Is Eating Tomatoes Raw Healthier Than Eating Them Cooked?

Tomatoes are easily integrated into many foods. From pizza to salads, or even bloody mary cocktails, tomatoes are a daily staple of many people's diets. Regardless of whether they're eaten raw or cooked, tomatoes have many nutrients that are beneficial to your health. Tomatoes also contain antioxidants like lycopene, which can help reduce cholesterol and prevent diseases like osteoporosis, cancer and Type 2 diabetes.

Both raw and cooked tomatoes contain the powerful antioxidant lycopene. (Image: Adam Calaitzis/iStock/GettyImages)

Tomato Nutrition

Tomatoes come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and types. Regardless of whether you're consuming a giant beefsteak tomato or cherry tomatoes, their nutrition per serving is similar.

A serving of tomatoes is about 150 grams (a bit larger than 5 ounces). There are only 26.8 calories and 5.8 carbs per serving, which also contains fiber, protein and a variety of beneficial vitamins and minerals. Nutrients in each standard serving of raw tomatoes include:

  • Vitamin A: 25 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA)
  • Vitamin B6: 6 percent of the RDA
  • Vitamin B9 or folic acid: 6 percent of the RDA
  • Vitamin C: 32 percent of the RDA
  • Vitamin K: 15 percent of the RDA
  • Manganese: 8 percent of the RDA
  • Potassium: 10 percent of the RDA

Tomatoes also contain small amounts (between 1 and 4 percent) of other vitamins and minerals, including other B-complex vitamins, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. Tomatoes are rich in carotenoids, like lycopene and β-carotene; phenolic compounds; and healthy fatty acids, like linolenic acid.

Read more: Tomatoes

Health Benefits of Tomatoes

Although tomatoes are frequently used in sauces and other types of cooked foods, the nutrients and compounds in the raw fruit can positively affect your health in many ways. Raw tomatoes are often found in salads or blended into smoothies or juices.

Many of the nutrients, antioxidants and other beneficial compounds in raw tomatoes may prevent or help treat a wide range of health issues. The health benefits of tomatoes include:

What About Cooked Tomatoes?

Carotenoids and phenolic compounds like α-tomatine, lutein, lycopene and β-carotene play major roles in the health benefits offered by tomatoes. Lycopene, in particular, is beneficial for human health. It has been shown to have antioxidant activities and can also help regulate blood sugar, cholesterol and weight.

Like all fruits and vegetables, the nutrients in tomatoes can be impacted by whether or not you cook them. This is because of the heat applied; in general, heat, regardless of whether it's sun-drying or stewing, can degrade a lot of the antioxidants in food. However, tomatoes are unique because quantities of certain antioxidants, like lycopene, actually increase during the cooking process.

According to a 2013 study in the journal Foods and a 2013 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, quantities of lycopene are always higher in cooked tomatoes, with canned tomatoes containing twice as much as fresh ones.

Other antioxidants, like lutein and beta-carotene, also increase somewhat after exposure to heat during industrial processing. This means that even though tomatoes are a perfectly healthy food to eat raw, you can get just as many nutrients (or even more) by eating tomato products like canned tomatoes.

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