Are Cooked Tomatoes Good for You? 9 Proven Health Benefits of Cooked Tomatoes


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If you are a tomato lover like me, and curious about whether the cooked tomato is indeed more nutritious, then you’ve come to the right post. I’m also one of the many that believe foods are more nutritious when eaten raw. Surprisingly, many research showed that this is not the case, especially when it comes to tomatoes.

So are cooked tomatoes good for you? When tomatoes are cooked, they will release a potent antioxidant. Amongst the amazing health benefits of cooked tomatoes include reduce cholesterol levelOpens in a new tab., improve heart health, and prevent cancer. Eating them with healthy fats significantly boost their benefits.

Quite surprising, isn’t it?

In fact, there are more health benefits of eating cooked tomatoes than raw ones.

This article will give you a walkthrough about what makes cooked tomatoes nutritious and their research-proven health benefits.

What happens to tomatoes when cooked? Do tomatoes lose nutrients when cooked?

Generally, raw food is considered more beneficial than cooked foods.

But I guess there will always be an exception for every general rule, especially for the ever-popular fruits/vegetables, tomatoes.

Though raw tomatoes are already highly-nutritious, surprisingly, they are better when eaten cooked than raw, as suggested by the New York Times best-selling author, Dr. MercolaOpens in a new tab., as well as other scientific studies.

But what actually makes this food so powerful when cooked?

The answer would be the all-powerful antioxidant called lycopene

Though lycopene is present in many other fruits, including pink grapefruit, guava, papaya, and watermelon, researchersOpens in a new tab. reported that tomatoes and tomato products are the primary sources of dietary lycopene.

Furthermore, in the U.S, over 80%Opens in a new tab. of these compounds are consumed from processed tomato products, including tomato juice, tomato ketchup, and spaghetti sauce.

Lycopene is an oxygenated carotenoid that is responsible for giving tomatoes their red color. 

While lycopene lacks provitamin A that can be found in beta-carotene, it has the most potent antioxidant property and is considered more powerful than other types of carotenoids, as well as other antioxidant nutrients and vitamins in the tomatoes.

Inside the tomatoes, lycopene is contained within the cell wall. When tomatoes go through the cooking process, the cell wall will break and release more of these powerful compounds.

Hence the reason why experts recommend eating cooked tomatoes instead of the raw ones.

A professor in the Department of Food Science at Cornell University, Dr. Rui Hai Liu, stated that a lot of nutrients in vegetables and fruits are locked up in the cell walls, and cooking is the key to free up these beneficial nutrients for easy absorption.

Dr. Rui and other researchers from the Department of Food Science and Institute of Comparative and Environmental Toxicology at Cornell University published a study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry about the effect of thermal processing on the tomatoes’ nutritional valueOpens in a new tab..

The study found that though heated or cooked tomatoes have a decreased amount of vitamin C, they have an enhanced nutritional level as the total antioxidant activity increases.

Even in one of the planet’s oldest holistic healing methods, Ayuverdic medicine, it is recommended to cook the tomatoes before eating them.

It also suggested to de-seed and (ideally) de-skin tomatoes to aid in digestion.

To get the most of the lycopene and antioxidants from tomatoes, you can eat the cooked tomatoes along with a small number of healthy fats such as olive oil.

According to a report by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, fats aid in facilitating the digestion of carotenoid-rich foods.

Researchers from the University of Barcelona has also done research that looked at the different benefits provided by three distinct types of tomatoes, which includes the raw tomatoes and cooked tomatoes with and without olive oils. This research lasts over the course of several months.

By the end of the study, the researchers found that while all three types of tomatoes are successful in lowering inflammatory markers, the most effective type of tomatoes was the tomato sauce that was made with olive oil.

Hence, the researchers concluded that the combination of olive oil and tomatoes is significantly more beneficial for health, especially for promoting cardiovascular heart.

Cooked Tomatoes Nutritional Fact

Here’s a brief look at the nutritional value of cooked tomatoes (data is extracted from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Data CentralOpens in a new tab.)

One cup (240g) of cooked, ripe, red tomatoes

Water

226 g

Energy

43.2 kCal

Protein

2.28 g

Total Sugars

5.98 g

Total Dietary Fiber

1.68 g

Iron

1.63 mg

Calcium

26.4 mg

Potassium

523 mg

Magnesium

21.6 mg

Beta-carotene

703 µg

Lycopene

7300 µg

Health Benefits of Cooked Tomatoes

According to research, here are the ten scientifically-proven benefits of cooked tomatoes.

1. Rich in Antioxidants

While tomatoes contain plenty of phytonutrients and vitamins with potent antioxidant effects, lycopene has the most exceptional antioxidant properties.

Back in the 1990s, scientists discovered the contributing cause to the preliminary stages of clogged arteries atherosclerosis, cancer, vision impairment, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses, which is free radical damage.

