1 April 2020

GI News - April 2020

GI News

GI News is published online every month by the University of Sydney, School of Life and Environmental Sciences and the Charles Perkins Centre, and delivered to the mailboxes of our 97,000 subscribers. Our goal is to help people choose the high-quality carbs that are digested at a rate that our bodies can comfortably accommodate and to share the latest scientific findings on food and diet with a particular focus on carbohydrates, dietary fibres, blood glucose and the glycemic index.

Professor Jennie Brand-Miller, AM, PhD, FAIFST, FNSA, PhD
Editor: Alan Barclay, PhD, APD
Contact GI News: glycemic.index@gmail.com

Sydney University Glycemic Index Research Service
Manager: Roslyn Muirhead, PhD, APD, AN
Contact: sugirs.manager@sydney.edu.au

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April is an important month on the religious calendar for millions of people around the world, with the Passover commencing on the 8th, Easter on the 10th and Ramadan on the 23rd. Like many of life’s important occasions, feasting on certain foods and beverages and abstaining from others is an important feature of each of these commemorations.

The Passover commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery to the Egyptians. In the Bible book of Exodus, God inflicted 10 plagues upon the ancient Egyptians. To spare the Israelites from the final plague (the death of all Egyptian first-born sons), they were instructed to mark their doors with the blood of a spring lamb so God would know to pass over the first-born in these homes.

Israelis celebrate Passover with the Seder, a feast that marks the beginning of the multi-day festival. A traditional Seder would include discussing the biblical story, drinking four cups of wine (both men and women), partaking of symbolic foods placed on the Passover Seder Plate, and reclining in celebration of freedom.

A typical Passover Seder plate includes specific foods:

  • Karpas (parsley or celery) symbolizes the initial flourishing of the Israelites in Egypt and the new spring 
  • Charoset (mixture of fresh or dried fruit, nuts, spices honey and sometimes wine) represents the mortar that the Israelite slaves used to construct buildings for the Pharaoh 
  • Maror (a bitter herb, often horseradish) represents the bitterness of slavery 
  • Chazeret (a second bitter herb, often romaine) 
  • Z'roa (roasted lamb shank bone) symbolizes the lamb that the Israelites sacrificed in the Temple of Jerusalem 
  • Beitzah (roasted, hard-boiled egg) symbolizes the sacrifice that would be offered every holiday, and whose roundness represents the cycle of life. 
  • Three pieces of matzah and a container of salt water or vinegar are also on the Seder table. 

Seder plate

Matzah is an unleavened flatbread made of wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt flour and water. It is eaten in order to remind Israelites of how quickly their ancestors fled Egypt (no time to let the bread rise). Additionally, matzah is meant to symbolize the "poor man's bread," a reminder to be humble and not to forget what life was like for those enslaved.

On the other hand, Chametz, any food product that has come into contact with water and been allowed to ferment and rise, is not to be consumed during Passover.

Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ and freedom from sin and death. It is preceded by a series of holy days commemorating Jesus’s path to his crucifixion. Described in the Bible’s New Testament as having occurred on the third day after his burial following his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD on what is now known as Good Friday. It is the culmination of the Passion of Jesus, preceded by Lent, a period of fasting, prayer, and penance.

In Western Christianity, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts 40 days (counting does not include Sundays). Eggs, butter, milk, meat and/or cheese were historically the common foods that people avoided during the Lent period.

  • Depending on where you live, specific foods are consumed during the Easter holiday period: 
  • Boiled eggs were one of the most popular foods associated with Easter. They are a long-standing symbol of fertility and new life, and in Christianity, represent the tomb in which Jesus was buried after his crucifixion. 
  • Chocolate Easter eggs were first created in the 19th century. Picking up on the tradition for decorating real eggs at Easter, the Cadbury brothers worked with chocolate to make it easier to melt and shape. The first decorated Easter eggs were covered with marzipan (sugar almond paste) flowers and filled with sugared almonds. 
  • Pretzels are commonly enjoyed in Europe from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. They also have a religious meaning as the looped bread is seen to symbolise the crossing of arms during prayer. 
  • Hot Cross Buns (a rich, spiced tea cake with a cross on top as a symbol of the crucifixion) are traditionally eaten on Good Friday. Easter Sunday: 
Boiled eggs are traditionally served at breakfast. Roast lamb, which is the main dish at the Passover Seder, is the traditional meat for the main meal on Easter Sunday in many parts of the world and is usually consumed at lunch time. Ham is a popular Easter meal in America where lamb isn't a commonly eaten meat.

Simnel cake (a fruit cake with a flat layer of marzipan on top and decorated with 11 marzipan balls representing the 12 apostles minus Judas, who betrayed Christ) is baked for supper time.

Easter Biscuits are sometimes called "Cakes", and are eaten on Easter Sunday. They contain spices, currants and sometimes grated lemon rind.
Painted Easter egg 
Ramadan commemorates when the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad as he meditated in a cavern outside the Holy city of Mecca. It is observed by Muslims in the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar year. In Arabic, Ramadan means ‘Scorching heat’ because the holiday falls in a time when the temperatures are quite hot in the Middle East.

There is a common misconception that Muslims don’t eat or drink at all for the 29-30 days of Ramadan. The only time Muslims are not required to eat and drink is during the fasting hours - from sunrise to sunset. However, they can eat before dawn also known as Suhoor (morning meal) and after sunset called Iftar (evening meal). There are no restrictions on what they can eat, except for the already prohibited foods like pork products and alcohol.

