This makes tomato sauce healthier than tomatoes themselves

They are the red happiness of every kitchen: whether as a snack, in salads or as a tomato sauce, tomatoes taste good in all situations. But only the processing of the tomato makes it really healthy, then the red pigment of the tomato, lycopene, is released .

What is lycopene and what does it contain?

Lycopene belongs to the secondary plant compounds and gives tomatoes their intense and striking red colour. The red dye is not only found in tomatoes and tomato products, but also in guava, watermelon, papaya and grapefruit. To find out which foods have the highest lycopene content, see below in the article.

Secondary plant compounds are contained in plant foods such as fruit and vegetables, legumes and potatoes. Although they are actually used by plants as a defence against predators, they have a health-promoting effect on the human body.

Food supplements: Are they useful? Lycopene is not only found in tomatoes, but also in melon and guava. © Kobeza /

By the way: It is also possible to extract the dye from the tomatoes. Food producers can use it to ‘colour’ soups, sauces, desserts and processed cheese reddish or orange.

What does lycopene do in the body?

Lycopene has many positive effects on the body through its antioxidant properties. The dye efficiently captures free radicals and makes them harmless. Free radicals are known to DNA damage and trigger mutations, increasing the risk of many diseases such as cancer and coronary heart disease. In addition, lycopene acts as a radical scavenger, keeping your blood vessels elastic, thus preventing arteriosclerosis (calcification of the blood vessels) and helping with high blood pressure.

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If you regularly consume red fruits and vegetables, the lycopene content in your blood will increase, and it will also be stored in the cells under the skin. There, lycopene works like a natural sunscreen that protects the skin from damage caused by UV -radiation.

But: Eating foods containing lycopene is no substitute for sunscreen. It only increases the basic protection of your skin.

Why should I heat up tomatoes?

Even though tomatoes contain a lot of lycopene, they do not want to give it away. The precious dye is so deeply embedded in the fiber cells of the tomato that it cannot be removed by digestion alone. It is only when you chop and heat the tomato that the cell structures are broken down and the lycopene is released. This is why tomato sauce or tomato juice also contains significantly more lycopene than a raw tomato.

The lycopene from the tomato sauce can be better absorbed by the body. © ESstock /

In addition The riper the tomato, the more lycopene is present. An unripe and still partially green tomato is very low in lycopene. So always make sure that you only eat the tomato when it is beautifully red. Otherwise, let it ripen a little more.

That’s why you should eat a rainbow every day

As mentioned above, processed tomatoes have a higher lycopene content than unprocessed ones. Exactly how much lycopene, you see here:


Lycopene content (mg) per 100 grams

dried tomatoes


Tomato paste


strained canned tomatoes


Tomato sauce


Tomato juice






ripe tomatoes






How should I prepare the tomatoes?

But tomatoes are not only made healthier by heating. Always combine tomatoes with a little oil. Since lycopene is fat-soluble, it can be absorbed up to four times better by the body. Braised tomatoes, for example, are particularly healthy and delicious. For this, cut the tomatoes in half and braise them with a little oil for about 10 minutes at low heat in a pot or a pan with a lid.

Lycopene has many health-promoting properties. As an antioxidant it protects your body from free radicals. But it is only by heating and crushing that lycopene from tomatoes becomes accessible. Combine it with a little oil and lycopene unfolds its full strength.