Free radicals damage the cell in a process called oxidative stress. Some activities that can cause oxidative stress include:

  • Too much exercise
  • Tissue trauma caused by injury or inflammation
  • Smoking
  • Environmental contamination
  • Chemical exposure, including drugs and pesticides
  • Radiation

This is where antioxidant comes in. Antioxidants reduce, slow down, and even prevent the damages caused by these free radicals to the point where they are known as the “free radicals scavengersOpens in a new tab.”.

A study published in the Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics reported that amongst the many carotenoid antioxidants, lycopene is most effective in deactivating singlet oxygenOpens in a new tab. or harmful free radicals.

Nevertheless, some studies suggest that frequent intake of a high-dose antioxidant supplement can be harmful to the body. 

That’s why it is recommended to get your daily intake of antioxidants from real whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables including tomatoes, especially cooked ones as they have more lycopene and easy to process and absorb by the bodies.

2. Reduce Heart Disease 

Considering the powerful combination of both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in tomatoes, researchers have long-established the potential benefits of tomatoes in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

In both epidemiological research and human trials supplementation, lycopene that possesses prominent antioxidant effects, which can be predominantly found within tomatoes, has shown to be effective in lowering the riskOpens in a new tab. of cardiovascular disease.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested that people with a higher concentration of lycopene within their adipose tissue have a lowered risk of myocardial infarctionOpens in a new tab., as supported by considerable pieces of evidence.

The positive effects of lycopene on reducing heart disease are also suggested in a recent study reported by the Current Medicinal ChemistryOpens in a new tab..

3. Cooked Tomatoes and Cancer

Tomatoes and lycopene have long been associated with the health benefits of anti-cancer, especially for prostate cancer, stomach cancer, and lung cancer.

Back in 1999,  the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published a review on the reduction effects of the consumption of lycopene,  tomatoes, and tomato products, on various types of cancers, including cancers of the colon and rectum, pancreas, stomach, breast, and oral cavity.

A recent study reported in the Journal of Pharmacognosy and Opens in a new tab.Phytochemistry suggested that tomatoes, be it raw, cooked, or processed such a tomato paste, tomato ketchup, and tomato sauce, as a great source of food for anti-cancer.

A study published by the Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology reported lycopene as a potential chemoprevention agentOpens in a new tab. for prostate cancer, as supported by several epidemiologic studies, clinical human and animal trials, as well as in vitro data.

The Journal of Cancer Prevention published a recent review that discovered the role of lycopene in preventing the risk of gastric cancerOpens in a new tab., which is ranked as the world’s second major cause of death involving cancer. The anti-cancer effect of lycopene in stomach cancer is primarily due to its antioxidant properties.

Moreover, increasing evidence proposes that tomato lycopene is protective against lung cancer development. 

A studyOpens in a new tab. published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that a number of carotenoids, including lycopene, may minimize the risk of lung cancer.

Experimental researchOpens in a new tab. released by the US National Library of Medicine also showed that lycopene prevents the development of various cultured lung cancer cells, as well as inhibit the formation of lung tumor in animal models via several types of mechanisms.

4. Lower Cholesterol Levels

Aside from cardio-related benefits of tomatoes, people that continuously consume tomatoes have significantly reduced levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterolOpens in a new tab. or otherwise known as bad cholesterol, as reported by recent research involving a team of researchers who collected and examined over 20 studies.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also reported that lycopene can reduce the production of cholesterol as well as facilitate the degradation of LDL cholesterol.

A randomized cross-over research with regards to tomato lycopene and LDL oxidationOpens in a new tab. has also been conducted by the Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto, Canada. 

In this study, 19 healthy individuals are subjected to four different foods; three foods amongst them contained a different concentration of lycopene, while the remaining one contained no lycopene at all.

Subjects that consumed any three lycopene-containing foods are found to have a substantially lowered blood lipid peroxidation and bad cholesterol oxidation.

5. Boost Gut Health

A group of researchers from the Polytechnic University of Valencia in Spain has studied the interaction between the antioxidants from tomatoes and gut health.

Specifically, the team of researchers was interested in looking at how the antioxidant-rich tomato would behave in the gut when good gut bacteria (particularly Lactobacillus reuteri) are present. 

In this study, they tested both raw and cooked (fried) tomato sauce to see how the cooking process can influence the overall process.

The result of the study, which was released in the Journal of Functional FoodsOpens in a new tab., suggested that cooked tomato is more effective compared to the raw ones.

The cooking process of tomato boosts its probiotic properties. And at the same time, cooked, fried tomato caused a progressive transformation of the lycopene within tomatoes which helps preserve the antioxidant integrity, allowing it to be more bioaccessible throughout the digestive process.

In layman terms, this means that once you cook the tomato sauce, your body can absorb more beneficial antioxidants (lycopene) during digestion.

6. Promote Strong Bones

Preliminary researchOpens in a new tab. suggested that lycopene can help in promoting bone health and reduce the risk of getting osteoporosis, which is a systemic disease that impairs bone mass and strength leading to disability, fracture, and even death.

