Tomatoes eaten raw might not be so healthy, says a new study, because our digestive tract can only process a tiny amount of lycopene, an antioxidant found abundantly in tomatoes.
Antioxidants are dietary substances found in beta carotene, vitamins C and E and selenium. They prevent damage to the cells in our body or reverse damage after it has been done.
The study found that although around 75 per cent of the total antioxidants were released, this included only four per cent of the lycopene found in the raw tomato.
"Tomatoes are the richest source of lycopene in the human diet, as well as containing other antioxidants essential for health," said nutritional biochemist Carolyn Lister of Plant & Food Research (PFR).
"However, the human digestive tract is not able to release the majority of lycopene from raw tomatoes, so only a small amount would be made available for the body to use."
"Processing tomatoes has been shown to make lycopene more bioavailable, so as well as eating raw tomatoes for their nutritional value, we should eat tomato sauces to get the goodness of the lycopene," said Lister.
The study was published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition.