News and Reviews

Low GI diet in pregnancy reduces risk of excess weight gain 
Researchers in Ireland have found that giving women advice on a healthy low GI diet early in pregnancy can reduce the risk of excess weight gain and improve nutrition. Compared to women who received usual maternal care, those who were educated on a low GI diet in the first half of pregnancy had a lower energy intake, a higher intake of fibre and protein, and reduced their intake of high GI foods. They were also less likely to exceed pregnancy weight gain recommendations. Read more about the study here.

Pregnant woman

What’s better for your HbA1c — sugar or isomaltulose? 
Isomaltulose is a sugar (a disaccharide) found in minute amounts in honey and sugar cane. Compared with sucrose (aka regular sugar), it has a significantly slower rate of digestion and absorption because the bond linking the glucose and fructose molecules is harder to break down and this shows in the respective GI values – the GI of regular sugar is 65 (average); isomaltose is 32. A dietary intervention study in Diabetes Care reports that replacing 50 grams of sucrose a day with isomaltulose for 12 weeks was not enough to significantly improve HbA1c in people with type 2 diabetes. Triglycerides, however, were significantly lower in the isomaltulose group.

Lost your car keys? Lower BGLs and better recall 
A cross-sectional study in Neurology, has found that lower HbA1c and glucose levels were associated with better scores in delayed recall, learning ability, and memory consolidation. The authors conclude: “Our results indicate that even in the absence of manifest type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance, chronically higher blood glucose levels exert a negative influence on cognition, possibly mediated by structural changes in learning-relevant brain areas.”

Make room for mushrooms on the buffet table
Mushrooms are one of the tastiest, nutrient-rich, low energy-dense foods around with some100 kJ/24 calories in a 100g/3½oz serving. They are packed with, minerals like selenium and B vitamins including folate. They also have more protein than most vegetables. The GI isn’t relevant because they have almost no carbs although they are a very good source of fibre. What’s more, substituting a cup of white button mushrooms for red meat in three meals a week could be a useful strategy for enhancing and maintaining weight loss according to the findings of a randomized clinical trial reported in The FASEB Journal. At the end of the one-year trial, participants who substituted mushrooms for meat lost seven pounds, showed improvements in body composition compared to participants on the standard diet, and they maintained the weight loss. Looking for inspiration? Try Ian Hemphill’s Roasted Mushrooms with Ajowan.


Ingredients: ½–1 tsp chilli powder; 3 tbsp olive oil; 8 large field mushrooms, stems removed; 2 cloves garlic, crushed; 2 tsp butter or margarine, cut into 8 squares; 1 tsp ajowan seeds; sea salt (optional); 4 handfuls wild rocket; cracked pepper, to taste
Method: Preheat the oven to 150°C (325°F) and lightly oil a baking tray or shallow ovenproof dish large enough to hold 8 mushrooms. Mix chilli with the olive oil and set aside to allow the flavour to develop while you prepare the mushrooms • Place a little crushed garlic and a tiny piece of margarine in the centre of each mushroom, then sprinkle each with just a pinch of ajowan and a little salt if using • Arrange the mushrooms face up on the baking tray and bake for 15 minutes or until heated through • Rinse the rocket well under running water; drain, gently pat dry and toss in the chilli oil. Place a mound of rocket on each plate, and serve with two mushrooms and cracked pepper.
What’s ajowan? These small, pale-brown seeds look like celery seeds and have a distinct 'thyme-like' flavour. Add them to vegetable curries, steamed cabbage, carrots, potato and pumpkin or use them in slow-cooked dishes when the flavour of thyme and a slight peppery spiciness is wanted. Want to know more? Check out Ian Hemphill’s Spice and Herb Bible.

What's New?
Produce pic 

Sweet red salad onions

Produce Sweet red salad onions
Pic Emma Sandall 
Purchased from Greg@Envy Horticulture, Bondi Beach Farmers’ Market
What to do? Slice and add to salads or gently caramelise in olive oil as an accompaniment or a filling for field mushrooms. How? Brush mushrooms on both sides with a little olive oil, place cavity-side up in a baking dish and bake in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 15 minutes. Serve warm topped with the caramelised onion, a dollop of labne (or a soft, mild feta), a sprinkle of lemon thyme and a scatter of chopped walnuts.
What makes them sweet? Catherine Saxelby says: 'Onions have a natural sweetness because they are high in natural sugars (around 5% – glucose, fructose and sucrose). They might make you cry, but they are a good source of antioxidants called flavonoids. There’s also some fibre and potassium but they are fairly low in vitamin C and minerals.'
Want to know your onions better? Penny Woodward is expert on all matters allium (garlic and onions).  

Soil sustainability matters 

Robert Edis

World Soil Day (December 5) recognises the benefits of healthy soil in sustaining plant life (and all life). In a recent terroir-for-produce series, “The good earth”,  Melbourne soil scientist Robert Edis profiled some of Australia's ancient soils and the flavours they bring to the produce table.
Wine makers have long been telling us about the importance of terroir and the relationship between the flavour of a wine and its origin. In a new book, Barossa Shiraz (Wakefield Press $39.95), Thomas Girgensohn explains terroir – the concept of the vineyard’s site to the quality of the grapes and wine produced from it – in easy-to-understand terms.

Philippa’s bookshelf 
#1 You can’t turn a page in Rob and Sophia Palmer’s Colour of Maroc (Murdoch Books) without feeling the terroir. It’s very much a gift book, but you probably won’t want to give it away. Low GI picks for the buffet table? Try Barley and vegetable pilaf with cumin dressing; Roasted cauliflower salad with saffron and currant dressing; Fennel and blood orange salad; and Spinach and preserved lemon salad.

Colour of Maroc

#2 I heard Bruce Auld talking about A Traveller’s Flora recently. It’s his self published A to Z guide to familiar plants along roadsides, in fields and forgotten places in south-eastern Australia. It includes common roadside plants, crop plants, native plants and weeds. Many edible, it you know what you are looking for. I’ll never look at the ubiquitous canna (Canna edulis) the same way again. I discover it’s long been cultivated (dating back 2500 years in Peru) for its edible tubers which are usually baked. Here's what Crops for the Future have to say about it. ‘Never write off a minor crop! Once a staple in prehistoric Peru but going nearly extinct there because of the inconvenience for direct use (in particular extremely long cooking time), this root crop has bounced back in the last 50 years – not in its native range, but in Vietnam and Southern China. Gels made from canna starch have extraordinary tensile strength, making it the preferred raw material of popular transparent noodles. Currently grown on some 50,000 ha of marginal land in Vietnam and China, canna allows poor farmers to derive profit from minimal investments and from land unsuited for food crops.’ We guesstimate that those noodles will be low GI.

Canna edulis

Photo: Michael Hermann, Crops for the Future