Some traditional meals for Suhoor are:
  • Egg Brik – whole egg in a triangular pastry pocket with chopped onion, tuna, harissa and parsley 
  • Ful Ramadaan – a traditional bean stew made from cooked fava beans with olive oil, lemon juice and garlic 
  • Aloo ki Bhujia – made with spiced potatoes 

Aloo ki Bhujia

Some traditional meals for Iftar include:
  • Mahshi – rice stuffed into eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and zucchini 
  • Biryani – a mixed rice dish made with spices, egg, meat and vegetables 
  • Tabbouleh – salad made of soaked bulgur, parsley, mint and tomatoes 
  • Harira – a rich brown soup made of lentils, chickpeas, rice and meat stock 
  • Maqluba – meat, rice, and fried vegetables placed in a pot, which is then flipped upside down 
  • Mansaf – lamb cooked in yogurt, served over rice and garnished with almonds and pine nuts 
Muslims break their Ramadan fasting by sharing meals with family and friends in a three-day festival known as Eid al-Fitr or the Feast of Fast-Breaking.

Some traditional Eid foods include:
  • Ma’amoul – shortbread pastries filled with dates, pistachios or walnuts 
  • Laasida – buttered couscous served for breakfast 
  • Seviyan – vermicelli noodles made with milk and sugar and flavoured with cardamom  
  • Kuih – colourful bite-sized cakes made with butter, wheat, eggs and sugar 
  • Kahk – cookies filled with honey, walnuts and pistachios 
Read more:


With Easter approaching, you might be wondering about the impact of enjoying chocolate on your health.
Many studies have been published looking at the health effects of chocolate, but the findings have been inconsistent. With the aim of better understanding the association between chocolate intake and chronic disease risk, a group of European researchers recently published a systematic review and meta-analysis of relevant studies. They combined the findings of 27 studies, including more than 1 million participants, looking at the association between all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease, colorectal cancer, heart failure, hypertension, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

The researchers found a small inverse relationship between chocolate consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. For each 10g/day increase in intake, the risk of coronary heart disease was reduced by 4% and stroke by 10%. No relationship was seen for the other chronic diseases or all-cause mortality (death).

However, they also point out that limitations with many of the studies mean that the credibility of evidence for a relationship between chocolate intake and chronic disease risk is low. One important factor is the failure of studies to distinguish between intakes of dark and milk chocolate.

Chocolate has been found to contain a range of antioxidants, in particular flavanols, which are also found in fruits, vegetables, tea and red wine, and which may help in the prevention of some chronic diseases. In fact, cocoa has more flavanols than other sources such as wine and green tea. There is some evidence that cocoa flavanols might help to protect against heart disease and stroke by lowering blood pressure and improving the health of blood vessels - reducing inflammation, increasing blood flow and helping blood vessels to dilate. They may also reduce the ‘stickiness’ of the blood and reduce some of the inflammatory markers which are associated with an increased risk of heart and blood vessel disease. However, dark chocolate contains much higher levels of antioxidants than milk chocolate and this is an important consideration when looking at the research and something the authors of this recent paper say needs to be considered in future studies.

So, what does all of this mean when it comes to enjoying a few chocolate Easter eggs? Despite the possible health benefits, chocolate doesn’t belong in a class with other healthy foods such as fruit, vegetables and wholegrains. Chocolate is high in fat and consequently energy so is best eaten in small amounts, particularly if you are watching your weight. The key is to choose good quality dark chocolate, stick to small amounts and take your time to eat and enjoy it! And to support cocoa farmers and their families, choose Fairtrade chocolate.

Read more:

Kate Marsh     
Kate Marsh is an is an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian, Credentialled Diabetes Educator and health and medical writer with a particular interest in plant-based eating and the dietary management of diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).    
Contact: Via her website www.drkatemarsh.com.au.

It’s been 10 years since the International Standards Organisation first ‘gazetted’ the ISO Standard for glycemic index testing methodology (ISO 26642:2010). The creation of the Standard was a truly global affair, involving committees from Australia, Canada, France, South Africa, and other countries. It was an important milestone in the history of the GI because it helped ensure that laboratories around the globe used the exact same process, and that the values published were truly comparable (comparing like-with-like).

GI Graph
The Standard requires that at least 10 volunteers are tested using a 50 g available carbohydrate portion of the test food (25 g can be selected if there are concerns about the physical size of the portion). What’s critically important is that the standard reference food (usually glucose) is tested a minimum of 2 times and preferably 3 times. This is because a person’s glucose tolerance varies from day-to-day in ways that are difficult to predict. For example, person A might have an ‘area under the curve’ to 50 g glucose of 100 units on one day and 150 units on the next. On average, it might be 125 units and that’s the value that will be used for comparison with the test food.

Reliable GI values can only be generated when standardised in vivo methodology is used. Last year, Dr Tom Wolever and colleagues compared the operation of the ISO standard for GI methodology in 3 different labs (Australia, Canada and France). Six foods were tested by each lab and compared. There were no differences between labs but the standard deviation (a measure of the range of values) was different for each food, ranging from as low as 2 to as high as 7. The findings indicate that the ISO method is sufficiently precise to distinguish foods that have a low GI (55 or less) from those with a high GI (70 or more) with a very high probability (97-99%).

Unfortunately, the relevance of the GI to health continues to be debated. One reason is that some consider that the GI is too variable between people, or that each individual has a unique physiology that means the average ranking of high to low GI foods is not applicable to them. After many years of testing the GI of hundreds of foods on a daily basis in thousands of individuals, we believe there is no such thing as an ‘individual GI’. Day-to-day variability in glucose tolerance is a more likely explanation for unexpected differences in glycemia.

