Low GI Food of the Month

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‘Raw or dry roasted, halved or whole, walnuts are a heart healthy food,’ says Eat to Beat Cholesterol author, Nicole Senior. ‘But, stop at a handful to prevent kilojoule (calorie) overload. They contain very little carbohydrate, so they don’t have a measurable GI, but they are rich in fibre and protein and so can lower the GI of a meal when used as an ingredient and they make a great snack instead of foods high in saturated fat such as biscuits or cookies. They also contain loads of other beneficial nutrients such as vitamin E, folate, manganese (a trace element) and arginine (an amino acid), tannins and polyphenols (phytochemicals). And of all the nuts they are the highest in the good polyunsaturated fats – including omega 6 and omega 3. Thirty grams (1 oz) of walnuts (approx. 20 walnut halves) contains around 2 grams of plant omega 3 fat (alpha linolenic acid) – meeting the suggested daily amount for an adult. Omega-3s have amazing benefits for the heart. They can assist in lowering blood pressure, reduce blood clotting that causes heart attacks, improve blood vessel flexibility and elasticity and have anti-inflammatory properties. If you have pre-diabetes, boosting omega-3 intake can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce diabetes risk. If you have diabetes, you can benefit from eating walnuts, too. Not only are these heart-friendly, wonder foods a tasty and convenient snack, but they won’t upset blood glucose levels.’


Portion caution: Divide walnuts into individual small handful-sized bags or containers to resist over-indulgence. If you can’t stop at a small handful, enjoy them in cooking rather than as snacks. If you’re on a kilojoule-controlled eating plan to lose weight, have smaller portions, and eat them instead of less nutritious treats like lollies and biscuits.

Nicole’s 10 tips on how to get more

  1. Top oat porridge with sliced banana, nutmeg and chopped walnuts
  2. Sprinkle chopped walnuts over stewed apple and cinnamon
  3. Present a platter of whole walnuts in their shell after dinner
  4. Enjoy walnut halves with raisins or dates as a snack
  5. Add walnuts along with dried fruit to scones, cakes and biscuits (cookies)
  6. Add chopped walnuts and sultanas or raisins to coleslaw
  7. Create a wonderful pasta dish by adding steamed vegetables, chopped walnuts, olive oil, cracked black pepper and the juice and zest of a lemon to hot wholemeal pasta
  8. Combine salad greens, walnuts, fresh sliced pear and thinly sliced goats cheese and serve on the side with lean chicken or beef
  9. Add walnuts to couscous seasoned with salt-reduced stock, lemon juice, capers and green olives – great served with fish
  10. Scatter roasted walnuts on a plate of cut vegetables and dips

Tangy roasted beet and walnut salad
This fibre-rich salad from the California Walnut Commission features roasted beets to highlight the flavour of fennel and oranges. Walnuts add the finishing touch. Although this recipe is high in fat, it’s the heart-healthy kind providing essential omega-3 and 6 fatty acids. To complete the meal, serve with small lean pieces of steak (beef, lamb, kangaroo or venison)or add chickpeas for a vegetarian option, along with a slice of wholemeal sourdough bread. To reduce the sodium, simply omit or reduce the added salt. To reduce the kilojoules/calories (and fat), use 2 tablespoons (40 ml) of olive oil only.

Serves 6 as an accompaniment
Cooking time 1 hour


1 tablespoon (15 ml) orange juice
2 tablespoons (30 ml) white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon each, salt and pepper
1/4 cup (50 ml) extra virgin olive oil

2 lb (1 kg) beets
2 bunches watercress or arugula
2 oranges, peeled and cut into sections
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 cup California walnut halves, toasted

  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC).
  2. Place the beets in an 8 inch (20 cm) square baking dish. Bake in the oven for about 1 hour, or until beets are tender (will depend on size of beets). Let cool.
  3. To make the dressing, whisk together orange juice, vinegar, maple syrup, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil.
  4. Peel and slice the cooled beets and toss with 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of dressing.
  5. In large bowl, gently toss watercress, oranges, fennel and walnuts. Divide over 4 plates. Top with beets and drizzle with remaining dressing.

Cook’s tip
Bake the beets the day before and store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Nutrition analysis per serve

Energy 1445 kJ/ 345 Cal; 26 g fat (includes saturated fat 2.4 g); 9 g fibre; 7.8 g protein; 21 g carbohydrate