As we know, tomato has lycopene, one of the most powerful natural antioxidants with many health benefits due to its capacity to fight free radicals and reduce the risk of developing a wide variety of (chronic) diseases, and even certain types of cancer. To compare, lycopene devours 10 times more free radicals than vitamin E!
The amount of lycopene differs per type of tomatoes. For example, cherry tomatoes are the highest in lycopene content; roma tomatoes have the highest lycopene concentration, while the vine tomatoes have the lowest in lycopene content (based on their dry weight).
Compared to other natural antioxidants, lycopene has a unique feature as it becomes more effective when heated. Cooking, baking and other thermal processing methods improve lycopene bioavailability by breaking down cell walls, making lycopene more available to our body. That is why the amount of lycopene present in processed tomato products is often much higher than in raw tomatoes.
Among processed tomato products there is also a difference in lycopene content. For example, tomato paste ranked the highest in lycopene content and canned tomato juice the lowest. Just to compare: tomato paste has 10 times more the lycopene than tomatoes. Furthermore, tomato ketchup ranked the lowest in lycopene concentration (based on its dry weight). Here, different dilution ratios may contribute to significant variability in lycopene content.
To increase the absorption of lycopene, just add some olive oil to diced tomatoes during cooking and the maximum nutritional value of your tomatoes is achieved! To make this even stronger: only 25% of lycopene is absorbed without fat.