This year will also see the publication of a 2020 version of the international tables of GI. These were first published by our group in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1995. Although they proved very popular, the tables included values that were actually not entirely reliable, e.g. a GI value for carrots was obtained using only 5 people (and to this day, many people think carrots are a high GI food!). Those tables made it easier to code food composition tables with the GI values of carbohydrate foods and facilitated targeted research. Suddenly, carbohydrate nutrition was not just about sugars vs starches, but high vs low GI. A second set of tables were published in 2002 and a third set in 2008. It is pleasing that they remain amongst the most widely cited articles in nutrition science.

Read more:
Professor Jennie Brand-Miller     
Professor Jennie Brand-Miller holds a Personal Chair in Human Nutrition in the Charles Perkins Centre and the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, at the University of Sydney. She is recognised around the world for her work on carbohydrates and the glycemic index (or GI) of foods, with over 300 scientific publications. Her books about the glycemic index have been bestsellers and made the GI a household word.   


People today may be surprised to learn that until early in the 20th century, chocolate was considered to be a health food, with a range of potential health benefits. It was used thousands of years ago by the ancient Mayans and Aztecs, and much later by Europeans between the 16th and 19th centuries, as an ingredient in cures for many illnesses, including fevers, liver disease, and kidney disorders, dysentery, and constipation, and to foster needed weight gain. Perhaps underlying its current role on St. Valentine’s day, the original chocolate drink was used by the Aztecs as an aphrodisiac, and some European doctors in the 1700 and 1800’s said chocolate made people amiable and "incited consumers to... lovemaking."

Chocolate Squares

As discussed in What’s New? there is some scientific evidence that a little bit of chocolate each day may do you good. But all chocolates were not created equal...

Chocolate nutrition
It is relatively simple to compare your favourite kind of chocolate by looking at the Nutrition Facts / Information Panel which is found on most foods. The table lists the nutrient composition of the more common varieties in a 10 g (1/3 Ounce) serve, which is equivalent to 2 squares/pieces of an average bar/block.

Chcolate Table

As can be seen, all chocolates are relatively high in kilojoules/Calories, mainly because of their fat content. Most are also a good source of carbohydrates, mainly because of added sugars that help mask chocolates naturally bitter flavour. The exception is the stevia-based chocolate bars which use sugar alcohols and inulin instead of added sugars to provide bulk and texture.

Body weight 
Most chocolates are what we call energy dense – you get a lot of kilojoules/Calories in a relatively small volume. This is good if you are trying to gain wait, travel long-distances with limited storage space, or participate in an endurance sport where it is an advantage to be able to carry around a concentrated and highly palatable source of fat, carbohydrate and energy. But it is obviously not good if you are trying to lose weight.

Blood fats 
Chocolate is high in total and saturated fats. In high quality chocolates, 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 does not lower the “good” HDL cholesterol, so the net effect on your total blood cholesterol levels is not so bad. 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.

Blood glucose 
Despite most chocolates relatively high carbohydrate (primarily added sugars) content, they don’t have as large an impact on blood glucose levels as some imagine - unless you overindulge, of course. This is because all contain around 5 g of carbohydrate per 10 g serve (with the exception of the new stevia based chocolate bars which have less than 1 g per serve). Also, the glycemic index of chocolate is low with values less than 45 for most common varieties (see Your GI shopping guide, below). This is because of the high fat content, which slows the rate that the sugars are released from the stomach into the small intestine, and absorbed into the blood. So overall, the glycemic load is less than 10 (low) for a typical serve of most common varieties.

For this reason, as long as they don’t overindulge, people with diabetes do not have to eat low, or reduced-sugar chocolates to avoid high blood glucose levels. It’s important to note that while the low carbohydrate stevia varieties will have the least effect on blood glucose levels they are relatively high in fat and consequently have nearly the same amount of kilojoules as regular varieties so they are not much better if you are trying to lose weight. Also, alternatively sweetened chocolate is usually more expensive and often not as tasty as sugar-sweetened chocolate.

There is a good argument that you should have a little bit of what you enjoy…as a colleague once said “If you really like chocolate and don’t wish to over consume the product, always choose your favourite!

As discussed in What’s New? chocolate is one of natures richest sources of a powerful group of antioxidants known as flavanols, along with green and black tea, red wine, certain fruits (e.g. berries, black grapes, plums, apples) and vegetables (e.g. artichoke, asparagus, cabbage, russet and sweet potatoes). These antioxidants are thought to possess a number of properties that may benefit health, including helping to prevent cholesterol sticking to the walls of blood vessels, relaxing major blood vessels and thereby decreasing blood pressure, and maybe even reducing the ability of the blood to form too many clots. Half a row of dark chocolate (25 g / 0.9 Ounces) provides about the same amount of these antioxidants as half a cup of black tea or a glass of red wine. It’s important to remember that milk chocolate contains only one third as much antioxidants as dark chocolate, and white chocolate contains none at all.

Bottom line 
While not a health food, if eaten in moderation, most people can enjoy chocolate as part of a well-balanced diet. Dark chocolate may have some cardio-vascular benefits. Those who are overweight should only buy their favourite, high quality chocolate, and take care not to eat too much, too often.

