Sunday, September 24, 2023

Is it Better to Cook Tomatoes or Eat Them Raw?

Cooking tomatoes changes the nutrient profile of tomatoes, especially its antioxidants. There are benefits and disadvantages of each way of consuming—raw and cooked tomatoes.

Cook your tomatoes. Here is why.

Cooking Can Decrease Nutrients

Some nutrients are destroyed in the process of cooking.

  • Vitamin C gets oxidised to biologically inactive compounds on heating. Vitamin C is a healthful antioxidant that helps in immunity, heart health and against cancer.
  • When tomatoes are cooked for fifteen to thirty minutes, their vitamin C reduces by fifteen to thirty per cent.
  • Vitamin C dissolves in the water used for cooking, which is removed in some tomato preparations.
  • Similarly, B vitamins are heat sensitive and are also lost in water during cooking. Tomatoes are a good source of vitamin B9 or folates. By using the water, you can retain eighty per cent of the original vitamin B9.

Luckily, almost no one eats tomatoes for their vitamin C or B9 content. So let us look at the benefits of cooking tomatoes.

Cooking Can Increase Nutrients

  • The most potent antioxidant in tomatoes–lycopene–is usually bound inside its cells’ rigid walls. On cooking, these walls break down, releasing lycopene, which reduces cancer and heart disease risk.
  • Cooking tomatoes for fifteen to thirty minutes increases lycopene availability by 160 per cent.
  • A hundred grams of raw tomato contain 3 mg; similar amounts of cooked tomatoes have 9 mg, tomato paste offers 15 mg, and tomato ketchup gives 30 mg.
  • One is advised to take 20 mg of lycopene a day.
  • Up to 75 mg of lycopene is not found to be harmful. So you may slurp your ketchup away from the prying eyes of your neighbours. Just make sure it is not laced with sugar—usually, 25% of ketchup is added sugar or high fructose corn syrup.
  • The overall antioxidant levels increase by thirty-five to sixty per cent in a cooked tomato.
  • The cooked forms of tomatoes—pastes, purées, and ketchup—are far more nutritious than the raw tomato.

Most antioxidants in a tomato, including lycopene, are near its skin surface. So do not peel your tomato, whether eating it raw or cooked.

Tomato Hack For Engineers

The ratio of a sphere’s surface area to volume increases as the radius reduces. So smaller tomatoes have more skin area—and therefore, more antioxidants—per unit weight.

Pick relatively smaller tomatoes to get more antioxidants for the same cost.

Most of the information in this article is taken from my upcoming book to be published by Macmillan Publishers in Nov 2023. The book discusses a thousand such preventive health tidbits. It covers twenty superfoods, their nutrients, health benefits, recommended amounts and excess levels. It also explains how to select and store and who should avoid them. Some of the superfoods are tomatoes, coconut, capsicum (Shimla mirch), drumsticks, amla (Indian gooseberry), jamun (Java plum), turmeric, cinnamon, flax seeds, asafoetida (hing), and sabja (sweet basil seeds).

To Read More

First Published on: 20 Apr 2023
Image Credits: KamranAydinov on Freepik
Last Updated on: 27th June 2023

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