GI News Briefs

The Protective Power of Plant Protein

High in fibre and low in fat, it’s long been acknowledged that fruit, vegetables and legumes (pulses) play a central role in a healthy heart diet. In fact, increased consumption of these healthful foods is associated with a lower incidence of cancer, cardiovascular disease and other age-related diseases. Now a four-country study led by Prof Paul Elliott of Imperial College London has found that diets rich in vegetable protein tend to reduce blood pressure. High blood pressure is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke and is the biggest cause of preventable mortality worldwide. During Elliot’s study, 4,680 volunteers aged 40–59 in Japan, China, UK and the US had their blood pressure read eight times and wrote down everything they had consumed in the 24 hours before each of the four checkup sessions over a 6-week period. Writing in the January issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, the researchers report ‘an inverse relationship between individual’s vegetable protein intake and their blood pressure’—the higher the vegetable protein intake, the lower the blood pressure.
Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol 166, pp79–86

Photo: Ian Hofstetter, The Low GI Diet Cookbook

GI Group: You don’t need to eat meat, chicken or fish every day (or at all) to get enough protein. Plant proteins can provide us with all the essential and non-essential amino acids we need so long as we eat a wide variety of foods. These plant proteins include many low GI foods such as legumes (pulses), wholegrains such as barley and traditional oats, foods rich in soy protein like tofu, nuts and seeds, and vegetables. There’s no need to worry about special combinations of plant foods at the same meal, the body keeps a short-term supply of essential amino acids so that ‘protein combining’ can happen over the whole day.

Did Your Kids Eat Breakfast This Morning?
Most of us have been told (countless times) that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But a lot of us skip breakfast. Not a good example because alarmingly around 40 per cent of kids are breakfast skippers too. Why? Well, the usual suspects. Too tired. Needed more sleep. Rushed. Not hungry. Don’t like breakfast. Dieting.


Writing in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association last year, Dr Ruth Striegel-Moore reported that the older a girl gets, the more likely she is to skip breakfast. They found that 77 per cent of white nine-year-old girls and 57 per cent of the black nine-year-old girls regularly ate breakfast. By age 19 this had plummeted and less than 32 per cent of the white girls and 22 per cent of the black girls in the study were regularly eating breakfast. The researchers analysed dietary information from the nine-year National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study from 2,379 girls who entered the study at age 9 or 10. They also report that the breakfast eaters’ diets were consistently higher in calcium and fibre than the skippers and that they had a lower BMI.
Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 105, Issue 6, June 2005, Pages 938–45

If You Want to Give Your Kids a Headstart, Give Them Oatmeal for Breakfast
In recent years, numerous studies have shown that eating breakfast can improve speed in short-term memory tests, alertness (which may help memory and learning), and mood, calmness and reduce feelings of stress. Breakfast also helps school children perform better in creativity tests. Breakfast helps to replenish blood glucose levels, which is important since the brain itself has no reserves of glucose, its main energy source...


Reporting in Physiology & Behavior in 2005, Tufts University psychologists confirmed previous studies that when kids eat breakfast they do better in tests that require processing brainpower for complex visual display (such as puzzles) than when they skip brekkie. Taking it a step further this time, the Tufts team gave the kids different breakfasts on different occasions—oatmeal and milk one day and Cap’n Crunch with milk another and then compared the test results. They found that the 60 elementary school students performed better on a raft of tests after tucking into stick-to-the-ribs oatmeal rather than firing up on Cap’n Crunch. Children aged 9–11 notched up improvements in their spatial memory (things like puzzles, drawing, and geography, as well as some technical skills used in math and science); while the 6–8-year-olds listened better and also scored higher on spatial memory. The researchers believe that their results show that what kids eat for breakfast really matters. They say ‘due to compositional differences in protein and fiber content, glycemic scores, and rate of digestion, oatmeal may provide a slower and more sustained energy source and consequently result in cognitive enhancement compared to low-fibre high glycemic ready-to-eat cereal.’
Journal of Physiology and Behavior, Volume 85, Issue 5, 2005, Pages 635–45