Read more:

  • Cardiovascular disease risk of dietary stearic acid compared with trans, other saturated, and unsaturated fatty acids: a systematic review 
  • Effects of stearic acid on plasma lipid and lipoproteins in humans 

Dr Alan Barclay
Alan Barclay, PhD is a consultant dietitian and chef (Cert III). He worked for Diabetes Australia (NSW) from 1998–2014 . He is author/co-author of more than 30 scientific publications, and author/co-author of  The good Carbs Cookbook (Murdoch Books), Reversing Diabetes (Murdoch Books), The Low GI Diet: Managing Type 2 Diabetes (Hachette Australia) and The Ultimate Guide to Sugars and Sweeteners (The Experiment, New York).
Contact: You can follow him on Twitter or check out his website.


Eggs are popular. They are delicious, convenient and easy to cook. There’s also a steady stream of scientific research looking at whether we can enjoy them as part of our daily fare, or whether we should limit them. Several recent systematic reviews examine the evidence and provide an answer for people with type 2 diabetes and those at risk.

The systematic review that looked at egg consumption on cardiovascular risk factors for people with diabetes included all randomised controlled trials where people consumed either 6–12 eggs per week compared to a control group that consumed no eggs or few eggs (less than 2 eggs a week), for 12 to 20 weeks. In a total of 6 studies, the authors found that consuming 6 to 12 eggs per week had no impact on total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting blood glucose (sugar), or insulin and that HDL (“good”) cholesterol increased in 4 of the 6 included studies. While these results are encouraging, the study authors noted that “...the studies varied in diet composition aside from the addition of eggs.” Indeed, most of the studies were reduced energy (kilojoules/calories), and had beneficial ratios of saturated : unsaturated fats.

The second review looked at all of the data from observational studies and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and found that from a total of ten studies (5 in Europe, 4 in the USA and 1 in Asia), consuming 1 egg a day was associated with a 13% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, they determined that risk was strongly influenced by where you live, with people in the USA consuming 1 egg a day having a 47% increased risk, and people living in Europe and Asia having no increased risk. The authors noted that “...in the US studies, egg intake is often associated with smoking or lower physical activity or higher intake of red meat, whereas this is generally not observed in studies outside the USA.” and that “Food preparation methods (e.g. boiled or fried eggs, whole eggs or only egg whites) or concurrent consumption of other foods that may increase diabetes risk (e.g. home fries, bacon) may also account for a part of the differences, but such information is not available in these studies.”

So yes, it is ok to eat an egg a day if you are at risk of or have type 2 diabetes – provided you enjoy them as part of a healthy balanced diet, rich in other quality proteins (e.g., lean poultry, meats, seafoods, soy beans, etc…), minimally processed low GI carbohydrates, and healthy fats (e.g., Canola, olive, peanut, or sesame oil; nuts and seeds). It’s the overall eating pattern that counts.

Finally, it’s worth remembering, eggs are a highly nutritious food. One hard-boiled egg is:

  • A good source of protein and vitamins – B (B12, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, folate), A, E, and is one of the few food sources of vitamin D 
  • A relatively good source of iodine, iron, zinc and phosphorus 
  • Rich in omega-3 fatty acids and cholesterol, and is a source of saturated, poly-unsaturated, and mono-unsaturated fats, with a saturated : unsaturated fat ratio of 0.48 (ideal ratio is less than or equal to 0.5). 
Read more:


Despite its antioxidant content and low GI, eating a lot of chocolate in one helping is unhealthy, but a little bit – even every day – is not so bad. It’s an incredibly sustaining food because of its high fat content (which accounts for its low GI) and is handy for long distance exercise because just a little bit gives a lot of energy (read kilojoules/Calories). If you’re not a hiker or cyclist don’t kid yourself that its healthy. A 30g/1oz serve of a quality brand of dark chocolate, which has twice the antioxidant capacity of milk chocolate, is the way to go.

Chocolate Table
Milk Chocolate 

GI 39-45
Serving: 4 small solid Easter eggs (approximately) (30g/1oz)
PWD Table
Dark Chocolate 

GI 18-29
Serving: 4 small solid Easter eggs (approximately) (30g/1oz)
Chocolate Table
Dark Chocolate – 70% Cocoa 

GI 18-29
Serving: 4 small solid Easter eggs (approximately) (30g/1oz)
Chocolate Table

White chocolate (made with cocoa butter)

GI 34
Serving: 4 small solid Easter eggs (approximately) (30g/1oz)
Chocolate Table
No added sugar chocolate (sweetened with stevia)

GI 14
Serving: 4 small solid Easter eggs (approximately) (30g/1oz)
Chocolate Table

Read more:

 Kaye Foster-Powell     
Kaye Foster-Powell is an Accredited Practising Dietitian who has worked with people with diabetes for 30 years. She was co-author of the original series of international, best-selling books on the glycemic index. She conducts a specialized private practice for people with diabetes in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, Australia.    
Contact: Via her website.


Hot cross buns are traditional Easter fare, despite the fact they seem to appear on supermarket shelves earlier every year, sometimes hot on the heels of Christmas! They sell like proverbial ‘hot cakes’ in my local store. Hot cross buns are a yeast-leavened sweet bread usually containing sultanas or currants and a touch of spice (such as mixed spice, cinnamon or all spice), decorated with a cross on top. The cross pattern is created with a paste of flour and water and applied before baking. After baking they are usually glazed with a sugar syrup to give them a shiny appearance. When eaten warm straight out of the oven they are temptingly fragrant and divinely delicious - some might even say eating them is a religious experience!

