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Going with the grain – low GI of course.
A new report from Australia’s CSIRO has revealed that the simplification of complex nutritional messages has resulted in grain foods like bread and pasta becoming the ‘scapegoat’ for weight gain and bloating, despite ample research to the contrary. Prof Manny Noakes, Dr Jane Muir and Dr David Topping share the latest findings on the benefits of grain foods in your diet in their report What’s to Gain from Grains? Prof Noakes highlights the importance of quality carbs. ‘Cutting out highly refined or fat and salt laden carbs is a good idea, but culling high fibre and low GI grain foods at the same time is just throwing the baby out with the bath water,’ she said. ‘Studies show wholegrains may have a critically important impact on body composition, particularly in being able to reduce abdominal fat.’ You can find out more or view a webcast of the conference HERE.


Add almonds at breakfast for better BGLs.
A small (14 adults with impaired glucose tolerance) randomised, 5-arm crossover study in Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism reports that including almonds (whole almonds, almond butter, defatted almond flour, almond oil) into a 75g available carb-matched breakfast (orange juice and prepared Cream of Wheat) not only decreased blood glucose concentrations, it increased satiety significantly – and after lunch as well. In concluding, Prof Richard Mattes from Purdue and his researchers write: ‘Overall, daylong glucose and insulin concentrations were attenuated in the whole almonds and almond oil treatments, indicating an improved hormonal profile with their consumption. Importantly, the absolute magnitude of the blood glucose-lowering response equals that achieved with acute administration of acarbose in individuals with IGT [impaired glucose tolerance] suggesting the physiological relevance and applicability of the current findings.’ Commenting on the study, Mattes says: ‘When a low glycemic food is added to the diet, people spontaneously choose to eat less at other times throughout the day,’ adding that while the calories need to be taken into consideration as part of a person’s overall diet, almonds can be incorporated in moderate amounts without an effect on body weight.


So, what’s so special about almonds? These tasty tidbits pack a nutritional punch. They are rich in protein, calcium, vitamin E and arginine (an amino acid that helps to keep your blood flowing smoothly). They also contain good amounts of fibre, iron and zinc. Because they contain relatively little carbohydrate, they are a low glycemic food, but they don’t have a GI value as they don’t have enough carbohydrate to be GI tested. Although they are high in fat, it’s largely the heart healthy poly and monounsaturated types. Studies have shown that almond skins contain some 30 different antioxidant compounds. So buy the whole natural ones with the skin on and enjoy a handful for a snack or add them in your cooking. Here are 5 tips on how to get more almond benefits from dietitian and author of Eat to Beat Cholesterol, Nicole Senior:

  • Add slivered or chopped almonds to muesli or fave low GI breakfast cereal
  • Top fruit and yoghurt with slivered or chopped almonds.
  • Bake some healthy mini muffins using almond meal instead of flour
  • Sprinkle oat porridge with a drizzle of honey and flaked almonds
  • Make a blueberry almond pancake recipe like this ONE

Anneka Manning’s Breakfast Couscous This recipe from the Low GI Family Cookbook is a good one for those who have to make an early start as you can prepare it the night before. Although couscous has a medium GI, Anneka has lowered the glycemic effect by adding the almonds, fruit, orange juice and yoghurt. Serves 2–3

½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice or unsweetened apple juice
1/3 cup water
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup couscous
2 tbsp dried apricots or peaches, chopped, or currants
120g (4oz) low fat plain yoghurt
3 tsp pure floral honey, or to taste,
2 tbsp slivered almonds, toasted

Anneka Manning’s Breakfast Couscous

Combine the orange juice, water and cinnamon in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Place the couscous and apricots, peaches or currants in a small heatproof bowl and pour over the hot orange juice mixture. Cover the bowl with a plate or plastic wrap and set aside for 5 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Meanwhile combine the yoghurt and honey. Use a fork to stir the couscous and separate the grains. Spoon into brekkie bowls and serve topped with the honey yoghurt and almonds.

