Cooking for health



The first edition of Dreams #spainfoodtechnation left an unbeatable taste in the mouth on its last day, proving that the combination of gastronomy and nutrition is the infallible formula for better nutrition

Psychologist Carla Rodríguez, representative of the SHE Foundation's SI! Programme, which aims to promote cardiovascular health from pre-school age, explained that "getting society to adopt healthier and more sustainable eating habits means educating children and families about the benefits of our Mediterranean diet from an early age". "We need to inculcate good behaviours from childhood, but not through restriction, but by considering children as allies for change," she explained. A position shared by Dr Santi F. Gómez, Global Director of Research and Programmes for the Gasol Foundation, which is dedicated to the fight against childhood obesity, for whom "we must not confuse health with wellbeing, nor life expectancy with quality of life", and who revealed that his latest studies show "a rapid deterioration in the nutritional habits of children between the ages of 8 and 16, strongly linked to socio-economic levels and, above all, accelerated by the pandemic".

Culinary medicine was the subject of the second round table of the morning. Moderated by Doctor of Medicine and Professor of the History of Science at the University of Alicante, Josep Bernabeu, he explained the importance of the role of the chef in healthy diets, forming a winning team alongside the doctor and the nutritionist. "In patient nutrition, we have focused on the WHAT, but we need to think about the HOW, because man is an animal that cooks, not just eats", said Dr Miguel Ruiz Canela, Director of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the University of Navarra, for whom "it is essential to understand nutrition through cooking, because some chemical transformations are good and others are not so good". Violeta Moizé, a nutritionist at the Hospital Clinic and president of SEDYN, adds that "we must also give a holistic value to nutrition, starting with planning and shopping", and asserts that "culinary medicine breaks down the barriers between patient and therapist, as it brings the language of both closer together and is a perfect way to promote healthy habits". For both of them, the fight against the "big food" phenomenon begins in the home kitchen, with a Mediterranean diet.

The problems of an unhappy microbiota

Because the Mediterranean diet is not only delicious, it is also the favourite of the microbiota, the incredible hereditary ecosystem made up of millions of micro-organisms that live in our intestines and that "like a forest bequeathed to us by our mother, we need to make it grow and maintain it in order to enjoy health and well-being", as the scientific journalist and author of the book "The Science of the Microbiota", Cristina Sáez, explained in her masterclass. In addition to allergies and intolerances, "a deteriorated microbiota attracts more serious diseases such as sclerosis, colon or pancreatic cancer, autoimmune diseases and even mental illnesses. It is not for nothing that the gut is our second brain," he argued. The best way to take care of our bacteria is to eat a balanced diet "that never lacks fibre or prebiotics, which are abundant in vegetables, and fermented or probiotic foods such as yoghurt or kefir. The ideal is to get used to eating 30g of fibre a day, but gradually.

And allergies and intolerances were also discussed at Dreams, especially their impact on restaurants, as chef Diego Guerrero showed by reading some of the warnings and requests he receives when making reservations at DSTAgE** (Madrid). "Our ambition is for every guest to have the same experience, so we try to offer alternatives to the main conditions, but we cannot accept other types of request, such as dietary advice or personal tastes," he warned. In the catering sector, technology plays a very useful role, as "applications such as AI can instantly create a new recipe that avoids the foods that the guest can't eat," said Daniel Aguado, Customer Engineer at Google Cloud. Other solutions are alternative foods, such as those presented by two innovative startups that are in the process of scaling up. Erika Reyes, co-founder of Wevo, described her vegan egg, "whose nutritional and organoleptic properties are identical to those of animal origin", and Daniel Gómez Bravo, co-founder of Bread Free, explained the advantages of his gluten-free wheat flour, "because in addition to intolerance, many consumers switch to gluten-free because they feel better, and the alternatives are bad and very expensive".

Nutrition for prevention and cure

The final part of the session focused on the properties of food to improve our health. Ramon Perisé, Research and Development Manager at Mugaritz ** (Guipúzcoa), who was actively involved in the publication of the book "Cooking for Life" by chef Andoni Aduriz and doctor Fernando Fombellida, believes that the right diet can help prevent cancer. "We should eat vegetables first, then fish and meat, but we should also remember that the technique of combining and cooking them is more important because of their symbiotic effect. For example, cabbage with garlic," he said. And if prevention is important, it is even more important to help with cures that have side effects such as ageusia, a taste disorder. To combat this, we learned about measures such as the recipe booklet El sabor perdido (The Lost Taste), created by the chef Ramon Freixa, Ramón Freixa Madrid** (Madrid) for the MD Anderson Cancer Center Spain Foundation, "to counteract the loss or alteration of taste in patients, which makes them dislike even their favourite foods", and the tablets produced by the company Baïa Food, based on miraculin, "a glycoprotein found in a berry endemic to West Africa that transforms sour tastes into sweet tastes", as described by the company's co-founder Loan Bensadon, who warned that "although it does not cure cancer, it helps patients to have a better quality of life because they can enjoy eating again".

And it was on the subject of patient nutrition that Dreams said goodbye to another interesting round table, chaired by the president of the Spanish Association of Hospital Catering, Miguel Ángel Herrera, this time on hospital cuisine, "a sector that has nutritional, economic and technological limitations, but which is fundamental to physical and emotional recovery", he said. By way of example, Jaime Paniagua, a specialist in swallowing disorders who works as a speech therapist at the La Fuenfría Hospital (Madrid) and is a professor of speech therapy at the UNIR, explained that "the diet of an allergic person is adapted so that they can eat more or less of everything; the swallowing disorder patient, like other types of patients, is given an enormous list of foods that they cannot eat, when in many cases it is simply a matter of adapting them to other formats". This is a view shared by Xandra Luque, a chef who trained with Mario Sandoval, among others, and who now pampers patients at the Clínica Universidad de Navarra in Madrid with a cuisine that is "very carefully prepared, always thinking about what they can eat. We have already created more than 1,200 dishes for all kinds of pathologies or health problems, such as potato cream with fried eggs or Navarran beans with basil. Our menu is the same as that of a restaurant, adapted to a budget of 5.50 euros per patient per day".






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