Hot cross buns contain a little fat from butter/shortening (around 5%) and are high in carbohydrate so consideration is needed around portion size for people with diabetes. Hot cross bun sizes vary a lot. For example, one commercial variety sold in a 6 pack contains 40g carbohydrate and 920 kJ (220 calories). They can be sold in smaller sizes, for example mini-hot cross buns are divided into 9 buns instead of 6 and this reduces the carbohydrate content to 22g and the energy down to 500 kJ (120 calories). I use these mini buns for my son’s school lunch box. You might guess that hot cross buns have a high GI but when Sydney University GI Research Service (SUGiRS) tested one a few years back it was 66 (medium). This is likely due to the dried fruit which has a low GI; the same reason raisin toast tends to have a lower GI than white or wholemeal bread.

There is a marketing trend to play around with the basic recipe of hot cross buns, such as fruit-free, gluten-free and more indulgent varieties such as chocolate chip, caramel, mocha or brioche buns but be aware these can alter the nutrition content in a less healthy direction. Unfortunately, higher fibre wholemeal (wholewheat) varieties are rare - we can but ask our local retailer. Or take the time to cook a batch ourselves over the Easter holiday. Happy Easter!

Watermelon Table  
Source: AusBrands2019

Nicole Senior     
Nicole Senior is an Accredited Practising Dietitian, author, consultant, cook and food enthusiast who strives to make sense of nutrition science and delights in making healthy food delicious.    
Contact: You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or check out her website.


0:30 Prep • 0:20 Fridge • 22 Servings • Dessert • Special Occasion
150g white marshmallows
1/2 cup moist coconut flakes
1/2 cup shelled salted pistachios
4 cups plain air-popped popcorn
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
2 tablespoons goji berries
180g 70% dark chocolate, chopped

Grease and line the base and sides of a 29 x 16cm rectangular slice tin with baking paper.

Cut the marshmallows into quarters using scissors. Place in a large bowl with the coconut, pistachios, popcorn, dried apricots, cranberries and goji berries. Mix together well.

Place the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat chocolate in microwave on high for 1 minute, or until melted and smooth. Stir chocolate halfway during cooking to prevent burning.

Pour the chocolate over the marshmallow mixture, quickly mix, then pour mixture into the prepared tin. Spread the mixture over base with spatula. Refrigerate for 15–20 minutes, or until set. Cut the rocky road into squares or break into pieces, to serve.

Per serve 509kJ/122 calories; 2.2g protein; 6.2g fat (includes 3.1g saturated fat; saturated : unsaturated fat ratio 1.0); 14g available carbs (includes 10g sugars and 4g starch); 1.4g fibre; 33mg sodium

Courtesy of Australian Healthy Food Guide magazine. For more healthy recipe inspiration and expert advice, visit healthyfoodguide.com.au 
Australian Healthy Food Guide

0:10 Prep • 0:20 Cook • 4 Servings • Main Meal • Vegetarian • Lactose Free • Contains Nuts
4 large eggplants
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 garlic clove, finely chopped (or 1½ teaspoons jarred minced garlic)
250g baby tomatoes, quartered
1 cup wholegrain breadcrumbs
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 large lemons
1/3 cup (50g) pine nuts, lightly toasted (see Tip)
Small handful of basil leaves, chopped, plus extra leaves to serve
1/3 cup (80ml) olive oil


Preheat the oven to 220°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Cut the eggplants in half lengthways and scoop out the flesh (they will look like little canoes). Place the eggplant shells on the prepared tray and put the flesh in a large bowl.

Add the egg, garlic, tomato and breadcrumbs to the eggplant flesh and crush the mixture together with a fork. Mix in the lemon zest, pine nuts, basil and 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Spoon the filling evenly into the eggplant shells and roast for 15-20 minutes until they are lightly browned and the filling is cooked through.

Meanwhile, place the extra basil leaves in a bowl and dress with the lemon juice and remaining olive oil.

Remove the eggplants from the oven, top with the lemony basil and enjoy!

Tip: to toast the pine nuts, place them in a frying pan over medium heat for 2 minutes (or in the oven for a few minutes). Keep an eye on them as they can burn quickly. Remove them from the heat as soon as they are lightly golden.

Per serve Energy: 2024kJ/484 Calories; 14g protein; 31g fat (includes 4g saturated fat; saturated : unsaturated fat ratio 0.18); 28g available carbs (includes 16g sugars and 11g starches); 17g fibre; 201mg sodium; 1233mg potassium; sodium : potassium ratio 0.16

Interval Weight Loss for Women

Interval Weight Loss for Women


University of Sydney

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1 March 2020

GI News - March 2020

GI News

GI News is published online every month by the University of Sydney, School of Life and Environmental Sciences and the Charles Perkins Centre, and delivered to the mailboxes of our 97,000 subscribers. Our goal is to help people choose the high-quality carbs that are digested at a rate that our bodies can comfortably accommodate and to share the latest scientific findings on food and diet with a particular focus on carbohydrates, dietary fibres, blood glucose and the glycemic index.

Professor Jennie Brand-Miller, AM, FAA, FAIFST, FNSA
Editor: Philippa Sandall
Scientific Editor/Managing Editor: Alan Barclay, PhD, APD, AN
Contact GI News: glycemic.index@gmail.com

Sydney University Glycemic Index Research Service
Manager: Roslyn Muirhead, PhD, APD, AN
Contact: sugirs.manager@sydney.edu.au

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All that our forebears drank for thousands and thousands of years was plain water. It’s all that they had available (apart from breast milk as infants). It’s also absolutely essential to life. Our bodies need it to transport nutrients to our organs and oxygen to our cells; to remove waste; to protect our organs; and to regulate our body temperature.

