Is there anything quite as easy of a weeknight meal as pasta and marinara sauce? We’d argue no. And while you may think you’re settling when you serve the family something as simple as pasta and a bit of tomato sauce, you can surely keep your head high. Cooked tomatoes in pasta sauce is actually an incredibly healthful food—and one that surely deserves a place in your diet.
Read on to learn more about why you’ll soon wish it could be pasta night every night, and for more on how to eat healthy, don’t miss 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
Cooked tomatoes have higher concentrations of cell health-protecting, free-radical-fighting antioxidants than uncooked tomatoes. Research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry revealed that the lycopene (one antioxidant found in tomatoes) content of the cooked tomatoes increased by more than 50% and total antioxidant levels increased by at least 28% compared to raw tomatoes. Antioxidants protect the human body from cell and tissue damage, which occurs when harmful molecules called free radicals are metabolized by the body.
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One 1/2-cup serving of marinara sauce contains 29% of your daily value of vitamin C. On their own, tomatoes are already a good source of vitamin C, but concentrated marinara sauce is considered to be an excellent source. This vitamin is essential for the synthesis of many proteins, neurotransmitters, connective tissue and also plays a key role in the immune system and iron absorption, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
A Journal of Functional Foods study showed that tomatoes may be able to boost the activity of healthful bacteria in the gut. Specifically, cooking tomatoes enhances the extractability of antioxidants, which not allowed these antioxidants to be able to protect against the loss of beneficial probiotic bacteria that live in the gut, but also to enhance their benefits. “We found that serving meals rich in probiotics with fried tomato sauce boosts its probiotic effect,” said Ana Belén Heredia, senior researcher on the paper.
If you typically choose alfredo sauce, opting for marinara pasta sauce may help you to lose weight. While a serving of alfredo sauce contains 100 calories per 1/2-cup serving, red marinara sauce contains just 70 calories. While it doesn’t seem like much, a 30-calorie difference can be a big help when it comes to weight loss if you’re consuming pasta on a regular basis.
A staple of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, it should come at no surprise that tomatoes on their own can do wonders for your heart. A study published in Translational Research CTS found that consumed cooked tomato sauce can protect against heart issues caused by low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol Researchers believe cooked tomatoes can help reduce oxidative damage and improve the activity of high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol. If you’re looking to reap the benefits of pasta sauce, you have to make sure you’re buying the healthiest jar: see these 40 Best and Worst Pasta Sauces—Ranked!