Processing and nutritional quality of fruits and vegetables.

Currently in the scientific field it is recognized that the regular consumption of fruits and vegetables promotes the intake of bioactive compounds that impart health benefits. Beyond basic nutrition, regular consumption of                     Compounds from vegetables can reduce the incidence of diseases caused by the oxidative stress of cells, because of its antioxidant and cardioprotective effect.

Within this group of compounds are carotenoids, terpins and polyphenols which are present in most plants and whose mechanism of action in disease prevention has been widely studied; So its incorporation into food formulations is increasingly recommended. Likewise, other ingredients such as non-digestible carbohydrates (dietary fiber) have been associated with protective effects against colon diseases and improvements in gastrointestinal functions and are widely used in the food industry.

Although the consumption of fresh and harvested vegetables in the correct state of maturity is recommended, they are conditioned by their perishable trait, in terms of transport time, distribution and availability. To solve this problem, the food industry applies a series of operations for its conservation as: scalding, freezing / cooling, fermentation, dehydration, cooking, among others, in order to increase its useful life. Evidently, these processes cause changes in the nutritional quality of the product, whose loss of nutrients occurs mainly due to heat damage (thermal degradation of vitamins and antioxidant compounds), and loss of liquid from the plant matrix (loss of soluble compounds during the process). Because of this, many of the processes of conservation or transformation at the industrial level are optimized in order to achieve a high retention of nutritional compounds, without less end of the innocuity of the final product.

One of the alternatives that the industry has used to offer foods with nutritional characteristics similar to fresh products, is the application of reduced or minimally processed thermal processes. Thus in recent years a new generation of "freshlike" products have been observed in the form of pre-packaged salads or selected fruits cut and packed under vacuum, which are marketed under specific conditions. This concept has evolved even more, up to the current trend of application of non-thermal processes. The processing of food by membrane technology, high hydrostatic pressures, electrical pulses and light, among others, have the objective of obtaining innocuous products, without the application of heat, and as a consequence nutritional and organoleptic composition superior to those obtained with processes Conventional pasteurization or sterilization. For some time, the effectiveness of these processes has been endorsed by the health authorities of many countries, so it is common to see microfiltered juices, or dairy products processed by high pressures of high nutritional quality; However the Venezuelan reality is another.

The food industry through the development department has also used bioactive fruit and vegetable compounds to design foods claiming higher nutritional quality, enriched, fortified or specifically formulated for vulnerable groups (children, elderly or With special nutritional needs). This trend has prompted a new generation of products known as "functional foods" whose term refers to a product whose composition has an element that favors one or more functions of the organism. It is important to clarify that the consumption of this type of food should not be perceived as a drug or a medicine of immediate action, but rather as a food whose habitual intake, will contribute to an improvement in the quality of life of the people. In summary, the application of low impact processes, development of new technologies and elaboration of functional products from bioactive elements of fruits and vegetables, have as a common objective to make food of higher nutritional quality available to the population. Rather than pointing to the existence of "good" or "bad" foods, the correct thing is to acquire patterns and frequency of consumption of healthy foods that provide the benefits naturally present in them, as the father of medicine Hippocrates affirmed: "That Your food is your medicine. "

Share the article
Written by: Luis Chaparro

Dr. In Food Science and Technology
Associate Professor D.E. college Lisandro Alvarado UCLA.

Leave a comment