Nutrition and gastronomy go hand in hand

If we take a walk through the diet section of any supermarket, we can read advertising phrases such as “Rich in fiber” on many of the packages. What substance are they referring to? In addition to “enriching” certain food products, what other functions do fibers play in today’s gastronomy?

From a chemical point of view, dietary fibers are included within carbohydrates, or carbohydrates; biochemical compounds made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. These are classified into sugars (simple carbohydrates), starches (complex carbohydrates, digestible polysaccharides) and fibers (complex carbohydrates, little or no digestible polysaccharides), which can be soluble (capture water, hydrocolloid behavior) or insoluble (do not absorb water), such as cellulose.


Hydrocolloid compounds have been used as texturizers in Western cuisine for a long time. Those of a protein type (such as gelatin of animal origin) are used to obtain gelled preparations: fruit jellies, panna cotta, jellies and many others; starches, to prepare sauces, creams or purees.

In Western gastronomy, soluble fiber-type hydrocolloids, on the other hand, have not been used to modify the texture of products until more recently, as a result of the culinary revolution of the 21st century. We refer to the pectins already used in pastry and other gelling agents such as mucilages (agar, alginate and carrageenan), gellan gum, and thickeners such as xanthan and other gums such as those of the galactomannan group (locust bean, tara and guar).

In 1998, the El Bulli restaurant used agar to obtain what it called “hot gelatin”. Until then, gelled products were prepared with gelatin derived from collagen, a protein that only retains its gelled structure when cold. Agar, on the other hand, is not of protein origin, but a polysaccharide, so its gelled structure resists temperatures of up to 85 °C.

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