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Ask the Nutritionist - Tomatoes: Cooked versus Raw?
Q: Are tomatoes healthier when they are raw? My neighbor tells me that tomatoes are healthier if cooked. Is this true? If not, can you explain why? I'm moving toward a raw food, vegan diet and it makes sense to me that everything be eaten raw and she said, no, some things need to be cooked for a higher nutritional value. Sounds like rubbish. Can you clarify? Thanks- Gigi S.
A: Thanks for your great question! This question of whether cooked or raw tomatoes have a higher nutritional value is still being debated among the scientific community. The answer also depends on what your definition of a "higher nutritional value" is.
There was a study conducted by Rui Hai Liu, M.D., Cornell assistant professor of food science, which may suggest that the content of lycopene, a very powerful antioxidant, becomes more bioavailable once tomatoes are cooked at very high temperatures. However, more studies need to be conducted in order to determine whether this is the case.
While the bioavailability of lycopene may be increased by cooking, the vitamin C and B vitamin content is greatly reduced as a result of high temperatures. In general, cooking destroys vitamins, minerals, and enzymes in our food. Whether or not cooking tomatoes modifies the availability of lycopene, raw tomatoes do contain a beneficial amount of lycopene. In addition to this, raw tomatoes are packed full of nutrition. They provide an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, biotin, and carotenes. They are also a very good source for several B vitamins and fiber.
Grapefruit and watermelon also offer sources for lycopene, so you have many options for obtaining this antioxidant in your diet.
©2009 by Angela Coate-Hermes
These statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration. The preceding information and/or products are for educational purposes only and are not meant to diagnose, prescribe, or treat illness. Please consult your doctor before making any changes or before starting ANY exercise or nutritional supplement program or before using this information or any product during pregnancy or if you have a serious medical condition.