Tomatoes are loaded with a carotenoid called lycopene. Carotenoids are the antioxidants responsible for giving fruits and veggies their red, yellow and orange colors. Generally, these carotenoids protect the tomato plants from the potentially damaging effects of the suns rays. When eaten, these protective properties play a huge role in optimal health and disease prevention.
In particular, lycopenes found mostly in tomatoes have been shown to prevent damage to the body’s fats, proteins and DNA strands. These effects have recently been found to slow the aging process, ward off chronic disease such as cardiovascular and neurogenic diseases, as well as cancer, diabetes and even osteoporosis (1, 2).
The problem is that lycopenes are very hard to absorb because they are locked in the fiber of the tomato. Research has shown that cooking your tomatoes, or using tomato sauce or tomato paste, releases these lycopenes from the cellulose fiber and allows them to work their magic in your bloodstream as a powerful antioxidant (3).
Interestingly – and perhaps surprisingly – in one report, people who eat lots of processed tomatoes products like ketchup, pizza sauce and tomato paste have lower rates of chronic illness (4).
Ayurvedically, it is understood that the skin of the tomato is very acidic and can aggravate pitta or increase body heat. Traditionally, it was suggested to peel them if you are going to eat them raw or cook them with the skins to neutralize the acid if you have pitta issues. Little did they know that cooking them transformed them from a food to a medicine. Or did they?