You've been eating tomatoes wrong this whole time

Tomatoes, as you may know, are both a fruit and a member of the nightshade family, along with tomatillos, bell peppers, and eggplants (via Healthline). What you may not know is that unlike many fruits and vegetables, which can lose nutrient value as they're cooked, tomatoes are actually the opposite.

While it's true that cooking a tomato for two minutes can decrease its vitamin C content by 10 percent, the cooking process also helps to break down the plant's cell walls so that our bodies can absorb the vital antioxidant lycopene (via BBC Good Food). If this seems like a bad trade, keep in mind that you can get vitamin C from any number of sources like citrus, while tomatoes are the main dietary source of lycopene, which may reduce your risk for heart disease and cancer (via Healthline).

If that's not enough of a reason for you to start searing some Solanum lycopersicum (the scientific term for the tomato plant), then keep in mind that, in addition to antioxidants and vitamins C, A, and K, cooked tomatoes contain contain lutein and beta-carotene, which supports healthy vision, and are healthy sources of protein and fiber, while remaining low in both fat and calories (via Health.com).

The best ways to incorporate cooked tomatoes into your diet

There are so many more ways to cook a tomato than you probably realize. If you've only stewed, roasted, or turned your tomatoes into sauce, then you're missing out, and should definitely pick up a few fresh, local tomatoes to start trying some simple cooking methods. Searing, frying, or blanching are great places to start, but if you're looking for some seriously creative tomato-cooking inspiration, 47 different ideas are laid out and reviewed in this video by Bon Appétit

Be careful, however, when you're tempted to reach for a can or jar of tomato to cook with instead of fresh. It turns out that canned and jarred tomato products often contain excessive amounts of sodium, which can contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke (via SF Gate). So, whenever possible, cook fresh tomatoes into your recipes and go easy on the salt to really get the most out of these delicious and nutritious fruits. For even more tomato inspiration, check out ways to put fresh tomatoes to good use!