1 June 2012

GI News—June 2012


  • Going with the grain – low GI of course says CSIRO;
  • New GI values for creamy Carisma mashed potato and healthy ‘fries’;
  • Beans, rice and glycemic response;
  • Add almonds at breakfast for better BGLs;
  • Johanna Burani's ‘Early bird’ tomato soup;
  • Nicole Senior checks out the myth that raw foods are best;
  • The scoop on raising a vegetable lover with Emma Stirling.
It pays to be picky with vegetables. In an exclusive, edited extract from Keys to Good Cooking (published by Hodder & Stoughton RRP AUD$49.99) Harold McGee explains why in Food for Thought. There's more on veggies this issue, too. Lots more. We look at a couple of recent studies from the University of Newcastle that have found that although the school garden was an effective strategy to increase kids’ willingness to taste vegetables and also improved their ratings for some vegetables, it did not noticeably up intake. Prof Philip Morgan concludes that: ‘changing vegetable consumption in children is complex.’ (Most parents will agree with this!) And in the GI News Kitchen there are recipes to help you (and your kids) up your veggie intake, deliciously.

Good eating, good health and good reading.

: Philippa Sandall
Web management and design: Alan Barclay, PhD
Contact email (for questions or permission to reproduce stories from this newsletter): info@gisymbol.com for technical problems or faults please contact smbginewstech@sydney.edu.au

Food for Thought

It pays to be picky with vegetables says cooking guru Harold McGee.
‘Vegetables aren’t sweet and soft and easy to love the way fruits are. It takes a cook to make tubers, stalks, and leaves lovable. That’s because plants not only didn’t design them to be delicious as they did fruits, many tried to protect them by making them really unpleasant.


The flavours of most vegetables – and the fresh herbs that we use to add flavour to dishes – are actually there to serve chemical warnings and weapons and deter insects and other creatures from eating them. This is more obvious for such strong flavoured foods as garlic and onions and their relatives, bitter chicories, mustard greens and radishes and the other members of the cabbage family, and chillis. But even “green” flavours of lettuces and spinach and artichokes, and the earthy aromas of mushrooms and beets, come from chemicals that irritate and repel. We can enjoy all these foods because cooking alters and disarms or disguises their weaponry, or in the case of herbs, because we eat them in small quantities as accents rather than the main course.

Apart from seed-carrying fruits that we treat as vegetables, notably the tomato, most vegetables don’t ripen the way fruits do. They’re edible when they are a freshly sprouted seed and remain edible until they’ve become too fibrous to chew. Much of the produce we see in markets. Farmers’ markets included, has been harvested late in its edible life, for maximum mass and durability. Until I had a chance to grow some vegetables myself and chew on them every day or two through the season, I hadn’t noticed that big romaine (cos) lettuce leaves often taste rubbery, or realized how unlike their usual oversize versions midsize chard and collards are, tender and mild after just a few minutes of cooking.’

McGee goes on to say that when shopping for vegetables and herbs, remember that ‘Fresh vegetables and herbs are alive and breathing, and any that grow above the ground should look like it. (Root vegetables and onions look dormant and are.) The best quality fresh vegetables are the most recently harvested and most carefully handled.

Extra-large vegetables are usually the most mature and can be coarse in texture and flavor; tiny “baby” or “micro” vegetables are immature, mild in flavour and expensive. Choose vegetables and herbs with deep colours, a firm, full appearance, and freshly cut stems. Avoid vegetables that look dull, wrinkled, dented, bruised, slimy, mouldy; or that have brown, dry cut stems, or that have started to sprout. At farmers’ markets, avoid vegetables that have been sitting in the sun and are hot to the touch.
Precut vegetables are convenient but more vulnerable to spoilage than intact vegetables, and are often wilted. Refresh them in ice-cold water before using.
Frozen vegetables can equal or better the quality of fresh, especially vegetables that lose flavor and tenderness rapidly after harvest. These include green peas, and lima beans and sweet corn. Choose packages of frozen vegetables from the coldest corners of the market freezer, and just before you check out. Bag frozen foods together, and transport them home in a cooler. Repeated thawing and refreezing damages the quality of frozen foods.’

