Surprising Benefits of Cooking Tomatoes (The Lycopene Secret)

Did you know that consuming tomatoes cooked is in fact healthier than eating them raw?

Cooking tomatoes increases the bioavailability of lycopene, a bright red carotenoid, which is a powerful antioxidant. Lycopene is what gives tomatoes, watermelon and papaya their bright red color.

Lycopene can help to prevent cancer growth, and supports your health, brain, and bone health by protecting the cells from damage. Currently, Americans get about 85% of their lycopene from tomatoes or tomato-based products according to the National Institute of Health.

While eating tomatoes raw still provides lycopene, heating it with a fat source helps it turn into a more easily absorbable and usable form. This is because of the shape of the lycopene molecule: Lycopene in red tomatoes exists in a straight or trans isomer structure, while in the human body, it’s in a bent form called cis isomers. By heating the tomatoes up, the molecules will change shape from straight to bent form. Lycopene is also a fat soluble nutrient, and so it needs some fats for the body to readily absorb it, which is why cooking tomatoes for a long period of time, such as in tomato sauces or soups, is a great way to increase the amount of lycopene in one’s diet.

So, in learning about this fact, I’ve decided to share with you guys a new recipe that uses a lot of cooked tomatoes! Quick, fast, and easy, maybe you’ve heard of this famous brunch food? Here’s my version of shakshuka 🍳🍅

Recipe: Easy Shakshuka on Stovetop

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes; preferably roasted
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ avocado
  • 2 cloves of garlic (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • Handful of cilantro (½ chopped for cooking, ½ for garnish)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • Ricotta cheese (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Pita, toasted for serving
  1. Heat olive oil over skillet over medium heat. Add onions, bell pepper, and salt to taste. Cook until the onions are soft and browned.
  2. Add garlic, cumin, paprika powder, and tomato paste.
  3. Add crushed tomatoes, water included. Add ½ chopped cilantro, and cooked until simmering. Add salt to taste.
  4. Using your spoon, make little indents or pockets, to place the eggs in. Make 6 pockets, and then carefully crack eggs into them.
  5. Place a lid on the pan! This is very important, to get the eggs to cook thoroughly, yet be soft — the steam helps to distribute heat more evenly. If you don’t have a pan lid, then a handy hack is to put aluminum foil over the pan.
  6. Cook for another 6–10 minutes — the eggs are done when they’re opaque; cook longer or less depending on how soft you like them (6 minutes for soft, 10 minutes for hard)
  7. Add ricotta, avocado, and cilantro on top, and serve with toasted pita!

A great breakfast or lunch option, that’s healthy and filling, yet quick to put together (as long as you already have the ingredients at home). Shakshuka is best eaten immediately so don’t wait!

If you liked this recipe, or would like more tips on how to incorporate cooked tomatoes into your meals, message me at! Again, I reply to all emails, and I love hearing from my readers! 🍅

Born in Dallas, raised in New York and Tokyo. I care about helping others learn to live a better, healthier life. My site: 🌱

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