Tomato Debate: Fresh vs. Cooked

by in Healthy Tips, July 28, 2009

Tomato Relish
You may know that the more you cook a food, the more you destroy its nutrients, but is that true for tomatoes? Not exactly. In fact, some nutrients increase when you cook tomatoes, while others drop off. So what’s a tomato-lover to do?

What Research Says
In one study, researchers at Cornell University heated tomatoes and found their vitamin C content decreased as cooking time increased. Tomatoes cooked for 2 minutes had 10% less vitamin C than an uncooked tomato, and those cooked for 30 minutes had 29% less vitamin C. But the reverse was true for the tomatoes’ lycopene content. After 2 minutes of cooking, they had 54% more lycopene, and after 30-minutes, they had 164% more (164%!). Until this study, there had never been info that pointed to a nutrient that increased in strength when a food was cooked.

Of course, cooking isn’t the only possible factor affecting nutrients. You can also destroy a tomato’s vitamin C through the prep work (like pureeing and chopping). To minimize the impact, your best bet is to add tomatoes towards the end of the cooking process. But don’t stress too much — if you need to puree, chop or cook your tomatoes, you’ll still get tons of the antioxidant lycopene, which research has linked to lowering your risk for cancer, heart disease and deteriorating eyesight.

The Bottom Line
Tomatoes are a nutrient-rich food no matter what — so don’t shy away from using them in many dishes. Stick to a balance of recipes that feature cooked and fresh tomatoes, and you’ll be covered on your lycopene and vitamin C needs.

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