Harold McGee writes about the science of food and cooking: where our foods come from, what they are and what they're made of, and how cooking transforms them. On this site you can find out more about him, his books and his column in the New York Times.

Keys to good cooking

News Briefs

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.

Get the Scoop with Emma Stirling

The scoop on raising a vegetable lover.

Emma Stirling
Emma Stirling APD

Were you forced to eat your broccoli before getting dessert as a child? Are there veggies your dad didn’t eat and now as an adult you bypass them too? With international nutrition surveys showing that kids are not meeting daily vegetable targets, many even failing to eat one serve a day, it’s time to plant some fresh ideas.

Do as I do It is believed that food preferences are partially inherited (like bitter-taste sensitivity) but they are also malleable and one of the biggest drivers of vegetable consumption appears to be parental role modeling. It’s important to realise, if you serve it, they may not automatically eat it. But if you all sit down to eat together and watch Dad love the six veg stir-fry, your chances of raising a vegetable lover sky rocket. In today’s fast paced world, the responsibility for positive role modeling doesn’t stop at home but extends to childcare workers and teachers too and the influence of peers starts to play.

Repeat eat That face a baby or toddler pulls when trying spinach for the first time is priceless. But be careful you don’t fall in to the trap of thinking they don’t “like” a new vegetable. Neophobia is the term used to describe the dislike of trying new things, including unfamiliar foods. Research shows that it is very common in children aged two to five and in fact, a natural part of development. Studies show parents often give up after three to five tries of a new food, when a minimum of nine exposures may be needed before acceptance. So don’t give up and always plate it up without pressure. Perhaps just a lick today will do the trick tomorrow.

A recent preschool intervention study reported in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics aimed to increase consumption of three unfamiliar or disliked vegetables by repeated exposure over lunch during a six week period. The researchers were interested in the power of positive peer influence – did little Johnny eat more vegetables as he sat next to Jack who loves beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and the whole garden patch? Yes he did, by a small but significant amount.

Play dress up How you prep and dress your vegetables is also key. My daughter’s favourite vegetable (not boasting and still a little shocked) is globe artichoke. How did I achieve this? With great fanfare and a load of seasoned olive oil. Peeling the leaves of the prickly looking vegetable to dip into oil is a very different eating occasion. And one where I’ve let her from an early age slip in a little too much oil, shaved parmesan, toasted nuts or garlic, or herb butter, just to help the veggies go down. In another recent study, bitter sensitive children who were offered a dressing dip with their vegetables in a childcare setting ate 80% more broccoli compared with those served plain.

Health by stealth? Finally, there’s plenty of debate around the idea of sneaking hidden vegetables into kids meals and snacks like beetroot in chocolate muffins or vegetable puree in burger patties. The key is to make sure your kids grow up appreciating the different tastes and textures of whole foods and look at hidden secrets as a boost not the daily deal.

Michelle Obama has just announced the launch of Birdseye’s GenVeg initiative as part of the Partnership for a Healthier America. With the promise of innovative products, role modeling in popular shows like i-Carly and $2millionUSD per year devoted to marketing kids and veg, this dietitian is hopeful the garden will grow.

Emma Stirling is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and health writer with over ten years experience writing for major publications. She is editor of The Scoop on Nutrition – a blog by expert dietitians. Check it out for hot news bites and a healthy serve of what’s in flavour.

In the GI News Kitchen

American dietitian and author of Good Carbs, Bad Carbs, Johanna Burani, shares favourite recipes with a low or moderate GI from her Italian kitchen. For more information, check out Johanna's website. The photographs are by Sergio Burani. His food, travel and wine photography website is photosbysergio.com.


