There is a lot of talk about benefits of raw foods these days, and rightly so. However, let’s not forget that a number of cooked foods, especially vegetables, are also very nutritious and good for us and, in many cases, trump the raw varieties in health benefits.
Cooked vs raw vegetables – let’s consider three popular ones: tomatoes, broccoli and carrots.
High in water, vitamins (C, A and K), minerals (potassium, manganese, iron) and antioxidants such as lycopene (see information below), tomatoes are a great food choice and people of all ages and cultures like and eat them regularly. However, preparation methods do matter when it comes to extracting the many health benefits.
- Processed tomatoes (cooked into a paste, sauce or stewed) as well as canned varieties are the richest known sources of lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant (a compound that blocks the action of free radicals that can damage cells causing ageing, cell and organ damage leading to most illnesses) scientifically proven to prevent and treat many cancers including prostate, lung, stomach, bladder, cervix and skin, among others. Deep red tomatoes have more lycopene and overall antioxidant activity than yellow, gold or green tomatoes.
- Tomato paste is the most concentrated form of processed tomatoes and has up to 10 times more lycopene than raw tomatoes (verified by studies).
- The heat applied during the processing makes the lycopene changes its structure and become more available for the body to absorb and utilise.
- Quite often cooked tomatoes have much more flavour than typical supermarket ones which are usually picked unripe and then stored losing much of the flavour and nutritional value in the process.
- Tomatoes used by the food industry for canning are picked when red-ripe and they are usually processed within a short period of time. Therefore their flavour and nutrients are largely preserved.
- Be mindful that most processed tomatoes