Tomato paste is a commonly used ingredient in Italian dishes such as tomato sauce as well as in many non-Italian dishes to thicken, color and enhance flavor. Does eating tomato paste benefit your health? Is tomato paste Paleo?
Nutritional Value of Tomato Paste (Without Added Salt)
Serving Size 2 TBS (33gms)
- Calories 30
- Total Fat: 0 g
- Saturated Fat: 0 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Sodium: 20 mg
- Total Carbohydrate: 7 g
- Dietary Fiber: 2 g
- Sugars: 4 g
- Protein: 1 g
Health Benefits of Tomato Paste
Tomato paste is a source of many vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, C, E, K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6 and folate and the minerals iron, magnesium, potassium, and copper. Due to its vitamin and mineral content, tomato paste possesses many potential health benefits particularly to eye health, the proper functioning of red blood cells and the immune system. In general, tomatoes that are exposed to heat as they are during the preparation of tomato paste can better release lycopene, which is an antioxidant that can offer protection against hardening of the arteries and several types of cancer.
In general, it’s the canned versions of tomato paste that present problems. In addition to added sugar and excess salt, many brands contain citric acid, a flavor enhancer and preservative which some people have adverse reactions to. It’s little known that citric acid used in canned foods is not from citrus fruits as you might expect, but is actually a highly processed and refined ingredient derived from Aspergillus niger mold and fermented sugars. There’s concern that mold residue left behind can trigger allergies. Furthermore, Aspergillus niger and the sugars used to produce citric acid are often genetically modified. Finally, citric acid brings down the pH of canned tomato paste making it more acidic which can contribute to tooth enamel erosion.
Another potential problem with canned tomato paste is the likely presence of bisphenol A (BPA), which is used to coat the insides of most canned goods. BPA leaches into foods it comes in contact with especially acidic foods like tomatoes. A known endocrine disruptor BPA can mimic many of our bodies hormones in potentially harmful ways. There’s evidence that BPA may also contribute to high blood pressure and adversely affect the brain health of fetuses and infants. In fact, infants and young children may be the most vulnerable to the effects of BPA. Finally, if the tomato paste is made with tomatoes not grown organically, there could be a significant amount of residue from pesticides present in the finished product.
Where to Buy Tomato Paste
Tomato paste is a standard product sold in grocery stores and can be found with other packaged tomato products. Shoppers may want to look for organic, additive-free tomato paste in BPA-free cans or other containers in health food stores or health food sections of chain grocery stores.
Should I Eat Tomato Paste and Is it Paleo?
In order to safely consume pre-made tomato paste, it is best to find brands that are made with organic tomatoes and are sealed in BPA-free cans. Alternatively, try finding tomato paste packaged in jars, tubes, or Tetra Paks to avoid the risk of BPA contamination. As an additional precaution, avoid tomato paste made with sugar or extra salt, or any unwanted additives such as citric acid.
How to Make Tomato Paste
Tomato paste recipes are fairly simple. Fresh tomatoes are briefly cooked on the stovetop before being placed in a low temperature oven for several hours to dehydrate them.
- 5 lbs. plum tomatoes
- ¼ cup plus 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Set the oven to 300 degrees. Chop the tomatoes roughly. Over high heat in a 12-inch skillet, heat ¼ cup of the olive oil and add chopped tomatoes. Sprinkle them with salt to taste and allow the contents to come to a boil. Cook the mixture for 8 minutes or until it is very soft. Stir while cooking. Take the cooked pulp and push it through the sieve of a food mill to separate it from the seeds. Grease a baking sheet with the remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil and spread the tomato paste over the surface in an even layer. Bake the puree, turning it over with a spatula periodically, for 3 hours. Watch for the color of the puree to grow dark. The water should evaporate as well. After 3 hours, reduce the heat to 250 degrees and cook until the puree is dark red, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Tomato paste will keep for a month in the refrigerator sealed in an airtight container. If frozen and packaged in plastic wrap, tomato paste will keep for 6 months.