1 February 2014

GI News—February 2014


  • Jennie Brand-Miller checks out maple water;   
  • New GI value for rice syrup from SUGiRS;  
  • Soft drinks: making the healthy choice the cheaper choice;  
  • The Australian fibre paradox;  
  • Nicole Senior tucks into pasta in Taste of Health, and Anneka Manning bakes Vegetable and Pasta Frittatas;
  • Invest in some lessons in technique to breathe easy and enjoy swimming writes Emma Sandall. 
GI News 
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Food for Thought

The devastating effects of diabetes on Indigenous health in Australia.  
“It has become obvious that the situation is urgent and is an area of national neglect” says Dr Neale Cohen, General Manager Diabetes Services, BakerIDI Heart and Diabetes Institute. Diabetes rates in Australia are high but its prevalence in the Indigenous population is between three and four times higher than the rest of the population. There are many reasons, including genetics, poverty and lack of education and resources, particularly in remote communities. Dr Cohen says we need to act decisively. And now.

Dr Neale Cohen
Dr Neale Cohen.

“In the past few years I have been fortunate enough to be involved in a clinical diabetes services in outreach communities in the Northern Territory, says Dr Cohen. “As an Australian and experienced physician, I am shocked and alarmed. It has become obvious that the situation is urgent and is an area of national neglect. There’s a tsunami of kidney failure and other complications heading our way with many people having signs of early kidney damage, eye damage and heart disease. All these are associated with very poor control of their diabetes. Complication rates in the indigenous population are among the highest in the world and about 10 times non-indigenous rates.

In my travels to remote settlements, I have seen children as young as 12 with type 2 diabetes. More worrying is the age of patients developing early kidney complications. I know of one young man aged 16 who already has signs of significant kidney disease and will no doubt head towards dialysis and death in the next 10 to 15 years. Many of my patients continuously live with blood glucose levels in the 20 to 30 range (compared to a normal range of 4 to 6).

There are many challenges in managing Indigenous diabetes. Its nature appears to be more aggressive and less responsive to conventional therapies. We have now reached a crisis point for the devastating effects of diabetes on Indigenous health. And while treatment of chronic disease in remote communities is challenging and complex, we must not be deterred. The loss of a great Australian, M. Yunupingu, should serve as a reminder that more needs to be done. Tiny clinics in remote towns need staff devoted to the prevention and treatment of diabetes and its complications. And communities need assistance at every level with the day-to-day management of this very complex disease.

Education and health promotion are critical in the long term but their health benefits may take decades. Clearly, we don’t have that sort of time. An emphatic response, firmly grounded in equity, compassion and human rights is needed to turn the tide of what will soon become a national disaster. If we do not act decisively, we will look back in 10 years and wonder why we didn’t.”
Read more HERE.

Credit: Paul Williams - Photographer

Where soft drink is cheaper than water. Short films deliver health messages in remote Indigenous communities. Skinnyfish, a Darwin-based record company, is using its connections with Indigenous musicians to spread health messages in remote communities. Co-founder Mark Grose says they will launch 30 short films devised and written by people from seven communities from Western Arnhem Land to Croker Island (with help from the record label and filmmaker Paul Williams). Comedy, music and traditional knowledge are used to tackle serious health issues, including excess consumption of soft drinks. “So it’s really Aboriginal people speaking to Aboriginal people about a modern issue.” The overall message is “get active, eat bush tucker and live longer”. Nigel Yunupingu stars in Sugar Man, which addresses excess sugar consumption in his community of Galiwin’ku on Elcho Island, off the coast of Arnhem Land. WATCH.

News and Reviews

Soft drinks: making the healthy choice the cheaper choice. 
Prof. Jack Winkler and his co-authors suggest a new strategy for healthy living in The Grocer which sets out the economics (costs of production, margins and profits) that show it is possible to sell healthier versions of mass market foods and beverages at lower prices than the standard high refined sugar/starch, high calorie products.

