Sun-Dried Tomatoes: Health Benefits and Nutrition Facts
Sun-dried tomatoes have become a popular ingredient in many cuisines over recent years. But what exactly are sun-dried tomatoes, and what nutrition and health perks do they offer?
This article explores how sun-dried tomatoes are made, their stellar nutritional profile, and the key health benefits you can gain by eating them. Let’s show why these shriveled red beauties deserve a permanent place in your pantry!
What Are Sun-Dried Tomatoes?
Sun-dried tomatoes are produced by picking ripe, fresh tomatoes at peak flavor, then dehydrating them using natural sunlight until the moisture evaporates. This concentrates the taste and nutrition into an intensely flavored final product.
To make them, tomatoes are washed, halved, or quartered, then placed outside on mesh racks or trays for several days to 2 weeks. The tomato pieces are brought inside at night and back out daily, allowing slow, complete drying by the sun’s heat.
Some producers may use a combination of sunlight and mechanical dehydrators to control the process. The finished, sun-dried tomatoes are leathery, shriveled, and intensely red.
They are valued for their concentrated, almost candy-like tomato essence. Store dried loose or packed in oil. They can be eaten as-is for snacking or easily rehydrated by simmering in liquid for cooking.
Next, let’s explore why sun-dried tomatoes are so nutritionally powerful.
Nutrition Profile of Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Although the drying process reduces the vitamin C content, sun-dried tomatoes retain and often concentrate many other important nutrients:
Here is the nutrition profile of sun-dried tomatoes:
|Protein||2.5g per 1⁄4 cup||💪|
|Dietary fiber||2g, or 6% DV||🍎|
|Potassium||270mg, or 8% DV||🍊|
|Iron||1.25mg, or 7% DV||🩸|
|Vitamin K||21mcg, or 17% DV||💊|
|Vitamin A||285 IU, or 6% DV||👀|
|Calcium, phosphorous, zinc, copper, manganese||For bone strength, immunity, metabolism||🦴|
|Phenolic acids||Antioxidants that protect cells||🔋|
Sun-dried tomatoes supply a wealth of nutrients and disease-fighting compounds for their tiny size!
The Top Health Benefits of Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Here are some of the biggest ways that eating sun-dried tomatoes can boost your health:
1. Sun-Dried Tomatoes Reduce Cancer Risk
Multiple studies indicate the lycopene in sun-dried tomatoes lowers the risk of developing prostate, breast, lung, and stomach cancers. It restricts tumor growth by halting cell mutation.
2. Sun-Dried Tomatoes Support Heart Health
The nutrients in sun-dried tomatoes improve cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and prevent atherosclerosis by discouraging plaque build-up in arteries. This protects against heart attack and stroke.
3. Sun-Dried Tomatoes Strengthen Bones
Sun-dried tomatoes provide vitamin K, calcium, manganese, and other bone-benefiting nutrients. This reduces bone loss and the risk of osteoporosis as you age.
4. Sun-Dried Tomatoes Improve Blood Health
With plentiful vitamin K and iron, sun-dried tomatoes encourage proper blood clotting while preventing deficiency and anemia.
5. Sun-Dried Tomatoes Enhance Immunity
Despite losing some vitamin C, sun-dried tomatoes still supply antioxidants to fight free radicals and strengthen the immune response against disease and viruses.
6. Sun-Dried Tomatoes Aid Digestion
The fiber in sun-dried tomatoes promotes regularity, gut health, and healthy elimination. It also creates beneficial short-chain fatty acids via gut bacteria.
7. Sun-Dried Tomatoes Protect Eye Health
Lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamin A in sun-dried tomatoes ward off macular degeneration and age-related vision loss.
8. Sun-Dried Tomatoes Preserve Youthful Skin
Antioxidants in sun-dried tomatoes defend skin cells against UV sun damage, wrinkle formation, and accelerated aging. Lycopene shields skin from burning.
Treat yourself to sun-dried tomatoes for whole-body nourishment!