Plain water faces stiff competition these days, however. The proportion of tap water in our diet has diminished as we have shifted to drinking other beverages from tea and coffee to soft drinks and mineral waters.

The latest commercial beverage trend is “plant waters,” once part of traditional diets in northern Europe, Asia, the Pacific Islands and North America. Now endorsed by celebrities and sports people, they have hit the hype home run. Take the health claims made about them with a large pinch of salt (the evidence is excessively thin on the ground) and enjoy them in moderation if you wish. Remember, they are a pricy alternative to “Chateau Tap,” and they come with calories. They will also affect blood glucose levels.

BIRCH WATER Drunk straight from the tree, birch sap was a traditional springtime tonic in northern Europe renowned for its strengthening and curative powers. Over two hundred years ago, Baron Pierre-Fran├žois Percy, army surgeon and inspector general to Napoleon, extolled its benefits making health claims that would have modern marketers blushing to their boots. “Throughout the whole of northern Europe . . . birch water is the hope, the blessing, and the panacea of rich and poor, master and peasant alike . . . It almost unfailingly cures skin conditions such as pimples, scurf, acne, etc., it is an invaluable remedy for rheumatic diseases, the after-effects of gout, bladder obstructions, and countless chronic ills against which medical science is so prone to fail.”

These days, it’s not just a springtime tonic. It is bottled and sold in Japan, Korea, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe as a refreshing beverage. Leading brands include Denmark’s Sealand Birk and Finland’s Nordic Koivu.

What’s in it? According to the manufacturer, a 250ml (9fl oz) serving of Sealand Birk provides 210kJ (50 calories), 12.5g available carbohydrate (12.5g natural sugars) and 4mg sodium.

COCONUT WATER Tropical coconut palms (Cocos nucifera) flourish on shorelines in a worldwide band 25 degrees north and 25 degrees south of the equator. It’s considered the tree of life in many cultures, and is certainly a contender for gold when it comes to “world’s most useful plant”. With each tree yielding thousands of coconuts over a 60–80-year lifespan, it provides, in one neat package, a high-calorie food, potable water, fibre that can be spun into rope, and a hard shell that can be turned into charcoal. What’s more it makes a handy flotation device if you need it. And it’s not a nut, it is a drupe or stone fruit.

The clear liquid inside the coconut has long been a popular drink in the tropics. There’s a lot of hype about its benefits, but little research to support the claims.

What’s in it? The Nudie brand, the only one tested, has a GI value of 55. According to the manufacturer, a 250ml (9fl oz) serving provides 198kJ (47 calories), 11g available carbohydrate (including 8g natural sugars) and 57mg sodium. The glycemic load is 6.

MAPLE WATER Maple water is a refreshing drink straight from the tree when the sap is running in maple country, and not just in the United States and Canada. In South Korea, drinking maple sap (gorosoe) is a springtime ritual with festivals and sap-drinking contests.

Until recently, maple water had a very limited season, as it could only be harvested during a narrow, six-week window. Now “the sap is frozen to maintain its healthful benefits and maximize its fresh shelf life,” says the manufacturer of KiKi Maple Sweet Water®. “At a local bottling plant, a hot fill process, with the liquid heated to just below 96 degrees Celsius, ensures that the drink remains below pasteurization temperature to preserve its purity, highlight the flavour and maintain healthful benefits. The product is then shipped, stored, and served chilled.”

What’s in it? A 240ml (9fl oz) serving of KiKi provides 115kJ (48 calories) and 12g available carbohydrate (11g natural sugars (sucrose, glucose, and fructose)). There are claims that it is low GI, but no published data. We assume the claim is based on the GI for maple syrup (GI 54).

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Managing recovery after exercise depends on the nature of the exercise, the time between exercise sessions and your goals. From a nutritional perspective, your main considerations are:

  • Optimising your muscle protein turnover 
  • Glycogen resynthesis • Rehydration 
  • Managing your muscle soreness 
  • Managing energy balance. 
Milk (that’s plain milk not flavoured milk) is uniquely suitable because it is approximately isotonic, and provides high quality protein, carbohydrate, water and micronutrients (particularly sodium).

Research has shown that drinking milk post-exercise can be beneficial for acute recovery and for chronic training adaptation. It:
  • Augments post-exercise muscle protein synthesis and rehydration 
  • Can contribute to post-exercise glycogen resynthesis, 
  • Attenuates post-exercise muscle soreness/function losses. 
Milk is at least comparable and often out performs most commercially available recovery drinks, but is a fraction of the cost.

Drinking milk after exercising has also been shown to reduce subsequent energy intake and thus may lead to more favourable body composition changes with exercise training.

Read more:
  • Cow's Milk as a Post-Exercise Recovery Drink: Implications for Performance and Health


Water is an essential nutrient – in fact, more important to life than all other nutrients. The average healthy adult can survive just 2–5 days without water, but several months without food. Water is essential to life because it:

  • Helps with the regulation of body temperature, as the evaporation of sweat from the skin removes excess heat from the body 
  • Acts as a lubricant and helps cushion joints, the spinal cord, etc 
  • Helps maintain the structure of certain proteins and glycogen 
  • Carries nutrients and waste products throughout the body 
  • Acts as a solvent for vitamins, minerals, amino acids, sugars, etc so that they can participate in metabolic activities 
  • Maintains blood volume. 
Tap water
THIRST The average adult body contains 35–45 litres of water, which makes up around 60% of total body weight. Two thirds of it is located within our cells (75% in lean tissue and 25% in fat tissue) and is known as intra-cellular fluid, and the rest is in our blood, body cavities and between cells in organs and tissues, and is consequently known as extra-cellular fluid.