Diet soft drinks

Using soft drinks as their example, they demonstrate the feasibility of combining product reformulation by food and beverage companies with economic incentives for consumers. The writers believe that their model is applicable in developed countries as many of the products eaten are processed foods, most could be nutritionally improved, and many healthier alternatives could be made and sold more cheaply. We would like to see low GI options included in reformulating products to help people not only manage energy intake, but manage their blood glucose levels, too. 

Bush tucker data.
#1 Tables of composition of Australian Aboriginal foods In her first job as a lecturer at the University of Sydney, Professor Jennie Brand-Miller analysed the nutrient composition of Aboriginal bush foods. “We looked at the protein, carbohydrate, fat and fibre content and built a database of the Indigenous diet,” she says. She also found that many of the foods tended to be low GI and this led her to question the role of food in human evolution and the prevalence of conditions such as type 2 diabetes.

Tables of composition of Australian Aboriginal foods

#2 Indigenous foods added to Nutrition Panel Calculator Food Standards Australia New Zealand has added 14 new Indigenous foods to the NPC: lemon myrtle, bush tomato, Kakadu plum, finger lime, desert lime, lemon aspen fruit juice, satinash fruit. They have also added the following herbs and spices: anise myrtle leaf, native pepper (dried leaves and berries), saltbush, river mint, sea parsley, and olida.

Cook books – a recipe for girth expansion? 
Most people believe that the food they prepare themselves is healthier than commercially prepared food. While this might be right when you consider the immeasurable love we add, it’s not necessarily the case when we take a cold hard look at the numbers. While surveys tell us we are eating out more and more, the bulk of the diet for families is still consumed from home so the way we cook is important. Way back in 2005, Prof. Brian Wansink conducted a survey that found that nutritional gatekeepers (the person responsible for acquiring and preparing meals within a household) controlled 72% of a household’s dietary intake.

If recipes in cookbooks are anything to go by, many well-intentioned gatekeepers could be feeding their families more than they thought. A 2013 study in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health reports that portion sizes measured in calories in classical Danish recipes have increased significantly in the past 100 years, especially for meat, starchy foods and sauces. This is in line with Wansink’s 2009 study that found average calories per serving jumped 63% in 70 years in 17 of the 18 recipes through seven editions of the ‘classic’ The Joy of Cooking since it was first published in 1936 until the 2006 update.


And there’s more. In 2012 a study in the BMJ found that TV chef recipes from five best-selling cookbooks (30 Minute Meals by Jamie Oliver, Baking Made Easy by Lorraine Pascale, Ministry of Food by Jamie Oliver, Kitchen by Nigella Lawson, and River Cottage Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) contained significantly more energy per portion (about 100 calories more) than ready meals from Asda, Sainsbury's and Tesco – notably more protein, fat, and saturated fat per portion and less fibre. If you are the nutritional gatekeeper, there’s no need to say no to deliciously tempting chef recipes in gorgeously glossy cook books, they can be a great way to bring more flavour, variety and enjoyment to family dinners. But be mindful and take our waist-saving tips.

Tip 1: Do the numbers. You may need to cut back quantities. Here is a guide to average per person servings (remembering teenage boys and big muscled blokes are not average!).

  • Meat and chicken (raw and lean) – allow about 150 grams (5 ounces) per person
  • Fish fillets (fresh) – allow 150–200 grams (5–7 ounces) per person
  • Pasta (dried pieces) – allow 60–80 grams (about 2–3 ounces) per person
  • Rice (uncooked) – allow ¼ cup per person
  • Potatoes – allow 2–3 small new potatoes or 1 medium–large potato per person  
Tip 2: Renovate their recipes. You may need to cut back the salt, cut back the fat and double the veggies.
Tip 3: Check out the nutritional analysis if there is one. We have to say thumbs up to Laura Parr (and to Jamie) for the easy-to-understand nutritional analysis in Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals.

