Tomato Debate: Fresh vs. Cooked

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.

Related To:

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.

    Fresh tomato recipes to try:
    Cooked tomato recipes to try:

Next Up

Yes, You Can Freeze Tomatoes in 3 Different Ways

Stretch tomato season indefinitely with these easy tips.

The Best Way to Store Tomatoes

Just how bad is it to refrigerate your tomatoes?

How to Can Tomatoes

Right this way to jarred essence of summer. Food Network Kitchen's tested, detailed method that walks you through all the safety measures necessary.

Everything to Know About Tomatoes

How to choose, cut, store and cook these juicy jewels of summer.

What Is Celtuce?

This versatile vegetable is a nutritious powerhouse.

3 Tricks to Start Planning Your Meals Around Vegetables

Burnt out by your meal prep strategy? Start thinking veggies-first, and you'll plan meals with greater variety and probably save a little money too.

How to Use Your Produce Before It Goes Bad

The best ways to use whatever fruits and vegetables you have on hand.

Why You Need to Store Your Onions and Potatoes Separately

The surprising reason these two pantry staples need to be kept apart.

The Best Vegetables to Eat When You're Trying to Lose Weight

Here are seven especially super veggies when you're slimming down.

How to Cut a Jalapeño

Plus: learn how to deal with jalapeno hands.