‘Early bird’ tomato soup.
At some point in October, Italians harvest the last of their homegrown tomatoes. They will not taste the luscious flavor of just-picked, perfectly ripe tomatoes again until early summer. That’s when the first tomatoes of the season are sent to market from Naples. The flavors in this recipe improve as the season wears on, but even those “early bird” tomatoes don’t disappoint! Servings: 4 x 1½cup servings

1 dry pint organic grape tomatoes, washed
1 medium vidalia onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp sea salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
880g/28oz can of San Marzano tomatoes
3 cups vegetable, chicken or beef stock/broth (home-made if you can)
1 tsp fresh thyme
10 fresh leaves basil (or more to taste)

For the croutons
120g/4oz sourdough Italian bread, cubed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp basil pesto

‘Early bird’ tomato soup

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF. Spread the tomatoes, onion and garlic in a shallow baking pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then drizzle oil over the vegetables. Mix well. Roast for 40–45 minutes or until tomatoes and onion are caramelized, turning 2–3 times. In the meantime …
Add the canned tomatoes to a medium-sized stock pot. Using your hands, crush the tomatoes into small pieces. Add the broth and the herbs. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low–medium and slow cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. When the tomatoes are ready, add them to the stock pot and continue to cook, partially covered, for another 20 minutes. Turn off the heat. Using an immersion blender, carefully puree the soup until it appears velvety smooth. Adjust seasonings as needed. Ladle soup into a dish and add the croutons. This soup may be served either hot or at room temperature.

To make the croutons:
Place the bread cubes in a mixing bowl. Combine the oil and pesto in a small dish. Drizzle over the bread and mix well. Transfer the bread cubes to a shallow baking pan. Bake for 5–6 minutes at 200ºC/400ºF, turning once.

Per serving
Energy: 1032kJ/246cals; Protein 8g; Fat 9g (includes 1g saturated fat and 0mg cholesterol); Available carbohydrate 34g; Fibre 5g

Cut back on the food bills and enjoy fresh-tasting, easily prepared, seasonal, satisfying and delicious low or moderate GI meals that don’t compromise on quality and flavour one little bit with our Money Saving Meals recipes including Cottage Pie Pots from Money Saving Meals (Hachette Australia) and the Cherry Tomato and Zucchini Bake from Catherine Saxelby's and Jennene Plummer's Zest (Hardie Grant). Zest is available from bookshops and online; eBook editions available from Amazon and iTunes etc.

Cottage pie pots.
Allow about an hour for these cottage pies – but it’s hands-on for much less than half that time. Use a lower GI potato suitable for mashing if Carisma isn’t available in your area. This is also delicious with golden sweet potato mash or even a potato and parsnip mix. Makes 6 pots.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
500g (1lb) beef mince
1 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp tomato paste
1–1½ cups hot beef stock
1 tbsp seeded mustard
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
4 Carisma low GI potatoes
½ cup grated tasty cheese for topping

Cottage pie pots

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and sauté the onion, carrot, celery and garlic until the onion is soft.
Move the vegetables to the side of the pan and brown the beef over medium heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Stir in the flour, then add the tomato paste and 1 cup of the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed (add a little extra stock if it looks too dry). Stir in the mustard and parsley, taste and season with salt (if using) and freshly ground black pepper. Meanwhile …
Boil the potatoes, then mash them your favourite way (using olive oil and a little of the cooking water or butter and milk) until smooth and creamy.
Spoon about 2/3 cup of the beef mixture into 1-cup ovenproof pots, top with a good scoop of mashed potato, fork over to even out and top with cheese. Place on a baking tray (to catch any gravy that bubbles over) and bake for about 20 minutes until the meat sauce is piping hot and the topping golden and just crusty.