We need to practice portion caution at home as well as away and keep in mind that celebrity chefs aren't always the best role models when it comes to healthy, everyday family meals. 

Shooting the messenger
Ted Kyle at Conscienhealth writes: “Argumentum ad hominem is a logical fallacy that has no place in science, but unfortunately is all too common in health, nutrition, and obesity policymaking.” Read More

What’s new? 
If you live in Sydney, here’s a new study you may be interested in taking part in. 


Healthy Kids Lunch Boxes BakeClass
Monday 3 February, 6.00–9.00pm – a three-hour workshop where you will discover how easy (and enjoyable) it is to fill lunch boxes with Anneka Manning’s ‘better for you’ sweet and savoury snacks that you will feel good about serving and your kids (and their friends) will enjoy. You can find out more about this workshop here.

Nicole's Taste of Health

Donta be lasta for pasta
Pasta generates such varied responses nowadays. I’m not sure how this humble food went from a much-loved traditional staple to eliciting fear and loathing for its carb content, but such is our whacky, affluent Western, diet-obsessed world. The origin of pasta is an age-old argument between the Chinese and the Italians, but noodles and pasta are both simple recipes of flour, water and perhaps a little egg. It was the type of wheat used, accompaniments, that spliced the gastronomic evolutionary tree into divergent directions. The best pasta is made from especially hard durum wheat and Australia grows some of the best in the world.

The exact origins of pasta are just academic now because Italian cuisine and pasta have travelled the world and made themselves at home everywhere. To an Italian, the love of pasta is almost encoded in their DNA and symbolic of family, culture and the enjoyment of food and life. It would not be unusual in an Italian household to eat pasta every day of the week and never tire of it because there are so many shapes and sauces: Monday night spaghetti with pesto sauce; Tuesday night penne with creamy mushroom sauce; Wednesday night cannelloni stuffed with ricotta and spinach; Thursday night Rigatoni with tuna and capers, and Friday night lasagne with Napolitano sauce. Just writing these dishes is enough to make me salivate!

There are hundreds of shapes or ‘cuts’ of pasta which Italians categorise into two main groups: short cuts like penne, and long cuts like spaghetti. Many have delightful Italian names describing their shape, like linguini (little tongues); vermicelli (worms); spaghetti (little strings), capellini (thin hair); fusilli (long rifles); orechiette (little ears); Fettuccine (little slices); penne (quill); spiralli (spiral); conchiglie (shell); farfalle (butterflies) and risoni (rice). There are also pasta shapes that can be filled such as cannelloni, ravioli and lasagne and are a class of their own.

The versatility of pasta is further enhanced because you can serve it hold or cold with lunch or dinner and it goes with just about anything. I always cook more pasta than I need for one meal so I can whip up a salad the next day and turn it into something different. Another super time-saving tip is you can cook up a load and freeze it into meal size portions for those days when you don’t even have the 15 minutes needed to cook dry pasta. And of course these days you can even buy fresh pasta that takes very little time to reheat. Importantly, pasta is affordable and convenient. The typical dried form can be stored in the cupboard for long periods to form the basis of a quick meal in a hurry.

Pasta is a carbohydrate food that provides energy to the brain and muscles but it is low GI when cooked al dente so it releases its energy more gradually and is gentler on blood glucose levels. A one-cup serving of plain pasta is low in salt (but watch out for the sauces), contains 9g protein, 43g carbohydrate and 3g fibre, and is high in the B vitamins thiamine and folate, and the mineral manganese.

Wholegrain (wholemeal) pasta is increasingly available as the world catches on to the health benefits of eating all the good bits of the grain (bran and germ) rather than just the starchy part. Sure, traditional Italian pasta is not wholegrain but why not utilise the even healthier version? We’ve got more dietary downsides to make up for than traditional Italian cuisine! The taste (and texture) varies by brand so try a few wholegrain pastas until you find one you like.

