Starch, protein, and lipid are three major sources of calories in the human diet. The unique and universal human practice of cooking has been demonstrated to increase the energy gained from foods rich in starch or protein. Yet no studies have tested whether cooking has equivalent effects on the energy gained from lipid-rich foods. Using mice as a model, we addressed this question by examining the impact of cooking on the energy gained from peanuts, a lipid-rich oilseed, and compared this impact against that of nonthermal processing (blending). We found that cooking consistently increased the energy gained per calorie, whereas blending had no detectable energetic benefits. Assessment of fecal fat excretion showed increases in lipid digestibility when peanuts were cooked, and examination of diet microstructure revealed concomitant alterations to the integrity of cell walls and the oleosin layer of proteins that otherwise shield lipids from digestive lipases. Both effects were consistent with the greater energy gain observed with cooking. Our findings highlight the importance of cooking in increasing dietary energy returns for humans, both past and present.
Keywords: caloric value; dietary fat; food processing; nuts; oil bodies.
© 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.