In general, cookies are high in free sugar and saturated fat.
Therefore, they are considered unhealthy foods.
Including them too often in our diet can be a risk factor for developing type II diabetes, obesity, and Alzheimer's throughout life.
That is why they are located at the top of the Healthy Eating Pyramid of the Spanish Society of Community Nutrition, which means that they should only be consumed occasionally.
Currently, more than 1.6 billion people (15 years and older) in the world are overweight or obese.
This number is projected to rise to 2.3 billion by 2050. In the EU, around 60% of adults and 20% of school-age children are unhealthily overweight.
Cookies respectful with our liver
The dramatic increase in obesity, sedentary lifestyle and high intake of unhealthy foods are largely responsible for the increased incidence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
This ailment has its origin in imbalances in the use of nutrients such as those usually provided by cookies and affect between 15% and 30% of the population.
The problem is that consuming too many free sugars and saturated fats can alter the functioning of the immune system, which in turn influences the absorption, accumulation and use of fats in the body.
You think you eat healthy, but the data shows that you don't
Would it then make any sense to add the adjective "healthy" to the word "cookies"?
Most of the professionals related to food and health do not think so in any case.
That is why it is usually surprising to know that it is possible to make cookies with health benefits, as long as they include certain ingredients.
Specifically, we are talking about incorporating grain and seed flours, for example, such as quinoa and chia, which favor a healthier use of nutrients in the body.
However, in stores and supermarkets we find them in a very low proportion, which suggests that their inclusion is more for
than for real considerations about the health of consumers.
Towards precision nutrition
we get into flour
, we must not forget that certain psychological and social factors drive cookie consumption.
This means that liver diseases can worsen depending on the circumstances of the consumer: aspects such as education, income, environment or even the quality of housing are very important.
It acquires great relevance who is going to eat them and in what conditions they are going to do it.
The set of these considerations has led to research on the formulation and ingredients of cookies and other cereal-based foods: immunonutrition.
These studies reflect the changes that nutrition science is undergoing: before, the intention was to provide adequate nutrients to the entire population, while now the particular characteristics of the consumer and their state of health are taken into account.
It is what has been called “precision nutrition”.
In any case, it is not easy to predict the effect of biscuits based on their nutritional profile, since it is highly conditioned by the structure that the nutrients give to the biscuit, an aspect to which very little attention has been paid.
Nor should we forget that they are part of a variable diet accompanied by other foods.
Enriched with chia and quinoa
Taking all this into account, how would you consider making healthy cookies?
Its flours (especially the integral ones) provide quality nutrients and other natural components that modify the function of the immune system.
This means that we could regulate through them the excessive absorption of fats and sugars and their use by the body.
To put it into practice, in our research we partially replace free sugars, flour and fats with whole wheat quinoa flour with chia fiber.
Well, eating these special cookies not only reversed the volunteers' tendency to gain weight, but also increased their metabolism and, consequently, the
of fats and sugars.
All these effects are produced by specific changes in the immune system and do not require strict control over the diet.
In addition, the new recipe with quinoa and chia ingredients is also respectful of the microbial flora and its activity in our digestive system.
This is important, because several microorganisms are responsible for eliminating the fats and sugars that we eat.
Keeping them in good condition helps prevent obesity.
For all of the above, cookies could be an ideal food in certain diets, they would continue to fulfill their social role and help prevent certain nutritional imbalances.
And this is not being considered in a significant way in the production of that range of foods.
José Moisés Laparra Llopis
is a Researcher in Molecular Immunonutrition in Cancer at IMDEA Alimentación.
Claudia Monika Haros
works as a scientist in the Food Science and Technology Area of the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology (IATA-CSIC).
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