Contrary to popular mythology, pasta is not especially fattening, however attention to the sauce recipe and portion size will help reduce kilojoule (calorie) overload. While Italian peasant farmers could get away with huge bowls of the stuff to fuel their physical labours, most of us need to cut the portion down and balance it out with vegetables (or salad) and some lean meat, chicken, fish, egg or legumes (pulses) to suit our high-tech habits. While creamy sauces with bacon and four cheeses do taste delightful they don’t sit well with our office jobs, widening waistlines and creeping cholesterol levels and blood pressure, so choose lighter tomato-based sauces or a simple pesto. Of course a truly authentic pasta meal must be enjoyed with gusto: passionate discussion, noisy slurping, lots of hand gestures and nice glass of red.

Buon appetito!

Nicole and Finn

Nicole Senior is an Accredited Nutritionist, author and consultant who strives to make healthy food taste terrific. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook or checkout her website

In the GI News Kitchen

Family Baking, Anneka Manning, author of Bake Eat Love. Learn to Bake in 3 Simple Steps and founder of Sydney’s BakeClub, shares her delicious ‘better-for-you’ recipes for snacks, desserts and treats the whole family will love. Through both her writing and cooking school, Anneka teaches home cooks to bake in practical and approachable yet inspiring ways that assure success in the kitchen.

 Anneka Manning
Vegetable and pasta frittatas 
These individual frittatas are dead simple and super quick to make – perfect for lunch boxes either for lunch or as a substantial snack that is packed with energy and goodness. Try different combinations of favourite vegetables (corn, capsicum and pumpkin all work well) and throw in a can of drained and flaked salmon or tuna to boost the protein. Makes 12.

130g (4 1/2 oz) small short pasta, such as macaroni
Olive oil, to grease
2 medium zucchini (about 270g/9oz), coarsely grated
1 medium carrot (about 120g/4oz), coarsely grated
1 cup coarsely grated reduced fat extra tasty or vintage cheddar cheese
8 eggs
1/3 cup milk
Freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste
120g/4oz small cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

Vegetable and pasta frittatas 

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Brush a 12-hole medium (80ml /1/3 cup) muffin tray with the oil to lightly grease.
Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water, following the packet directions, until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Drain well.
Put the drained pasta, zucchini, carrot and 3/4 cup of the cheddar in a large bowl and mix to combine well. Divide the mixture evenly among the greased muffin tin holes.
Use a fork to whisk together the eggs and milk in a large jug until well combined. Season to taste with pepper and salt and whisk again. Pour evenly over the vegetable mixture. Press the halved tomatoes, cut side up, into the tops of the frittatas and then sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until just cooked through and lightly golden. Stand in the tin for a few minutes before running a palette knife around the outside of each frittata and lifting out. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Baker's tips
These frittatas will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Per serve 
540 kJ/ 130 calories; 9 g protein; 6 g fat (includes 2.5 g saturated fat; saturated:unsaturated fat ratio 0.4); 9 g available carbs; 1.2 g fibre

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.


Polenta with buckwheat and mushrooms 
My husband, Sergio, grew up in the small northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia. His family had the custom of eating polenta every time it snowed. All were happy on polenta days, not only because his mother made this peasant food taste like a feast for kings, but also because the lengthy cooking time (40-plus minutes) provided extra heat in the house. He tells the story of his blind grandmother, who lived with them, who knew when it was snowing by how warm she felt sitting in her chair in the kitchen.

Polenta is as versatile as pasta or rice. Here I have added some buckwheat flour to lower this form of corn’s moderately high GI value. You can top with sausage or ragu, cheese or any combination of vegetables and herbs. Pick your favorite flavors and pile them on top of some steaming polenta. My guess is you won’t want to wait for the snow to return to try it again! This recipe probably has a moderate GI value. Servings: 8 or 16 (as a side).