Does the answer lie in the soil?
‘This being the year of the farmer, it is timely to reflect and acknowledge these amazing folk who provide, often against unimaginable challenges, safe wonderful food for us year round’ writes Kate McGhie, president of the Australian Association of Food Professionals in a recent issue of their newsletter. ‘It is also an ideal time to capture the hearts and minds of youngsters far removed from understanding the source of their food. A recent survey in Australia of year 6 and 10 students found yawning gaps in young people’s knowledge of basic food origins. Many thought yoghurt came from a plant and in a hypothetical lunch box of bread, cheese and a banana, only 45% in year 6 (12-year-olds) could identify all three as food from farms. It was against alarming trends like these, that the visionary Alice Waters from Chez Panisse in San Francisco kick-started the global phenomena of school kitchen gardens 16 years ago when she and a small group of teachers and volunteers turned over long-abandoned soil at an urban middle school in Berkeley and planted the Edible Schoolyard. The schoolyard has since grown into a universal idea of ‘Edible Education’ that integrates the school curriculum with growing, cooking, and sharing wholesome, delicious food. This ‘revolution’ has since inspired chefs and educators in many countries to follow suit.’

Kate McGhie
Kate McGhie

However, the jury is still out on how well these programs achieve their well-intentioned goals as empirical evidence is ‘relatively scant’ as Ramona Robinson-O’Brien notes in her 2009 review of the impact of garden-based youth nutrition programs in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. A couple of recent controlled intervention studies from the University of Newcastle in Australia, have found that although the school garden was an effective strategy to increase kids’ willingness to taste vegetables and improved their ratings for some vegetables, it did not noticeably up intake. In the study published in Public Health Nutrition, Prof Philip Morgan concludes that: ‘changing vegetable consumption in children is complex (most parents will agree with this).

Their follow up 2011 paper (same study) in Health Education and Behaviour evaluates the impact of a school garden-enhanced nutrition curriculum on fruit and vegetable preferences and intake and investigates whether there were differences between boys and girls taste preferences. Prof Clare Collins et al conclude that: ‘Although a school garden did not increase fruit and vegetable intakes, limitations, including that the study was potentially underpowered to detect gender differences and particularly the variation in teacher experience and enthusiasm, may explain the inconsistent findings in favor of the additive effect of a school garden to a nutrition curriculum. Positive results for vegetable preferences may translate to improvements in intake over a longer time-frame. Further research is warranted to determine whether a school garden approach can be used to optimise fruit and vegetable intakes, particularly in boys. Interventions should aim to further engage parents and incorporate more activities focusing on increasing taste exposures.’

Beans, rice and glycemic response.
Beans and rice, the classic food combo in many parts of the world, can reduce postprandial glycemic elevations in people with type 2 diabetes, according to an American study published in the Nutrition journal. A study in Nutrition Journal on the glycemic response of bean and rice traditional meals that compared to rice alone in adults with type 2 diabetes concludes that that ‘promoting traditional foods is a non-pharmacological way to manage type 2 diabetes’. Donna Winham et al gave four different test meals in random order to 17 men and women with type 2 diabetes. Three meals contained ½ cup of white long grain rice mixed with either canned pinto beans, black beans or dark red kidney beans or a control meal of 180g (6oz) of steamed white rice. The bean and rice meals produced a reduced glucose response in comparison to rice alone. All study ‘treatments’ reduced the average 2 hr postprandial glucose below 140 mg/dL or 7.8 mmol/L. The pinto and black bean and rice combinations had the lowest glycemic response overall. ‘While promoting traditional foods is a non-pharmacological way to manage type 2 diabetes, knowing which beans are most effective can help improve dietary adherence with an appropriate cultural twist’ they conclude.

Rice and beans

IFT Annual Meeting and Food Expo.
GI Labs will be exhibiting at this major event for the food industry. They’d be delighted if GI News readers would visit them at booth #2059 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. When? June 26-28, 2012.