The sausage was born from concerns over the diet of patients on haemodialysis, and while it might look and feel the same as a traditional alheira – a garlicky, bready sausage typical of the northern Portugal region – the difference is that egg whites add healthy protein without fats, and pork meat is replaced with poultry.

This is the second nutritionally-enhanced alheira resulting from a project by the Tecsam haemodialysis team from Mirandela, in partnership with the Faculty of Nutrition Sciences of Porto, to develop a product that is traditional but may also be enjoyed by haemodialysis patients.

Flora Correia, the nutritionist who made the theoretical calculations for the new sausage product, explains it has “more protein and less saturated fat - the fat that is more harmful and has a great influence on cardiovascular diseases – and less salt”.

The egg white gives the new sausage “a flavour very similar or almost identical to the traditional alheira”, to the point that consumers “do not realise it is different”, she guarantees, as well as being “richer in protein”.

“One hundred and fifty grams of this alheira has more protein than traditional alheira and a better protein than the same 150 grams of pork or beef; at an affordable cost and with advantages to the clinical condition of patients”, she added.

Ms. Correia did warn, however, that a kidney patient who is not on a haemodialysis treatment “should not eat any foods that are high in protein, as it is dangerous”, the new alheira included.

The product’s filling was designed specifically for dialysis patients after the clinical project partnership found that “40 percent have poor nutrition.”

“Normally, many of them, due to lack of teeth, due to unsuitable dentures, have difficulty in ingesting meat, and alheira, besides being traditional, is easy to eat,” she explained.

The team also wants to further improve alheira by reducing the presence of phosphorus that is harmful to bones in these patients, when ingested in high quantities.

This is the second alheira designed for patients on haemodialysis and presents “a substantial improvement” compared to the first, presented in 2015 by the same team.

Both are served to the patients of the clinic in Mirandela and the team believes that this time the innovation will be more successful because it counts on the partnership of one of the biggest alheira-producing companies in Mirandela, Eurofumeiro.

Eurofumeiro manager Rui Cepeda said he welcomed the project from the beginning, because, although “it entails investment” it is a niche market and an added value “because it is a differentiated product and with different consumers”.

The businessman is also setting his sights on marketing the health-forward product to high-level athletes who may see it as a source of protein without unhealthy fats.

The price, he said, “is more or less that of a quality product, and is within regular alheira prices”.

The project has now set a new challenge for the region’s chefs to create a book on healthy alheira recipes.