2 cups dry coarse polenta
1 cup organic buckwheat flour
1oz (30g) dried porcini mushrooms
10oz (300g) mixed fresh mushrooms (crimini, white, baby portabella)
2 tbsp (30ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 large shallots (4 oz/120 g), thinly sliced
5 fresh sprigs thyme
Salt & pepper to taste
2oz (60g) Gruyere cheese

Polenta with buckwheat and mushrooms

Bring 8 cups of water to a boil. As that is happening mix the polenta and buckwheat flour in a medium bowl. Stir in 2 cups warm water and mix thoroughly. When the water is boiling, add salt if you wish and the polenta mixture. Stir, cover and simmer very slowly for about 30–40 minutes, stirring every 3–4 minutes to prevent the bottom from sticking. The polenta will become thick and creamy as it cooks. In the meantime, place the porcini in a small bowl and cover them with 2 cups warm water. Set aside.
Wash, pat dry and coarsely chop the fresh mushrooms. Set aside. In a large pan, heat the oil and add the shallots and sauté them on a medium-low flame until translucent (about 8 minutes).
Drain, rinse and pat dry the porcini, coarsely chop. Add to the mushroom mixture in the pan, sauté for 5 minutes. Add the thyme and cook for another 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Set aside.
When the polenta is done, remove it from the heat. Pour half the amount in the pot onto a wooden board, pat into a round mound. Add the mushroom mixture (warmed) on top of the mound, then cover with the remaining polenta. Sprinkle on the cheese. Serve immediately.

Per entree size serve 
1155kJ/276 calories; 10g protein; 6g fat (includes 2g saturated fat; saturated:unsaturated fat ratio 0.33);  37g available carbs; 6g fibre

Honey Grilled Figs with Ricotta Dolce.  
 A fig halved and served with a dollop of yogurt makes a delicious end to a meal. If you want to go a step further, try this deliciously simple dessert from The Low GI Vegetarian Cookbook. For a very special occasion, add 2 teaspoons of amaretto (almond liqueur) or Frangelico to the ricotta mix. Serves 4

4 large ripe figs
4 tsp single source honey
200g (7oz) low fat ricotta
¼ cup carob or dark chocolate buttons, finely chopped
1 glace peach, finely chopped
1 tbsp icing sugar, sifted (LoGiCane is low GI)

Honey Grilled Figs with Ricotta Dolce

Cut each fig in half, place the figs on an ovenproof tray, cut side up and drizzle half a teaspoon of honey over each fig. Combine the ricotta, carob, glace peach, icing sugar and Amaretto in a medium size bowl, stir until well combined.
Preheat grill to high. Place fig halves under hot grill and grill for 2–3 minutes or until slightly caramelized. To serve, place 2 halves on each of 4 serving plates and top with a spoon of the ricotta dolce.

Per serve 746kJ/ 178 calories; 7g protein; 8g fat (includes 5g saturated fat saturated:unsaturated fat ratio 0.63); 20g available carbs; 2g fibre

Putting the Fun Back into Fitness

Breathe easy when swimming – it makes a difference.   
When summer approaches, my heart lifts. I can get back in the water. And although it takes a little time for the Pacific Ocean to bring in the warmer currents, they are on their way. My current challenge is to improve my swimming technique to the point that I am strong and confident enough to “swim the bay” – jumping into Bondi Beach at the north end and swimming the 800 or so metres across to the south (think of it as beginner’s ocean swimming).

Before attempting the bay swim, you are advised to be able to comfortably swim the distance non-stop in a pool. And at the beginning of this season I couldn’t, not doing the crawl (freestyle). I have always been a breast stroker. It feels natural, streamlined and effortless. With freestyle I have always felt more like a flailing cat. So I enlisted the help of Mermaid Swimming Academy at Bondi, and into the paddling pool I was put.


My instructor started on my breathing. It all starts with the breath she said. And through a simple drill of lifting my face to the side, ear in line with water and then turning it back underneath without altering my neck alignment, I realised how right she was. I had a strange feeling like I was a child again, panicking at putting my head under water. This is always the way when you have practised something with poor technique for years, developing certain “bad habits”. The correct technique feels foreign, frustrating and indeed scary – as though you will never get it right. The beauty of technique training is that you do, and often so much more quickly than you imagine. But it takes perseverance.

