Tomato: Raw or Cooked? – Which One is Best?

Cooked tomatoes are best. Tomatoes are surely part of your daily diet, and it is not strange since they are one of the most widely consumed vegetables in the world. But, have you ever wondered how tomatoes are best served or prepared? Probably not; however, don’t worry, in this blog you’ll learn about some characteristics of tomatoes and why cooked tomatoes are better than raw tomatoes. Without saying more, let’s get started!

Characteristics of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) 

The tomato is part of the Solanaceae family, as well as eggplants, peppers, paprika, potatoes, and other foods. This vegetable originated in the American continent, and grew in the Andean region of South America, from where it is said to have been transferred to Central America and Mexico.

In botany, the tomato plant is classified as a herbaceous perennial, which means that the stems do not form woody tissue, that is, wood.

The fruits of the plant, i.e. tomatoes, are considered to be berries consisting of the outer skin, pulp and seeds. They are round and can weigh from a few milligrams to 600 g. When unripe, the skin is green and red when ripe. Though, there are varieties of tomato in which the fruits can be yellow, orange, green, purple, among others.

The tomato can be consumed in different ways, for example, raw in salads, juices or other dishes. It can also be eaten cooked in stews, soups, pasta, stuffed tomatoes and other dishes that vary according to the country.

To learn more about this vegetable, we invite you to read our complete guide to tomatoes.

Why is cooked tomato better? 

As I said before, tomatoes are better cooked and it’s all thanks to the substance called lycopene. But what is lycopene? Let me explain, lycopene is a pigment that is present in various foods, and in this case it is responsible for the intense red color of tomatoes.

Now, the human body cannot produce lycopene, therefore it is important to include foods that contain it in our daily diet. The tomato is a vegetable that contains high amounts of this component that constitutes approximately 83% of the pigments of this vegetable.

I tell you this because lycopene is a substance that can vary in quantity depending on the cooking method used, that is, depending on whether it is consumed raw or cooked. Several studies have affirmed that cooking tomatoes increases the amount of lycopene, for example, the journal Nutrients (2021), conducted a study in which the variability of lycopene was evaluated by analyzing raw and cooked tomato puree.

The conclusion of this analysis was that, although raw tomato has a high concentration of the substance, when boiled or with olive oil added, it positively influences a greater increase in lycopene and also maximizes its effects. And this is why eating cooked tomatoes can provide more benefits such as the rapid absorption of this nutrient during digestion and the improvement of the antioxidant power of tomatoes.

The following table compares the amount of lycopene in different tomato products or preparations and confirms that the amount of the substance increases in dishes that require some type of cooking.

Tomato- based productsLicopene content (µg/g wet weight)
Fresh / raw tomatoes8.8 – 42.0
Cooked tomato37.0
Tomato paste62.0
Tomato sauce54.0 – 1500.0
Tomato soup79.9
Powdered tomato1126.3 – 1264.9
Tomato juice50.0 – 116.0
Pizza sauce127.1
Ketchup99.0 – 134.4

Taken from International Journal of Food Engineering Research (IJFER), (2017).

From the table it can be seen that the lycopene content in some products varies, this may be due to many factors such as cultivation techniques, technologies used for processing and preservation of tomato, the cooking method used, and others.

3 health benefits of lycopene in tomatoes

In this section you’ll learn about the benefits that this substance can have on our body. The information was retrieved from the journal Antioxidants (MDPI), 2022.

1. Antioxidant power

One of the main causes of chronic diseases is oxidative stress, this happens in the body when there is an increase in free radicals that accumulate in cells and damage molecules such as proteins.

The lycopene content in tomatoes makes this vegetable a natural antioxidant food, it helps to regenerate other antioxidant substances such as vitamin E and C, thus increasing the defense system that fights free radicals.

2. Lycopene in cardiovascular diseases

Cardiovascular diseases develop for different reasons, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, people who smoke, among other causes. In addition, low amounts of lycopene in the blood can cause damage to the body such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, among others.

In this case, lycopene concentrations in the blood help reduce the risk of suffering negative cardiac events.  

3. Other benefits of lycopene

Foods with lycopene such as tomatoes have more benefits in our health, some of these are:

  • It aids in vitamin A deficiency, important for a good immune system, healthy vision, strong teeth and bones.
  • It has inflammatory power.
  • It helps skin problems by repairing damaged skin cells, promotes elasticity, increases the speed of the natural healing process, etc.
  • It fights infections and bacteria by stimulating the immune system response.
  • It helps with age-related vision degeneration problems.
  • It improves problems related to bone disease.

And many benefits more


As you have seen, the tomato is a vegetable that you must include in your diet whether raw or cooked. Although as mentioned, it is preferable to consume it cooked to further enhance all its properties. We hope this blog has taught you new things and that you are encouraged to make different tomato-based dishes.