Sunday, August 5, 2012

Eat With and For Your Eyes

Cherry Tomato eye's view of train going by Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival, Atlanta

Food’s got to taste good and look good to win a cooking competition. Every contestant in a recipe contest or chef’s cook-off knows that. First we eat with our eyes, as the saying goes. The tomato cheesecake with an ice cream bun was so pretty and impressed the judges’ palates so much Donald Sargent of Morelli’s Gourmet Ice Cream was the big winner at Georgia Organic’s Fourth Annual Attack of The Killer Tomato Festival. 
Along with fellow Les Dames d'Escoffier member, Angie Mosier ( not pictured)  I got to emcee the
Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival
Put that on your resume! 

For the field of Atlanta area chefs and mixologists the food focus was on Georgia grown tomatoes of all colors, shapes and sizes yielding some crazy and creative bites and beverages for food lovers gathered at JCT Kitchen and around the west midtown complex. Tyler Williams of Abattoir whipped out the liquid nitrogen to create a frozen tomato Greek salad - a serving of tiny frozen balls that burst with flavor and ate like ‘dippin dots’ ice cream. 

Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene poured tomato gravy on pulled pork sliders and Drew Beline of NO. 246 presented elegant bites of roasted tomato and goat cheese tortellini in tomato brodo with small tomatoes and basil.

Eat For Your Eyes
Foods are more appealing when they look beautiful and nothing’s prettier than a summer tomato! But, looks like we should be eating for our eyes too. Nutrition researchers are gazing into our eyes to illuminate the link between nutrition and eye health.  Their important diet discoveries go beyond eating carrots to see better in the dark. Carrots still rank high on the eye-sight- saving menu but other heroes, perhaps even more important, are emerging from the farm. 

Scientists have set their sights on green leafy and deep orange or yellow vegetables such as spinach, kale, zucchini, corn, tomatoes, carrots, collard greens, yellow squash and turnip greens because they contain two natural carotenoid plant pigments called lutein and zeaxanthin. 

They are both potent antioxidants thought to protect the eyes against damaging light waves and free radicals that may cause cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  A 2011 study in the British Journal of Nutrition reports that lutein can reduce risk of cataracts by up to forty percent and a 2007 study in the Archives of Ophthalmology found that lutein may cut risk of AMD by thirty five percent. 
Pizza with arugula! Looking good for taste buds and eye health. 

Lutein is also found in eggs, especially the yolk.  Take note of that and skip the egg white omelets. 
Chef Carvel Gould of Canoe chose to perch a tiny quail egg on top of a biscuit with slices of fresh and preserved tomato for  her Tomato Fest entry. Talk about easy on the eyes! 

Cage free egg at Ecco restaurant, Atlanta. 

Recipe note: since lutein is a fat-soluble nutrient absorption is increased when consumed with a little oil. So it’s good to know that olive oil drizzled on summer’s fresh salads is good for your taste buds and your eyes.
Focus on Foods
Other powerful antioxidant nutrients associated with maintaining overall eye health are zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene.
The two leading causes of visual loss and blindness are cataracts and AMD, affecting more than 22 million Americans. Lutein is important for the development of an infant’s eye sight (attention moms-to-be) and maintaining children’s vision health (another reason to eat your vegetables kids!).  So make lutein a routine for good eye health throughout the lifespan! 

Happily, many of the foods rich in nutrients good for our eyes are delicious additions to any meal and are beautiful to look at too. How about those tomatoes?

Make Lutein a Routine! 
Lutein/Zeaxanthin: kale, collard greens, spinach, turnip greens, broccoli, avocado, zucchini, peas, corn, Brussels sprouts, tangerines, dark leafy salad greens. Also, eggs.
Beta-carotene: carrots, mangos, sweet potato, greens, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, cantaloupe, kale, apricots. 

Vitamin C: papaya, citrus fruit, strawberries, tomato, mango, green peppers, berries.

Vitamin E: almonds, wheat germ, whole grain breads, avocado, greens.

Zinc: oysters, lobster, beef, poultry, pork, lentils, whole grain bread.

Source: USDA nutrient data base.



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