Per serve
1200kJ/290cals; 13g fat (includes 5.5g saturated fat); 4g fibre; 24g protein; 15g carbohydrate

Kate McGhie’s perfect potato purée.
For tips on creamy restaurant-style mash at home (without quite so much butter and cream!), we turned to Kate McGhie, Australia’s most trusted source of kitchen wisdom who has provided invaluable cooking advice to millions of readers in her legendary weekly column in Melbourne’s Herald Sun. Kate says: ‘Although many chefs use a mouli or ricer to mash potatoes, home cooks can achieve a silky smooth potato mash by following this method. Peel and cook the potatoes in salted water until cooked through, then drain well. Put the potatoes back into the pan over moderate heat to dry and then mash with a potato masher until smooth (or mash roughly then whisk with an electric whisk). Blend in soft butter and boiled milk with a wooden spoon adding more milk until the mash reaches the consistency you like and season to taste. The milk must be hot or the potatoes will not be light and fluffy. Do not boil the puree. For a ‘soft’ garlic flavour, place unpeeled cloves in the water when boiling the potatoes. When tender, squeeze out the flesh and add to the potatoes before mashing. For a stronger flavour, oven-roast the cloves then gently squeeze the flesh into the puree and mix well.’

Cherry tomato and zucchini bake.
This tasty combination of flavours is perfect as an accompaniment and satisfying when you just want a light meal. If you don’t have cherry tomatoes, use 500g (about 1lb) tomatoes, roughly chopped. Serves 4 as an accompaniment.

2 x 250 g (8 oz) punnets cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
2 zucchini (courgettes), thinly sliced
1 tablespoon oil
1 smallish leek, sliced
1 cup fresh grainy (low GI) bread breadcrumbs
1 cup grated reduced-fat tasty cheese

Cherry tomato and zucchini bake

Preheat the oven to moderate 180ºC (350ºF). Spray a 5-cup ovenproof dish with oil. (Catherine uses a ceramic baking dish that 35 x 23cm (14 x 9”) that she can take to the table to serve.)
Heat the oil in a deep pan and sauté the leek for 2-3 minutes or until soft. Add in the tomatoes and zucchini. Toss well to coat with the oil. Spoon into the ovenproof dish.
Mix the breadcrumbs with the cheese and sprinkle over the vegetables. Bake for 40–45 minutes, until golden on top and bubbly.

Per serve
680kJ/160cals; 8g fat (includes 4.5g saturated fat); 4g fibre; 11g protein; 10g carbohydrate

Keep an eye out for Catherine's new book: Catherine Saxelby's Complete Food & Nutrition Companion. It goes on sale in Australia on June 18th. We'll tell you more about it in our July issue.

Busting Food Myths with Nicole Senior

Nicole Senior

Myth: Raw foods are best.
I love vegetables! All kinds, including the uncooked ones. Nothing beats the crunch of a raw carrot or the crispness of lettuce and cucumber in a salad. However, you can take a good idea to extremes. There is a whole diet tribe who only eat raw foods, believing it to be best for health, wellbeing, longevity and prevention of disease. It’s kind of like the advanced, super duper version of the vegan diet. Raw food diet followers exist on raw vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, sprouted beans and seaweed – none of which can be heated above 37.8°C (116°F), about body temperature – or else they believe enzymes will be destroyed and the food won’t be as well digested and absorbed. This is a load of rubbish. The enzymes are for the plants’ benefit, not ours.

The idea that plant foods should be eaten raw to extract their nutrition is just false. In fact, so called ‘anti-nutrient’ factors in raw plant foods make them harder to digest. Phytates can reduce absorption of minerals such as iron and zinc, and nuts contain enzyme inhibitors in the skin. Of course, the level of some vitamins (such as vitamin C) and antioxidants (sulforaphane) are reduced by the cooking process; however, in a mixed diet this is not an issue (still, don’t boil the life out of your vegetables but lightly steam, microwave, stir-fry or roast them instead).

Processing vegetables by juicing, mashing, pureeing or cooking actually releases more vitamins and antioxidants from vegetables than eating them raw and whole. For example, more lycopene
is absorbed from a tomato pasta sauce than raw tomatoes, and the same goes for beta-carotene from carrots. The physical effects, as well as higher temperature, soften and break the tough cell walls in plant foods so their inner goodies can be released. In fact, an Italian study comparing steaming, boiling and frying found all methods increased the availability of antioxidants in zucchini (courgettes), carrots and broccoli. The availability of cancer-fighting indoles in cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage is also higher after cooking.