A researchOpens in a new tab. conducted by the Framingham Osteoporosis Study discovered that individuals who had a higher level of lycopene within their blood have a lowered risk of experiencing a non-vertebral or hip fracture.

Moreover, another researchOpens in a new tab. published by Osteoporosis International suggested that postmenopausal women who included lycopene in their diets for four months saw a reduction in oxidative stress and bone breakdown (bone resorption).

7. Help Relieve Asthma

Some small-scale researches propose that tomatoes’ lycopene content might help in relieving asthma.

A study published by the Free Radical Research showed that antioxidant-rich and lycopene-rich cooked tomatoes can modify the inflamed airways in asthmaOpens in a new tab. and reduced lung inflammation.

Another studyOpens in a new tab. published by Allergy suggests that one week of oral lycopene intake protects over 50% of patients from exercise-induced asthma (EIA), which is most likely due to the antioxidant effect of lycopene on the lungs.

8. Minimize the Risk of Stroke in Men

A population-based studyOpens in a new tab. published by Neurology.org suggests that lycopene reduces the risk of any type of stroke as well as ischemic stroke in men.

In this study, over 1000 Finnish men between the age of 46 to 65 years old are involved. Findings showed that individuals with the highest blood lycopene levels had a reduced risk of over 50 % in suffering any type of stroke.

9. Reduce Erythema Induced by UV Light

Dietary tomato, specifically in the form of a paste, can protect your skin against the UV light-induced erythema.

According to a studyOpens in a new tab. published by the Journal of Nutrition, the consumption of tomato paste daily together with olive oil for about ten weeks can reduce UV light-induced erythema for almost 40%.

Other Vegetables That Are Healthier When Cooked

Aside from cooked tomatoes, there are other vegetables that are nutritionally more superior when they are cooked rather than raw.

All of these vegetables hold the same concept as that of cooked tomatoes, that is once they are cooked, their tough cell wall breaks down and causing more beneficial nutrients to be released. 

So you can enjoy them with whichever cooking method that you prefer. You can saute, steam, roast, or even grill them.

Here are some of the veggies that excel under heat.

Carrots

Carrots are known for their vitamin A that is good for the eyes. But did you know that vitamin A actually comes from carotenoids? 

Shockingly, vitamin A is actually a converted substance of beta-carotene, which means that what we eat from carrots is the beta-carotene that will then be transformed into vitamin A in the body.

Similar to the lycopene, the amount of beta-carotene in cooked carrots are higher than that of raw carrots.

A studyOpens in a new tab. published by the European Journal of Nutrition discovered that considerably more beta-carotenes were absorbed from cooked, pureed carrots compared to the raw ones.

Asparagus

The spears of asparagus are rich in anti-cancer vitamins, such as vitamins A, C, and E. They also contain folate, a type of vitamin B that promotes healthy cell growth and essential for the production of red blood cells.

The only hurdle in getting these beneficial substances is the thick cell walls of asparagus, which makes it hard for the body to absorb the nutrients.

Cooking asparagus will break down the thick cell wall of asparagus so that your body can absorb these nutrients easily.

Furthermore, a studyOpens in a new tab. published by the International Journal of Food Science and Technology reported that while the cooking process reduces the total ascorbic acid content in asparagus by over 50%, the cooked asparagus has a higher content of antioxidant activity by over 15% and beta-carotene by 24%, as well as a richer amount of other essential carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin.

Spinach

Unlike carrots and asparagus where the cooking process can significantly increase their nutritional worth, spinach are nutritious both when eaten raw or cooked.

When raw, spinach is rich in oxalic acid, folate, vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, and niacin.

On the other hand, cooked spinachOpens in a new tab. has a higher amount of protein, fiber, calcium, zinc, thiamin, iron, and vitamin A and E. Essential carotenoids, including beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, and lutein also become easier to digest and absorb.

Nevertheless, while both forms of spinach are nutrient-dense, cooked spinach is considered more compact and makes you eat it in a larger volume in one sitting, which causes you to consume a lot of nutrients as a result.

A recent study also discovered that steamed spinach, while maintaining a constant level of folate, makes you eat more of it due to its wilted form. Hence, help you eat more folate.

Furthermore, the World’s Healthiest FoodsOpens in a new tab. stated that boiling spinach can release more acids into the boiling water, which gives the vegetable a sweeter taste.

How long do you need to cook tomatoes for lycopene?

Recent studiesOpens in a new tab. suggest that heating tomatoes for a short period of time, which is around 15 minutes, help retain more lycopene during home cooking and processing in the sector.

Which is better, cooked or raw tomatoes?

Research shows that cooked tomatoes are healthier than raw tomatoes as they contain more antioxidants, albeit with a lesser amount of vitamin C. But since tomatoes are naturally nutrient-dense, experts advised consuming them regardless of how they are prepared.

Eina Aivoges

Eina Aivoges is a certified health and wellness coach and a licensed medical laboratory scientist. She's also a foodie, avid coffee drinker, cat-lover, blogger, and traveler.

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