Cereal puffs may be tastier than flakes. But now a new research has revealed that flakes are healthier than puffs. The difference is in the cooking technique, the study suggests. In the future, the findings may lead to healthier preparation methods for cold cereals and other processed foods.
Francisco Morales, who led the research, said that a chemical process called the “Maillard reaction” affects both flavor and nutrition in cereals: Usually induced by heat, sugars and amino acids interact to produce odor and flavor molecules. It’s what gives many foods their characteristic toasty, golden brown qualities.
“In cereal products, the Maillard reaction is responsible for several properties in the final product,” including color, flavor and texture, explained Morales, a scientist at the Institute del Frio in Madrid, Spain. “But it also reduces bioavailability of nutrients and it can lead to the formation of contaminants.”
He and his colleagues studied 60 packaged cold cereals, measuring the amount of a chemical produced during the Maillard reaction, called furosine. More furosine means less nutritionally available protein.
The researchers found no significant differences among wheat, rice and corn-based cereals. Flaked cereals, however, tended to have less furosine than puffed varieties.
Lucy Yu, a professor of nutrition and food science at the University of Maryland, and colleagues looked at the antioxidant properties of several spices and flavorings. Cinnamon ranked first in antioxidant strength among the tested flavorings.
Rong Tsao, one of Yu’s research assistants, said, “Our findings could potentially be used for dietary supplement developers to help determine what spices and herbs could be used in their products for improved antioxidant properties.”