Health Benefits of Tomatoes: Cooked vs. Raw

Growing up, nobody could convince me to go anywhere near a tomato. Let’s face it: tomatoes can be one of the least flavorful vegetables (okay, fruits) there are. Now, I’m much wiser than I once was and I thoroughly enjoy growing and purchasing tomatoes of all different shades and sizes. There is such a vast variety of tomatoes out there waiting to be transformed into delicious dishes.

It may be difficult for tomato lovers to figure out which tomatoes offer the most health benefits, but the stress of tomato picking can now be a thing of the past. In a world where people are under the assumption that most fruits and vegetables are best for your health when raw, tomatoes are the exception to that rule.

Raw tomatoes are undoubtedly full of stuff that’s good for you, such as vitamins A, C, and E, potassium, fiber, and lycopene. On the other hand, cooked tomatoes have been found to be the healthier option after all. While heat exposure does cause vitamin C loss, it concentrates other nutritional aspects, especially lycopene, exponentially.

If you think about it, it makes sense. As I mentioned, raw tomatoes can be flavorless due to their high water content. Not only does cooking tomatoes increase lycopene levels through water loss, but it magically transforms these bland fruits into little gems that pack a surprisingly powerful punch of flavor.

Okay, so what is lycopene and why should I care? Lycopene is a pigment found in red produce that has antioxidant properties. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is. Lycopene consumption can potentially reduce the risk of cancer (prostate and skin, in particular) and cardiovascular disease. Cooking your tomatoes may protect you from harmful diseases and it definitely makes them taste great. So, why not go ahead and cook those tomatoes? Summertime has put those tomato plants in the backyard into overdrive. Have more fruits than you know what to do with? Throw them in the oven. The possibilities are endless.

Here’s a recommendation: Roast tomatoes in the oven with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Now what? Let them cool and chop them up. Replace raw tomatoes with roasted in your favorite salad. You can even add them to pasta of your choice as a quick, hassle-free sauce. An easy sandwich for lunch is as simple as toast with a pesto spread and roasted tomatoes. Warning: roasted tomatoes will not and do not last long. The absolute best way to eat them is all by themselves. They’re the perfect, healthy snack!