Because it is very bulky, high in fibre and nutrient-sparse, a raw food diet carries a very high risk for people with higher nutritional needs, such as children and pregnant women – they need a lot of nutrients the body can easily get at. If you have sensitive bowels, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, this diet will only lead to tears (from pain in your gut) because of its very high fibre content. And the taste? I’ll leave that for you to decide, but I contend this is an extreme diet you do out of conviction rather than enjoyment.

Long story short Besides being a heck of a lot of trouble, you do not need to follow a raw food diet to be healthy. Enjoy a balanced diet from all the food groups and a variety of raw and
cooked foods.
Hungry for more? Read Richard Wrangham’s Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human.

Nicole Senior is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist and author of Food Myths available in bookshops and online and from www.greatideas.net.au

GI Symbol News with Dr Alan Barclay

Dr Alan Barclay

What, no potato?

While it is the popular whipping boy of many a fad diet, the humble spud has been enjoyed by humans for many millennia. In fact, in many nations today, it is the most popular vegetable in the pantry. In Australia, for example, potatoes account for one third of all vegetables eaten.

A boiled, steamed or microwaved potato eaten with its skin on is a great source of carbohydrate, and is high in fibre, vitamin C and potassium. However, approximately 60% of potatoes are consumed as chips (French fries) and crisps in Australia. The removal of the skin, cooking in fat and addition of salt all decrease the nutritional profile of an otherwise healthy vegetable.

A typical serve of potato containing approximately 15g of available carbohydrate is equivalent to 2 small new potatoes, 1 medium sized (120g/4oz) regular potato or ½ cup mashed potato (120g/4oz).

The average GI of all of the potatoes that have been tested around the world is 77, with a range from 48 to 102. While the way you cook and eat your potatoes does have an influence on their GI, evidence is mounting that it is the potato variety itself that makes the real difference. For example, we recently cooked the world’s first low GI potato Carisma using a variety of techniques (frying with minimal fat and mashing) and found that it made relatively little difference to its average GI value (53) -- see GI Update below for details (and see GI News Kitchen for great tips on mashing potatoes from Kate McGhie.)

baby Carisma potatoes

Due to their relatively high carbohydrate content and typically high GI, potatoes are in the top 5 contributors to the average daily dietary glycemic load in Australia and many other parts of the world. Therefore, finding lower GI alternatives should be a high priority, along with limiting potato chips (French fries) and crisps to special occasions (they are party foods, not daily fare).

The GI Foundation, University of Sydney and Agrico Australia has been funding a PhD research program for the past three years with the aim of trying to find out what factors affect the GI of commonly eaten potato varieties. We are hoping that this research program will help us to identify many low GI potato varieties that we can eventually bring to your local supermarket no matter where you live in the world.

New baby Carisma potatoes are now available in a 750 g bag in Coles supermarkets throughout Australia. And Australian consumers can be completely confident that they are buying a HOME GROWN product.

The GI Symbol, making healthy low GI choices easy choices

New GI Symbol

For more information about the GI Symbol Program
Dr Alan W Barclay, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer
Glycemic Index Foundation (Ltd)
Phone: +61 (0)2 9785 1037
Mob: +61 (0)416 111 046
Fax: +61 (0)2 9785 1037
Email: alan@gisymbol.com
Website: www.gisymbol.com

GI Update

Prof Jennie Brand-Miller answers your questions.


I am 30 weeks pregnant. I’m not eating for two. In fact I think I’m pretty much eating what I usually eat. So, how come I’ve gained all this weight?
It’s a very good question! Careful studies in well-nourished women reveal either no change in their food intake during their pregnancy, or only a minor increase that’s so small it simply can’t explain all extra energy (calories) deposited.

Scientists have long been puzzled as to why this is so. Some suspect that physical activity declines and others suspect that absorption of nutrients increases, but at the present time we really don’t know why most women do not appear to eat more during pregnancy yet gain weight.

