benefits 

A conference for companies with a stake in nutraceuticals 

– What alternative medicine and Republican politics have in common 

– “Is the FDA dropping the ball?”

Author: Thy Tran

San Francisco-based writer specializing in history and culture of food.

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