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"The Mediterranean Diet is the best protection against cardiovascular disease"

Ricardo Miguelañez. Agricultural Engineer @rmiguelanez

Ricardo Miguelañez.- You recently published a study confirming orange juice's antioxidant capacity. Can you explain the results for us?

José Ángel Rufían.- Citrus fruit juices (including orange juice) have a high antioxidant capacity. Until now, scientists were unable to determine the antioxidant capacity of the fraction that can't be digested and which reaches the long intestine, where gut microbiota ferment it and extract a high number of compounds with antioxidant capacity. In the case of citrus juices, that fraction accounts for 20-40% of the antioxidant activity. The results obtained by my research group show that the antioxidant activity of this type of juice is up to ten times greater than what has been proven to date.

R.M.- Certain foods end up stigmatized, in many cases for no reason. How do you view this?

J.R.- There are clearly foods that society views as harmful or not very healthy in some cases. However, it's worth noting that, unless someone has a specific illness, moderate consumption of any food does not usually pose a health risk when eaten as part of a balanced and varied diet, and it even enhances the diversity of that diet. In the case of commercial juices, broadly speaking, people believe that they have a lot of sugar. In some cases it may be true, but if you consider the calories in the context of a balanced diet, drinking them should not be a problem. There are alternatives with fewer calories that may be better options for overweight and/or obese people.

R.M.- Do you believe Spaniards eat well?

J.R.- Compared with other countries, Spaniards eat a healthy diet, as it is very similar to our ancestors' Mediterranean diet. However, it's important to note that there is an increasing shift away from the Mediterranean diet, as globalization is leading us to eat a much more Western diet. The diet of the 60s, when consumption of legumes, vegetables, whole grains and red wine was much higher and meat was much lower, is a thing of the past.

R.M.- How do you view the Mediterranean diet and how do believe Spanish society views it?

J.M.-The Mediterranean diet offers the greatest protection against cardiovascular disease, which is the greatest cause of death worldwide. Spanish society clearly views the Mediterranean diet as positive, as it is deeply rooted in our customs. However, due to current lifestyles, it's not always easy to find the time to prepare, for example, a dish with legumes. Additionally, due to the economic crisis, the Mediterranean diet is currently not inexpensive, since fruits and vegetables generally cost more than foods made with saturated fats and simple carbohydrates, which are the basis of the Western diet. Spanish society runs the risk of thinking it's eating a Mediterranean diet and that it is somewhat protected from heart disease, but replacing vegetables with refined foods which are high in sugar and saturated fats eliminates any protection that the Mediterranean diet offers in terms of our health.

R.M.- According to the latest studies, breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day and should provide 25% of the calories our bodies need for the entire day. What should we be eating to meet this requirement, and what role does juice play?

J.R.- Breakfast should be a notable source of energy, so it should include grains and/or similar products, preferably unrefined (whole wheat). Dairy products also provide energy (in the form of lactose) as well as calcium. As for fruit that should be consumed at breakfast, juices can absolutely replace a piece of fruit, given their carbohydrate content and phytochemical compounds. However, whenever possible, it's preferable to drink juice as soon as it's prepared.

R.M.- What role does bread play in achieving a healthy and balanced diet?

J.R.- Bread provides a very important source of energy in the form of complex carbohydrates, so it is a basic part of our diet. To ensure it's a healthy option, it should be made with unrefined flour (whole wheat) with a high insoluble fiber content. Bread made from unrefined flour that also contains vegetable seeds is also an important source of polyunsaturated fatty acids.

R.M.- What nutritional properties does bread have?

J.R.- Bread is rich in complex carbohydrates, with the result that it's a very important source of energy in our diet. It shouldn't be eaten in excess (as it's high in calories), but daily consumption is essential as part of a balanced diet. If bread is made with whole wheat flour, it's a very important source of insoluble fiber, which plays a key role in regulating digestion.

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