Anti-oxidants in Chutneys??

Tomato Mint Chutney

I call this a chutney, but essentially this is a wonderful dish to make ahead and always have handy. I usually make this recipe with cilantro, but running low on cilantro one day, I decided to use the only fresh herb I had on hand. The result was absolutely wonderful. The main reason I have this recipe here is because I want to add to my list of spreads for Sheetal. Well, this is another wonderful base for whole wheat sandwiches. Not only can it be used as a chutney and a spread, it can also be used as a dip for fresh vegetables (baby carrot, celery, even rye crackers!), or as a pasta sauce, or a pizza sauce. And it is so versatile, you can convert it into hot tomato soup in two steps!

Oxidation and anti-oxidants: Oxidation, to put it very simply, is the removal of electrons from an atom. Why is this bad? When electrons are lost from an atom (which in this case is a part of your body), it becomes highly active (free radical). Its like a missile with no particular target to attack, so it goes ahead and attacks other atoms, or parts of atoms to get back its lost electron. Formation of one free radical can start off a cascade which could ultimately result in complete damage to a living cell. So, what causes the formation of free radicals? A small number of free radicals are formed by our body due to metabolic activities. These are however taken care of by the body itself. Our problems arise when too many free radicals are formed. When does this happen? This occurs when we are exposed to pollution, cigarette smoke, certain chemicals or UV rays.

Another problem with free radicals is that they accumulate with age, damaging DNA (the genetic material) in some organelles. This causes cells death and aging of individuals. Well, there's no need to worry though! Nature has provided us with ample means to combat free radicals. There are a bounty of anti-oxidants available to us which can give the boisterous atom an electron before it creates any havoc. Some of these include tomatoes, citrus fruits, berries of all kinds, carrots, papaya....

Tomatoes are one of the most common anti-oxidants available to us all year round, affordable and easy to incorporate into anything. The red color of tomatoes is due to the presence of "lycopene", a pigment to which the anti-oxidant properties of tomatoes have been attributed. I was looking at some interesting studies on tomatoes and this is a summary of what I found: tomatoes have been proved to be helpful in the prevention of numerous cancers, especially cancers of the prostrate, colon, rectum, stomach, lung and breast, to mention a few.

Things to look for when you are buying and cooking tomatoes:
Always buy tomatoes as darkly colored as possible. The redder the tomato, the greater the amount of lycopene it contains.
When cooking tomatoes: lycopene is present in the cell walls of tomatoes, so peeling tomatoes is not really a god way to consume them.
Cooking tomatoes in oil helps make the lycopene available, so try and cook this wonderful vegetable in some extra virgin olive oil.
For all those people who love the comfort of canned tomatoes (I am one of them), good news! Canning does not reduce the health benefits of the tomato!
Another very interesting thing I read about tomatoes: Never cook tomatoes in aluminium... Well, if you really think about it, it makes sense, aluminium, WHFoods says, reacts with the acids in tomatoes and introduces aluminium into our food, which can be very harmful.

Some interesting links:
World's Healthiest Foods
BBC News/Health
Council for Biotechnology Information, Q&A

Makes 4 cups of spread:
Tomatoes: 12 (chopped)
Red onion: 1 (chopped)
Fresh Mint Leaves: half a bunch, leaves only
Garlic: 6 cloves
Cumin seeds: 1 tsp
Olive oil: 1 tbsp
Green chilies: 6 (adjust according to taste)
Chili powder: As per taste
Turmeric: 0.25 tsp
Coriander powder: 1 tsp (Dhania powder)

To a saucepan, add olive oil, cumin, garlic, green chilies and onions.
Saute till onions become translucent.
Add the tomatoes and mint leaves.
Cover and cook stirring occasionally for 15 to 20 minutes.
Add salt, turmeric powder, chili powder, coriander powder and mix well.
Simmer for 5 minutes.
Let cool and grind.
Store in an air tight box.
For longer storage, freeze in Ziploc bags for up to 6 months.

To make this into soup:
To a large sauce pan, add 1 tsp olive oil, add 2 tbsp all purpose flour (or maida), saute till the raw smell disappears. Add one cup of the chutney and 3/4 cup of water or vegetable stock. Heat till the soup thickens. Serve with garlic croutons, or plain croutons.

Nutritional Information:
Per serving Per serving (1 tbsp) or 1/50th of the recipe (50 g)
Calories: 15
Calories from Fat: 4
Total Fat: 0 g (1% of DV)
Saturated Fat: 0 g
Trans Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 g
Sodium: 52 mg (2% of DV)
Carbohydrates: 3 g (1% of DV)
Dietary Fiber: 1 g (3% of DV)
Sugar: 0 g
Proteins: 1 g

Vitamin A: 7% of DV
Vitamin C: 19% of DV
Calcium: 1% of DV
Iron: 2% of DV

Percent daily values are based on a 2000 calorie diet and may vary based on individual requirements.

Breakdown of caloric information:
Carbohydrates: 65% Fats: 26% Proteins: 9%

The Colors of Health

The Colors of Health