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Even when fresh tomatoes are out of season, you can still load up on lycopene, the antioxidant that makes tomatoes red. In fact, a bit of heat exposure—like that involved in the canning process—helps break down tomatoes’ cell walls and increases lycopene absorption. In one study, people who ate canned tomatoes absorbed as much as two-and-a-half times more lycopene than those who ate fresh. Eating foods high in lycopene may reduce risk of prostate, lung, and stomach cancers, as well as heart disease and macular degeneration.
Choose It & Use It
This is one case where packaged tomato products, such as soup, paste, sauce, and even ketchup, are better than fresh. Because lycopene is fat-soluble, adding a bit of olive oil will boost absorption even more. If you’re concerned about exposure to BPA in canned foods (the effects of which are still being studied), look for products sold in glass jars or BPA-free Tetra Pak cartons.