Extra-cellular fluid contains a variety of minerals including sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium which are paired with chloride and/or bicarbonate to form salts. The kidneys adjust the excretion of water to keep the concentration of these salts in the extra-cellular fluids at a constant concentration. This in turn helps balance out the concentration of fluids within cells (intra-cellular fluid).

When the concentration of the salts in the extra-cellular fluids increases due to dehydration, a specialised part of our brain called the hypothalamus:
  • Sends a message to another part of the brain that causes the sensation of thirst 
  • Signals the pituitary gland to releases a hormone called vasopressin (or antidiuretic hormone (ADH) depending on which country you live in), into the blood that signals the kidneys to increase the reabsorption of water and return it to the blood. 
The kidneys also sense if blood pressure is too low and release a hormone called renin, that through a complex series of events, causes the kidneys to reabsorb more sodium. This in turn helps the kidneys retain more water.

Finally, there are also neural pathways from sensors in the heart and major blood vessels that stimulate thirst and the release of vasopressin/ADH when the volume of blood shrinks.

These complex mechanisms enable the body to maintain optimal hydration throughout each day, under a broad range of environmental conditions, even when exercising. The fact that most people maintain much the same body weight on a day-to-day basis indicates that total body water is kept constant, with gains carefully balanced by losses.

KEEPING HYDRATED Most people know that they should aim to drink at least 6 glasses of water each day. Here’s how that advice came about. For optimal health and well-being, we need between 35–45 ml of fluid for every kilogram of our body weight each day, depending on gender, level of physical activity, body composition and of course the weather.

As an example, an average woman weighing 71kg (157 pounds) needs between 2.5–3.2 litres of fluid each day, and an average man weighing 86kg (190 pounds) between 3.0–3.9 litres.

Not all fluids need to come from beverages, however, as believe it or not, around 750ml (around 3 cups) comes from food and a further 250ml from the metabolism of food.

So, on average, women should aim to drink 1.5–2.2 litres (6–9 cups) each day and men 2.0–2.9 litres (8–12 cups) each day.

Don’t overdo it. Water intoxication is rare but can occur if you consume 10–20 litres of fluids within a few hours. Confusion, convulsions and even death can occur due to dangerously low sodium levels in the blood that affects cell functioning.

While water is an essential nutrient, like most things, too much can kill. The dose makes the poison.

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Dr Alan Barclay
Alan Barclay, PhD is a consultant dietitian and chef (Cert III). He worked for Diabetes Australia (NSW) from 1998–2014 . He is author/co-author of more than 30 scientific publications, and author/co-author of  The good Carbs Cookbook (Murdoch Books), Reversing Diabetes (Murdoch Books), The Low GI Diet: Managing Type 2 Diabetes (Hachette Australia) and The Ultimate Guide to Sugars and Sweeteners (The Experiment, New York).

Contact: You can follow him on Twitter or check out his website.


Plain water is best to quench your thirst: it is the most refreshing drink, provides zero kilojoules plus a few minerals, and has no effect on your blood glucose levels. It doesn’t have any taste, although the minerals that are sometimes found in water naturally, or that are added (e.g., fluoride), can give it an unusual flavour. If that’s an issue for you, try a water purifier and/or adding some ice and a slice or two of lemon or lime.

MINERAL WATER Depending on the source, mineral water contains relatively small amounts of sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium and is a suitable alternative to plain water for people with diabetes and those at risk.

LOW JOULE SOFT DRINKS These are OK to drink occasionally, but not on a daily basis. Carbonated beverages have a low pH (they are acidic), and in theory, frequent consumption may increase the risk of developing tooth decay. However, they have no effect on blood glucose levels, and provide very few kilojoules (calories).

FRUIT JUICES AND FRUIT DRINKS Enjoy occasionally, but not on a daily basis. They are a source of kilojoules (calories) and carbohydrate. On average, they provide 400kJ per 250ml serve (1 cup), and are an important source of vitamin C providing on average 113mg per cup), which is more than twice the RDI (45mg per day). Most fruit juice contains a small amount of dietary fibre. As they have a low pH and are a source of fermentable carbohydrate for cariogenic bacteria, frequent consumption may increase the risk of developing tooth decay.

Fruit Juice
Fruit juices and drinks raise blood glucose levels in people with diabetes. On average, they provide 22g of carbohydrate per cup (250ml). All fruit juices made from low GI fruit and most fruit drinks have a low glycemic index, however a 250ml serve of most has a medium glycemic load.

What about hypos? Because gastric emptying, intestinal motility and absorption rates increase when a person is having a hypo, fruit juices and drinks are suitable for treating the condition despite the fact that most varieties have a low GI.

SUGAR SWEETENED SOFT DRINKS Save these for special occasions. Like fruit juices and drinks, sugar sweetened soft drinks have a low pH and are a source of fermentable carbohydrate for cariogenic bacteria, and consumption is positively associated with increased risk of tooth decay.

On average, a 250ml glass (1 cup) of sugar sweetened soft drink provides around 440 kJ, 27g available carbohydrate (that’s about 2 exchanges), and most have a medium glycemic index, and a medium-high glycemic load, and consequently they will raise blood glucose levels in people with diabetes.

What about hypos? Like fruit juices and drinks, sugar sweetened soft drinks are suitable for treating hypoglycaemia despite the fact that most varieties have a medium glycemic index, because gastric emptying, intestinal motility and absorption rates increase when a person is having a hypo.