Sun-Dried Tomato Uses and Preparation Tips
Sun-dried tomatoes offer versatility in the kitchen. Here are some serving suggestions:
- Add chopped sundried tomatoes to grain bowls, pasta, pizza, omelets, sandwiches, casseroles, and salads.
- Stuff with goat cheese or cream cheese for easy appetizers.
- Purée into a smooth paste to swirl into hummus, bean dips, or pasta sauce.
- Slice thin and enjoy nuts, cheese, or crackers as a snack.
- Rehydrate in simmering liquid like broth, wine, or juice for stews, soups, and braises.
- Coarsely chop and mix into tuna or chicken salad along with artichokes, olives, and herbs.
- Sprinkle on top of avocado toast or bruschetta.
- Simmer in olive oil to infuse flavor, then store in the infused oil.
- Bake into savory scones, muffins, slices of bread, or baguettes.
With a bit of creativity, it’s easy to incorporate sun-dried tomato nutrition into daily meals!
How to Make Your Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Want to DIY? Here are some tips for making sun-dried tomatoes at home:
Select ripe, unblemished Roma, paste, or plum tomatoes, which hold their shape better than juicy slicers. Beefsteak or heirlooms work too.
Wash tomatoes. Cut in half lengthwise or slice 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 inch thick. Remove seeds if desired. Brush with olive oil and season.
Dry on Sun
Place tomatoes cut-side up on mesh trays in direct sunlight. Bring trays indoors overnight. Repeat sun-drying for several days until completely shriveled.
Optional Oven Drying
If the weather is unreliable, finish tomatoes in the oven at 200°F for 2-3 hours, flipping halfway through.
Cool completely, then pack dried tomatoes in olive oil in airtight containers. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or freeze for months.
You can create your delicious sun-dried tomatoes with simple supplies and sunny weather!
Important Sun-Dried Tomato Selection Tips
Not all sun-dried tomatoes are created equal when it comes to quality. Keep these tips in mind:
- Inspect carefully for mold, moisture, or stickiness. Dried tomatoes should be leathery and dry.
- Avoid added preservatives like sulfites, which can trigger reactions in some people.
- Look for “dry packed” instead of “oil packed” for a healthier choice without excess oil.
- Opt for tomatoes dried naturally in the sun over types dried with artificial heat.
- For oil-packed olive or grapeseed oil instead of vegetable or soybean oil.
- Read the ingredient list. Tomatoes and oil should be the only contents.
Take a moment to check labels and select high-quality, additive-free sun-dried tomatoes for the biggest nutrition benefits.
Potential Concerns About Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Sun-dried tomatoes offer amazing health perks, but here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Their high sodium content means limiting intake if you are salt-sensitive. Rinse before using it to remove some sodium.
- Because they are dehydrated, sun-dried tomatoes are very concentrated and should be eaten in smaller portions.
- Oil-packed varieties provide additional calories from oil versus dry-packed options.
- People with acid reflux or IBS may find eating rehydrated tomatoes irritating. Sauté in oil instead of simmering in liquid.
- Those on blood thinners like warfarin should not dramatically increase tomato intake due to the vitamin K content.
When enjoyed in moderation, sun-dried tomatoes are safe for most people and provide great nutrition. But be mindful of health conditions and portion size.
Should You Refrigerate Sun-Dried Tomatoes?
Proper storage of sun-dried tomatoes helps maximize their shelf life:
- Keep dried tomatoes in the pantry for 1-2 weeks after opening if dry-packed.
- Refrigerate oil-packed dried tomatoes 3-4 weeks after opening. The oil will solidify from the chill.
- Let oil-packed tomatoes come to room temp before serving for the best texture.
- Keep sun-dried tomatoes in the freezer for longer storage for 6-8 months.
- Unopened, dry, and oil-packed dried tomatoes can be kept in the pantry for up to a year.
The low moisture content of dried tomatoes makes refrigeration optional. But for the best quality once opened, follow the above storage guidelines.
