What’s New?

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Consensus on real health benefits of low GI/GL diets. 
After reviewing all the latest research on glycemic index, glycemic load and glycemic response, an international committee of leading nutrition scientists have released a Scientific Consensus Statement that concludes that carbohydrate quality (GI) matters and that the carbohydrates present in different foods affect post-meal blood glucose (sugar) differently, with important health implications. They also confirmed that there is convincing evidence from a large body of research that low GI/GL diets reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease, help control blood glucose in people with diabetes, and may also help with weight management. They recommend including GI and GL in national dietary guidelines and food composition tables, and that packaging labels and symbols on low-GI foods should be considered. They also confirmed low GI measurements complement other ways of characterising carbohydrate foods (such as fiber and whole grain content), and should be considered in the context of an overall healthy diet.

Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, Chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and one of the participating scientists said, ‘Given essentially conclusive evidence that high GI/GL diets contribute to risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, reduction in GI and GL should be a public health priority.’

Star-based food labelling system for Australia. 
A new voluntary front-of-pack food labelling scheme which gives a foods a star rating based on the amount of sugars, saturated fats and salt present in the food has been approved by an intergovernmental forum on food policy. ‘From a communications point of view the star system is a step in the right direction,’ comments nutritionist Bill Shrapnel. ‘However, there are problems with the suggested criteria’ he says, pointing out that:

  • Saturated fat content is only useful for assessing fat-rich foods. 
  • Using the kilojoule content of a food as a criterion is misguided. It will encourage food manufacturers to lower the fat content of foods, irrespective of the fat type. Removing unsaturated fat from foods will produce harm, not benefit. 
  • Sugar content is a poor measure of a food’s nutritional quality. In the case of packaged breakfast cereals, for some reason a priority food for the new system, sugar content is not related to nutrient density, GI, calorie content or anything else likely to affect health. If sugar is a criterion, people will be misled.’ 

Beware the low fat health halo effect. 
A recent study in Appetite that looked at the role of low-fat claims and caloric information on food intake, calorie estimates, and health attributions found that the participants both underestimated the calorie content of low-fat-labelled foods and perceived low-fat-labelled foods as healthier than regular-labelled versions of the same food. They also rated low-fat-labelled candy as significantly better tasting when they had caloric information available. The bottom line: Low-fat labelling may be a more powerful determinant of health attributions than caloric information.

What’s new on the bookshelf?  
#1 Catherine Saxelby’s Ancient Grains – whole food recipes for the modern table (Arbon) provides a diverse menu of wholesome, grain-based recipes for the whole family. In her foreword to this attractive cookbook-cum-whole-grains-reference-book, Prof Manny Noakes writes: ‘We have known about the health benefits of less processed grain foods for a long time, but only recently have we had the opportunity to choose from a much wider range of grains. Among the benefits of eating whole grains that seem most appealing is the evidence that they actively assist in weight management. More particularly, whole grains seem to help with fat loss from the abdominal (tummy) region. It is not yet known why this may be the case. Is it due to the presence of fibre, the fibre type or structure, the whole grain itself, the GI of the grain, or the effect of the grain on appetite control? Some or all of these reasons are possible explanations. For weight management, having at least three serves per day of high-fibre, whole-grain, low GI foods is a good starting point.’ And that’s where this book can help. It is packed with over 100 delicious grain-based recipes (many of them low GI) including numerous gluten-free dishes for people with c0eliac disease or a gluten intolerance providing a diverse menu of recipes for all occasions for the whole family.

 Ancient Grains

The 70-plus recipes in chef Michael Moore’s Blood Sugar: The Family are underpinned by his healthy eating and living philosophy that great food can be local, sustainable, flavoursome and innovative. Michael was diagnosed with diabetes at 35 and later had a stroke, so he is passionate about eating well and making sure you have lots of fresh fruit and veggies. From healthy versions of everyday meals (macaroni cheese, fishcakes, pizza, blueberry muffins) to more exotic fare (salmon tataki, rare beef salad) there’s plenty here to enjoy for breakfast, lunch and dinner and snacks in between. It’s certainly a book to drool over with gorgeous photographs throughout. Although we don’t agree with his demonising foods like potatoes, pasta and rice (they do have a place in a healthy diet), it’s good to see a book with imaginative recipes making the most of legumes, quinoa, buckwheat and barley.

Blood Sugar: The Family