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These juicy fruits are great thirst quenchers that also provide us with dietary fibre and essential vitamins and minerals.

For people with diabetes – Many people count grams of carbohydrate or use 15g Carbohydrate Exchange or 10g Portions to help match their insulin or blood glucose lowering medication to their requirements. We have included both. A 15g Exchange includes food with 12–18g carbohydrate and a 10g Portion 7.6–12.5g of carbohydrate.

GI 78
Serving: 1 slice (160g/5¾oz) 
Watermelon Table
Rockmelon (cantaloupe) 
GI 68
Serving: 1 cup diced (190g/6oz)
Rockmelon Table
GI 51
Serving: 1 cheek (90g/3¼oz)
Mango Table
GI 56
Serving: 1 slice (70g/2½oz)
Papaya Table
GI 59
Serving: 2 thin slices (110g/3¾oz)
Pineapple Table
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Noodles have long been a staple food in Asia and in parts of Europe (Poland and Hungary for example have a wide variety of noodles both egg and flour/egg flour potatoes noodles served with roasts, stews, sauces, soups).
These days, their meal-in-minutes value has boosted their popularity – serving noodles with fish, chicken, tofu or lean meat and plenty of vegetables gives you a speedy meal with a healthy balance of carbs, fats and proteins plus some fibre and essential vitamins and minerals.

As it’s all too easy to slurp, gulp, twirl and overeat noodles, keep those portion sizes moderate. While some noodles are a lower GI choice, eating a huge amount will have a marked effect on your blood glucose.
Noodle Table
To cook noodles, follow the instructions on the packet as times vary depending on types and thickness. Some only need swirling under running warm water to separate, or soaking in hot (but not boiling) water to soften before you serve them or add to stir-fries. Others need to be boiled. Like pasta, they are usually best just tender, almost al dente.

Noodle Table
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0:15 Prep • 0:25 Cook • 4 Servings • Light & Spicy Meal • Flavoursome Stock • Gluten Free

2 x 200g (7oz) skinless chicken breast fillets
50g (2in) piece fresh ginger, sliced, plus 2 tablespoons shredded ginger to serve
50g (2in) galangal, sliced
4 spring onions, sliced, plus extra slices to serve
4 kaffir lime leaves, torn
1 lemongrass stem, bruised
1 star anise
1 long red chilli, halved lengthwise
½ cinnamon stick
2 garlic cloves
100g (3½oz) rice stick noodles
115g (4oz) baby corn, halved lengthwise
200g (7oz) snake beans, trimmed
100g (3½oz) snow peas (mangetout), thinly sliced
Vietnamese mint leaves to serve
Lime cheeks, to serve

Pour 4 cups of water into a large saucepan and add the chicken, sliced ginger, galangal slices, spring onions, lime leaves, lemongrass, star anise, chilli, cinnamon and garlic. Place over low heat, cover and simmer for 15–20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, put the noodles in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak for 5 minutes or until softened, then drain.

Use a slotted spoon to lift the chicken from the broth. Strain the broth and return to the pan. Cut the chicken into thick slices.

Add the baby corn and snake beans to the broth and cook for 2 minutes, then add the snow peas. Cook a further minute until the vegetables are just tender (but still have bite).

Divide the noodles, chicken, corn, beans and snow peas among 4 bowls and ladle over the broth. Tope with extra ginger and spring onions and with the Vietnamese mint leves and serve with the lime cheeks.

Per serve 1245kJ/296 calories; 27g protein; 6g fat (includes 2g saturated fat; saturated : unsaturated fat ratio 0.5); 31g available carbs (includes 3g sugars and 28g starch); 6g fibre; 160mg sodium; 750mg potassium; sodium : potassium ratio 0.21

Reversing Diabetes, Dr Alan Barclay (Murdoch Books) 
 0:15 Prep (+ 4 hours marinating) • 0:15 Cook • 4 Servings • Main Meal • Gluten Free

2 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 teaspoon finely grated ginger
375g (13oz) packet firm tofu, cut into 2cm (¾in) cubes
450g (1lb) packet fresh hokkien noodles
1 tablespoon olive oil
2.5cm (1in) piece ginger, cut into very thin matchsticks
1 long red chilli, deseeded, thinly sliced
150g (5oz) baby corn halved lengthwise
150g (5oz) shitake mushrooms, halved
150g (5oz) sugar snap peas, strings removed
6 spring onions, trimmed, cut into 4cm (1½in) lengths
1 bunch choy sum, trimmed, cut into 3 equal lengths
handful picked coriander leaves

Combine the soy, rice wine, vinegar, garlic and grated ginger in a shallow non-metallic dish. Add the tofu and turn to coat in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours, turning once.

Place the noodles in a large heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for 5 minutes then drain well.

Heat half the oil in a large wok or frying pan. Fry the tofu (reserving the marinade) in batches until golden. Remove and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil, add the ginger and chilli, stir fry 30 seconds, add the baby corn and mushrooms, stir fry for 2 minutes more. Add the sugar snaps and spring onions, cook for 1 minute then add the choy sum, noodles and reserved marinade. Toss together for 1–2 minutes until the noodles are heated through and coated in the sauce. Return the tofu to the wok and toss to combine. Serve immediately garnished with the coriander leaves.

Per serve Energy: 1630kJ/390 cals; protein 20g; fat 12g (includes 2g saturated fat; saturated : unsaturated fat ratio 0.2); available carbs 44g; fibre 8g.

The Low GI Vegetarian Cookbook (Hachette Australia)