Tomatoes are one of the best sources of lycopene—a plant pigment with strong antioxidant properties. Noted for improving cholesterol and protecting against heart disease, lycopene also stabilizes a volatile form of molecular oxygen produced by UV radiation that causes skin to age, says Gidus. Because lycopene is better absorbed when heated, tomatoes’ nutritional value increases when they’re cooked. “Lycopene is also fat soluble, so ingesting it with small amounts of fat will aid absorption,” explains Gidus.
How much to eat: Aim to eat a cup of cooked tomatoes with olive oil several times per week. Increase your intake by adding tomato paste to soups or using stewed tomatoes to make sauces.