Now that it’s officially summer time, you can finally get your hands on fresh produce. And nothing beats seasonal foods, including ripe tomatoes. And while we tend to prefer raw, fresh fruits and vegetables in the hotter months, you might want to cook your tomatoes. That’s because they’re actually better for you than raw ones. Here’s why.

First, it’s important to say that raw tomatoes are still perfectly healthy and safe to eat – especially organic ones. They make a great addition to salads, sandwiches, or when you eat them alone. But if you really want to tap into all their nutrients, cooking tomatoes might be your best bet.

Tomatoes contain lots of great nutrients, including Vitamins C, B and K. They also provide potassium, copper and anticancer properties. But tomatoes also contain an important antioxidant called lycopene.

Lycopene is what gives tomatoes their bright red color. But lycopene is about more than just looks. In fact, it’s thought to be one of the most important nutrients in these popular vegetables. 

For one thing, this powerful antioxidant not only fights free radicals, but it can also help to reduce the risk of stroke, while also supporting bone health, too. 

But why does it matter if you cook tomatoes or not?

According to a 2002 study, cooking tomatoes for 30 minutes at a simmering temperature actually makes lycopene easier for the body to absorb by 35 percent. What’s more, the study also found that cooking tomatoes boosts antioxidant levels, too.

Because lycopene is a fat-soluble vitamin, cooking tomatoes in a healthy fat, such as olive oil, also makes it easier for your body to absorb this powerful antioxidant.