The carotenoid phytonutrient lycopene is responsible for the vibrant colour in red bell peppers, watermelons and tomatoes. It also acts as a powerful antioxidant, helping to guard your cells against harmful cancer-causing free radicals and oxidative stress.
Like beta-carotene, lycopene protects each cell’s outer membrane from free radical attacks. Scientific studies show eating foods rich in lycopene can protect against several cancers, including lung, stomach and prostate, as well as showing promising results for protecting against breast cancer and cancers of the digestive system. A study at Harvard University showed that men who had just two servings of tomato sauce per week had 23 percent less prostate cancer risk compared to those who rarely had tomato products. This hearty antioxidant also lowers your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by reducing cholesterol and lowering blood pressure.
In a change from the rule that “raw is best”, heat actually increases the content of lycopene in tomatoes and also makes it easily absorbed into the body, so in the case of lycopene, cooked tomatoes are better than raw!