20-11-2013

The benefits of “sofregit”

Researchers at the University of Barcelona and Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red – Fisiopatología de la Obesidad y Nutrición (CIBERobn), in colaboration with Hospital Clínic of Barcelona, have analyzed for the first time the composition of the “sofregit”, a basic component of Catalan cuisine made with tomato and onion fried with olive oil. The interest in the “sofregit” came from the results of the PREvención con DIeta MEDiterránea (PREDIMED) study, which has recently demonstrated that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events. In the PREDIMED study a validated 14-item questionnaire was used, and one of these items was ‘‘how many times per week do you consume vegetables, pasta, or other dishes seasoned with tomato-based sofrito?’’. An increase of two or more points in this score has been related to a lower risk of cardiovascular events, but the beneficial compounds present in the “sofregit” had never been analyzed. The advantage of “sofregit” is that it combines several bioactive compounds from the ingredients, which have beneficial effects when consumed separately. Thus, consumption of tomato-based products has been associated with a reduction in the incidence of chronic degenerative diseases, probably due to their content in lycopene and other carotenoids. Onions are a very rich source of flavonol compounds that are linked to a lower incidence of cancer. Another ingredient of some “sofregits” is garlic, which contains phytochemicals that act against the formation of lipid peroxides and scavenging superoxide. Moreover, oil is an important factor determining the bioavailability of phenolic compounds, playing a crucial role in their accessibility and extractability from food. The results of the study, published in the journal Food Chemistry, show that “sofregit”, as a consequence of combining these ingredients, contains 40 polyphenols, and also carotenoids and vitamin C. Thus, a daily consumption of 120 g of “sofregit”, for example added to pasta or other dishes, provides 16–24 mg of polyphenols and 6–10 mg of carotenoids.

How to prepare a good “sofregit”? Here you will find some advices from the journal “CUINA”:

. onion must be chopped with a knife, do not use electric mixers, kitchen robots or graters, otherwise it would be too pasty. It can be cooked over a high heat with a lot of oil (better if it is virgin olive oil), to avoid excessive water evaporation, or fried over a low heat, which takes longer and requires water addition.

. tomatoes: pulpy tomatoes, such as “pera” or beef tomatoes, are the best. They should be boiled for some seconds, peeled and get off the seeds before adding them to the fried onion. Tomato must be added when the onion is already browned, and the volume has reduced two thirds. When all the water from the tomato is evaporated, the “sofregit” is ready.

Marta Alegret (Universitat de Barcelona)

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