The Most Nutritious way to Cook Tomatoes

Tomatoes — there’s a reason that just about every country in the world relies so heavily upon this fruit (that is also a vegetable).  And cooking tomatoes makes them even more nutritious!   That’s right.  Lycopene is a essential antioxidant and tomatoes pack more lycopene than any other food — especially after cooking.  Tomatoes are also loaded with vitamin C, which is adversely affected by cooking.   So, to get the most nutrition out of this amazing “fruitable”.

However, there’s a catch.  If you take your cooking cues from professionally chefs, you may lose a lot of the tomato’s nutritional treasure chest.   Tomatoes are most frequently used to make sauces but most recipes suggest that you remove the skin and seeds from sauce tomatoes.   Big mistake!   The tomato peel and seeds contain a large portion of the vitamins and antioxidants.   One thing that the chefs did get right is the importance of olive oil in cooking tomatoes.  Below, we explain it all to you and provide a free recipe for killer tomato sauce.

The Best Cooking Options for Tomatoes – Minimalizing

Certain cooking methods can help enhance the bioavailability of nutrients in tomatoes. For example, heating or cooking tomatoes in oil will increase the absorption of lycopene, a fat-soluble antioxidant compound that is better absorbed by the body when combined with a source of fat.

The best way cooking option for tomatoes involves minimizing heat and processing.   Excessive heat and prolonged cooking can lead to the loss of water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and B vitamins.  So cooking on low-heat for a minimal amount of time will release the lycopene while not losing too many of vitamins.  Aim for a cooking time that allows the tomatoes to soften and release their flavors without becoming too mushy or disintegrated.

If possible, consider using canned tomatoes.  Canned tomatoes have been cooked and will have higher levels of bioavailable lycopene compared to raw tomatoes.  Beyond that, they are fresher than “fresh tomatoes” because they’ve not been subject to storage and transport.  And, believe it or not, they often taste better than supermarket tomatoes.  Bon Appetit has long argued that canned tomatoes are generally better than fresh.   We agree:  supermarket tomatoes are grown to be transported in crates.  Canned tomatoes are bigger, sweeter and have thinner skins.  During the canning process, tomatoes are heated to a high temperature for a short period of time, which can help retain more nutrients compared to fresh tomatoes that may lose nutrients over time due to exposure to air and light.   Just remember to buy low-sodium canned tomatoes, as they can be sodium-bombs.

If you are using fresh tomatoes,  make sure you don’t cut them too small or cook them for too long.   Also, use cherry tomatoes, as they have higher levels of lycopene and need only be cut once before cooking.

The Best Recipe for Fresh Tomato Sauce

It probably comes to no surprise that the recipe we recommend involves a fast tomato sauce using cherry tomatoes.   It uses olive oil, garlic and basil to enhance the flavor.   And, it offers a little known way to supercharge the tomatoey taste – tomato leaves.


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves minced
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh oregano or Italian seasoning
  • fresh basil, to garnish and extra flavor
  • fresh tomato leaves


In a large skillet, heat up olive oil and shallots over medium heat.  Reduce heat a bit and add garlic, tomatoes, seasonings and tomato leaves.  Saute for about 5 minutes, or until skins are softened.   Remove tomato leaves (they are not edible) and add fresh basil and/or oregano.  Sprinkle a little parmesan cheese when you serve the sauce and you’ve got a super nutritious flavor bomb that pairs well with just about any food in the world.

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