In women from affluent countries like Australia, the average pregnancy weight gain is about 13 kg. Most is in the second and third trimesters and that’s a cracking pace in anyone’s books – half a kilogram every week for 26 weeks!

For a woman who gains the typical 12 to 13 kg (26 to 28 pounds), the baby weighs on average 3–4kg (
6–9 pounds) at birth and the placenta 600g (1.3 pounds). The blood volume also increases, as does the weight of the uterus and breast tissue. Not surprisingly, the biggest variation is in the amount of fat a woman stores. It ranges from no increase at all in some developing countries to 5kg (11 pounds) or more in affluent countries. Here’s what it typically looks like.

Growth chart

But where does the weight come from? For average weight gain of 13 kg, a woman would need to eat around 75,000 calories of additional food energy over about 9 months. This is equivalent to roughly 275 calories (1125kJ) a day. But we know that mum’s appetite doesn’t change much and she’s not eating for two at all. In fact she’s pretty much eating what she usually eats (around 2000 calories/8400kJ a day on average).

A 2011 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition which employed a smart little gadget called an IDEEA (Intelligent Device for Energy Expenditure and Physical Activity), helps shed some light on the subject. The study in 32 pregnant and 21 non-pregnant Swedish women, found that the decline in energy expenditure perfectly matched the increase in energy deposition required during pregnancy. But it was a very subtle difference. The pregnant women simply slowed down; they lay down a little longer, they stood less; they walked or jogged or trained at a slower pace – but it amounted to about 225 calories (945kJ) less per day.

To me, these findings have important implications for the slow incremental weight creep that generally accompanies ageing, in both humans and animals. As we gain weight, we don’t necessarily eat more….we just move less. That’s not so surprising because just like pregnancy, a heavier body can be a little awkward and take more effort to lift. In fact, the mathematicians have worked out that our current obesity epidemic can be explained by just 7 excess calories a day over and above our energy needs. In other words that extra bite of apple was your undoing!. Seriously, no one, even a dietitian, can fine-tune calorie intake and calorie output to that fine degree.

The lesson from pregnancy is that obesity is not a disease of gluttony and sloth as so often portrayed, but one where just the smallest effort (the decision to use the stairs instead of the lift, or eat one mouthful less at dinner), has a ripple effect on your whole life.

Prof Jennie Brand-Miller and colleagues Dr Kate Marsh and Prof Robert Moses have just published a book called The Bump to Baby Diet – a low GI eating plan for conception, pregnancy and beyond to share the latest science and help women enjoy a healthy pregnancy while safeguarding their baby’s future wellbeing. It’s available from bookshops and online in Australia and NZ and as an eBook from Amazon, iTunes etc.
You can look inside HERE.

New GI values from SUGiRS.
Cooking with Carisma.
Back in 2006 we sat down with chef and potato expert Graham Liney, Australian potato growers and the Dutch potato breeding company Agrico, to bring Carisma, Australia’s first low GI potato to your table. It’s a versatile, general purpose potato that’s full of flavour with a creamy taste and ‘melt in the mouth’ texture. When boiled (skin on) and served slightly al dente it has a GI of 55. We are now delighted to let readers know that Carisma fries and Carisma mash also have low GI values.

  • Carisma fries (cooked in olive oil using a Tefal Actifry): GI 53
  • Carisma mash (boiled then mashed with olive oil): GI48
A standard 150g (6oz) serving of fries or mash provides 15g carbohydrate and has a glycemic load of 8.

GI testing by an accredited laboratory
North America
GI Labs
Dr Alexandra Jenkins
Glycemic Index Laboratories
20 Victoria Street, Suite 300
Toronto, Ontario M5C 298 Canada
Phone +1 416 861 0506
Email info@gilabs.com
Web www.gilabs.com

Fiona Atkinson
Research Manager, Sydney University Glycemic Index Research Service
Human Nutrition Unit, School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences
Sydney University
NSW 2006 Australia
Phone + 61 2 9351 6018
Fax: + 61 2 9351 6022
Email sugirs@mmb.usyd.edu.au
Web www.glycemicindex.com

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