GI Symbol News with Dr Alan Barclay

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Dr Alan Barclay
Easter treats
With a little forward planning and by making the right food choices you can enjoy Easter like any other festivity and still look after yourself.

Chocolate treats
Chocolate eggs, bunnies, chicks and the like are one of the most exciting things about Easter for both young and old. Although most chocolates are what we call energy dense – you get a lot of calories in a relatively small volume, there is increasing evidence that a little bit of plain dark chocolate (i.e. about 30g) each day may do you good, the problem at Easter time is getting too much of a good thing. So enjoy if you wish, but in moderation!

Nutritionally, what’s in them? It’s virtually impossible to read the nutritional info on the shiny wrapper, so you are better off heading to to find out what you are getting. Here’s a few popular products as an example:

  • Red Tulip 6g mini egg (solid milk chocolate) – 33 cals/139kJ; 4g carb; 2g fat (including 1g saturated fat)
  • Red Tulip 35g egg (size 2, 8.5cm milk chocolate) – 179 cals/746kJ; 22g carb; 9g fat (including 6g saturated fat)
  • Lindt 100g Gold Bunny (dark chocolate) – 514 cals/2150kJ; 63g carb; 26g fat (including 16g saturated fat)
  • Cadbury 200g Easter Bunny (purple vest) – 1100 cals/4600kJ; 114g carb; 59g fat (including 36g saturated fat)

The fats of the matter Chocolate is high in total and saturated fats. In high quality chocolate, cocoa butter is the main source of fat. This is important, because cocoa butter is high in a particular kind of saturated fat called stearic acid. Stearic acid raises the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol the least of the saturated fats but raises the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol more, so the net effect on your total blood cholesterol levels is not bad at all. However, the amount of cocoa butter used in chocolate does vary, and along with it the amount of the stearic acid, but this information is usually not provided in any simple form on the chocolate wrapper. As a rough guide, the better quality, and as a result, more expensive varieties generally have more cocoa butter, and as such are usually a better choice.

What about your BGLs? Despite most chocolates being relatively high in added sugar, they don’t have a big impact on BGLs. In fact their GI is low (around 45 for most brands) because the high fat content slows the rate that the sugars are released from the stomach into the intestine and absorbed into the blood. This is why people with diabetes don’t need to eat low or reduced-sugar chocolates to avoid high BGLs provided they don’t eat too much. However, alternatively sweetened chocolates usually do provide fewer calories, an advantage if you are trying to lose weight. As alternatively sweetened chocolate is usually more expensive and often not as tasty, there is a good argument for choosing to have a small amount of high quality regular chocolate rather than a larger quantity of less pleasant alternatively sweetened chocolate.

Hot cross buns

Hot cross buns
Hot cross buns are a favourite for Good Friday, Easter, and throughout Lent, but they are increasingly available all year round. Traditional buns are filled with sultanas, currants or raisins, then topped with a ‘paste’ cross. Like Easter eggs, sizes vary significantly as does their nutritional value.

  • Small hot cross bun (40g) – 123 cals/518kJ; 23g carb; 2g fat (including 0.6g saturated fat)
  • Medium hot cross bun (65g) – 200 cals/842kJ; 38g carb; 3g fat (including 0.9g saturated fat)
  • Large hot cross bun (85g) – 262 cals/1101kJ; 49g carb; 4g fat (including 1.2g saturated fat)

They are not high in fat (although that changes if you spread them with margarine or butter), but they are high in carbohydrate. And although we haven’t been asked to test them by any manufacturers yet, they are likely to be high GI as in our experience most bakery products made with refined starches and sugars have values around the 65–75 mark. So to minimise their glycemic impact, it’s best to stick with small hot cross buns if you can find them, and if not, only eat half a medium or large one.

If you want to try making your own hot cross buns, try Ali Roberts’ recipe in the GI News Kitchen this issue. We tested them and found they have a moderate GI value (66). We made 26 medium-sized buns with the mixture.

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Dr Alan W Barclay, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer
Glycemic Index Foundation (Ltd)
Phone: +61 (0)2 9785 1037
Mob: +61 (0)416 111 046
Fax: +61 (0)2 9785 1037