Sometimes cooking foods causes loss of vitamins or other nutrients. But in the case of tomatoes, cooked is better than raw.

Many of the beneficial phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables are antioxidants, which our bodies use to repair cell damage caused by free radicals. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that can reduce the risk of breast, prostate, colon and other cancers.

If you eat raw tomatoes, most of the lycopene will pass through undigested. Cooking breaks down the cell walls and makes the lycopene available. Tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, ketchup, pizza sauce, tomato paste and salsa are all good sources of lycopenes.

Of course, you should still enjoy your raw tomatoes too! They're a great source of vitamin A and B, fiber and minerals; they're low in calories and they taste good. The bottom line: eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, cooked and raw; fresh, frozen, canned or dried.

Checked 5/3/07

Get our newsletter