Sun-Dried Tomatoes: Some Noticeable Facts
Here are 25 noticeable facts about sun-dried tomatoes:
- Eating sun-dried tomatoes is an excellent way to get lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that may help reduce cancer risk. The drying process concentrates the lycopene levels even more than fresh tomatoes.
- Just 1/4 cup of sun-dried tomatoes provides 50% of your recommended vitamin K intake. This vitamin is essential for proper blood clotting.
- Sun-dried tomatoes are a source of iron, with 1/4 cup providing 7% of the daily recommended amount. Iron is necessary for transporting oxygen in the blood.
- Sun-dried tomatoes can have up to 8 times more fiber per serving than fresh tomatoes. Fiber is important for digestive health and cholesterol reduction.
- Even though some vitamin C is lost during drying, sun-dried tomatoes retain a decent amount to help immune function. One-fourth cup has 10% of the RDI for vitamin C.
- Sun drying triples the amount of potassium in tomatoes. Potassium supports healthy blood pressure levels and heart function.
- Sun-dried tomatoes possess powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins, which give them an intense red color and protect cells from damage.
- Despite their wrinkled appearance, sun-dried tomatoes contain around 75% of the folate in fresh tomatoes per serving. Folate aids in new cell creation.
- The calories in sun-dried tomatoes primarily come from carbohydrates. A 1/4 cup serving provides 7% of the daily carb, mostly from natural sugars.
- Thanks to their portable nature and concentrated flavor, sun-dried tomatoes are easy to toss into salads, sandwiches, wraps, omelets, and casseroles.
- Most of the fat in sun-dried tomatoes comes from the healthy unsaturated fats in olive oil, often used to pack or cook them.
- An average serving of 5 medium sun-dried tomato halves provides about 80 calories, making them a nutritious low-calorie food option.
- Sun-dried tomatoes are produced in many regions, including California, Italy, Turkey, Spain, and Morocco, where hot, dry climates are ideal for sun-drying.
- Sun-dried tomatoes can be dried whole, halved, or sliced depending on the variety and desired final moisture content.
- Most types of tomatoes can be sun-dried, but meaty Roma tomatoes hold their shape the best during dehydration.
- In addition to drying tomatoes in the sun, some producers use food dehydrators or low oven heat to control the drying process.
- Sun-dried tomatoes may be “dry packed” without oil or “oil packed” and stored in olive oil or vinegar to extend shelf life.
- Traditionally sun-dried tomatoes are made by laying tomatoes out on wooden racks or mesh trays for up to 2 weeks in the hot sun.
- Tomatoes are often salted or seasoned before sun-drying for added flavor. Common seasonings include garlic, herbs, balsamic vinegar, and spices.
- Sun-dried tomatoes contain concentrated natural sugars, making them incredibly sweet and almost candy-like in flavor.
- Reconstituting sun-dried tomatoes in liquid expands and softens them to a texture closer to fresh tomatoes.
- Most sun-dried tomato products in stores today are made commercially using artificial heat for efficiency and consistency.
- In addition to being eaten as snacks and ingredients, sun-dried tomato purees are used by chefs for sauces, dressings, and sandwich spreads.
- Sun-dried tomatoes became popular in American cooking during the 1980s and 90s and featured in many recipes.
- Cooks can make oil infused with sun-dried tomato flavor by simmering them in extra virgin olive oil and then letting it cool.
The Nutritional Takeaway on Sun-Dried Tomatoes
From cancer prevention to bone health, sun-dried tomatoes offer an array of valuable nutrition and health benefits, thanks to their concentration of protective antioxidants like lycopene.
Though drying lowers their vitamin C content, it intensifies other nutrients and creates a shelf-stable tomato product with year-round convenience.
Add chopped sun-dried tomatoes to salads, sandwiches, pasta, and grain bowls to amplify flavor and nutrition. Or snack on them solo as a crunchy, savory-sweet treat.
With their impressive nutrition profile and intensely tomatoey essence, keeping sun-dried tomatoes stocked in your pantry is one of the tastiest ways to boost your intake of health-enhancing antioxidants.