It seems like if you ask three health specialists about dietary fats you are likely to get four answers. To make matters worse, every day there are new studies that muddle our ideas on diet and the fats we consume. However, if there is one rule of thumb that experts are able to agree on, it is that we should reduce our intake of saturated fats and replace them with mono and polyunsaturated fats. By doing so, we can reduce our risk of heart disease and other chronic health problems.

Health professionals are not alone in these recommendations. The European Union has also made a push for dietary improvements. The EU´s Framework for National Initiatives on Selected Nutrients, calls for a reduction in total fat consumption, especially saturated fats in meat and dairy products.

This can be sad news for the Spaniard who enjoys eating chorizo, the American who loves a good hamburger and all of the chocoholics out there. But maybe the answer shouldn’t be simply cutting these foods from our diets or removing their fat. Could there be a way to convert these foods into healthy, guilt-free versions? This is the question Spain has been working to answer through numerous projects.

Many of these research projects are carried out in the special Cooking Lab of Citoliva in Mengibar, Jaen. The lab provides a space for scientific investigation and technology to be transformed into new food products that contain the added benefits found in olive oil and its derivatives.

For example, Inoevas, was a project completed in 2010 that brought together the knowledge and efforts of two Innovation Business Groups (IBG): one that focuses on the advances of olive goods, Inoleo; and the other on industrial meats, Asincar.

The project has been deemed as an “example of success” by Mari Paz Aguilera, head of the Cooking Lab. The project ultimately formulated a way to replace 45 percent of the saturated fats in meat with monounsaturated fats from olive products. By doing so, it also decreased the overall calories of the meat. The product is currently in the process of being patented and should be on our plates soon.

A more recent project, named ChocoAOVE, answers the call of those with an unyielding sweet tooth. After inquiring about the details, I was told that much of this chocolate lover’s project is still under wraps.

However, from the little information we can squeeze out of Inoleo (the IBG responsible for the initiative), the project focuses on the design and development of spreadable chocolates, candies and chips to reduce the content of saturated and trans fats. It hopes to partially or entirely substitute harmful fats for ones formulated from olive oil, while finding ways to increase the shelf life of these products.

The projects will implement virgin, extra virgin and organic olive oils to create products that are healthier and stomach-friendly, while at the same time, regulating cholesterol, preventing cancerous diseases, and reducing glucose levels.

Attention chocoholics: Dark, white and milk chocolatiers just might unveil new and healthier versions of your favorite indulgences soon.

More articles on: , ,