After a week of getting in the pool and making my way slowly and often uncomfortably up and down the lanes, practising this new breathing technique on both sides, everything became easier, enjoyable even until I was relaxed and found 800 metres perfectly manageable. So now the bay awaits ...

Swimming is possibly my favourite form of exercise. The whole body is engaged and gets a great work-out against the resistance of the water. There is zero impact on the body, so a very good way to get fit without stressing your joints. It also keeps the heart rate up, builds endurance, tones muscle strength and helps maintain a healthy weight, while focussing on correct breathing, keeps both your mind and body active – like active meditation.

If you are not a comfortable swimmer and get puffed or anxious about swallowing water, I cannot recommend a few technique lessons highly enough. It will transform your relationship with swimming and open up a whole new world of physical possibility including ocean swimming.

Follow up:  You will remember back in January, that I was heading off to Hawaii to paddle in its glorious waters and waves. I spent a week with Dylan Thomas of Surfski Kauai, learning technique on different surf skis and getting comfortable paddling on the river and in the open ocean. Here is a clip of my first down wind "joyride" in a double Fenn ski behind instructor, Dylan.

Emma Sandall runs Body Playground, an online space for discovering how to put the fun back into your fitness routines. With fellow Body Playground director and Pilates teacher, Peta Green, she has developed a new and expressive style of workout that brings together the technical and fluid aspects of Pilates, yoga and ballet. For tips on stretching or to learn a nice sequence you can do any time, any place, check out Vimeo.

GI Symbol News with Dr Alan Barclay

Alan Barclay
Dr Alan Barclay

The low down on dietary fibre
We hear lots about dietary fibre these days – in particular how good it is for us and how we all need to eat more. In this first of a two-part series, I explore what it is, why we think it is good for us, and why most of us need to eat more.

What fibre actually is The current definition of dietary fibre is much the same around the globe. Australia and New Zealand’s food regulator FSANZ says: “dietary fibre means that fraction of the edible part of plants or their extracts, or synthetic analogues that are resistant to the digestion and absorption in the small intestine, usually with complete or partial fermentation in the large intestine … and includes polysaccharides, oligosaccharides and lignins.” This basically means that dietary fibres come mostly (but not exclusively) from plants and that they are the poorly digested portions that pass through into the large intestine (bowel) and provide much of the bulk in our stools (along with water and bacteria, amongst a few other things).

There are a number of ways of classifying the different types of fibre. One of the most popular systems is whether they are soluble in water or not:

  • Water soluble fibres include gums (e.g. agar), fructans (e.g. inulin), mucilages (e.g. psyllium) and pectins. They are found in a range of foods including fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans, peas and lentils) and some grains (oats and barley)
  • Water insoluble fibres include cellulose, hemicellulose and lignins. They are mostly found in vegetables, wheat and other wholegrains, nuts and seeds. 
The different types of dietary fibres have different effects on our health.

Why we think fibre is good for us “Fibres promote one or more of the following beneficial physiological effects – laxation; reduction in blood cholesterol; modulation of blood glucose” says the second part of the FSANZ definition. Soluble dietary fibre may help reduce blood cholesterol levels and modulate blood glucose levels – but whether it does so or not depends in part on the degree of food processing and of course how much you eat. High cholesterol and blood glucose levels are risk factors for heart and other blood vessel diseases and type 2 diabetes and there is evidence that high fibre diets can indeed reduce the risk of heart disease, but perhaps surprisingly, there is little evidence that high fibre diets by themselves reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Insoluble dietary fibre primarily helps with laxation, which in turn may decrease the risk of constipation, haemorrhoids and colo-rectal (bowel) cancer.

Why most of us need to eat more Australia’s nutrition recommendations advise that women consume 25 grams of total fibre each day and men 30 grams each day. Based on the most recent nutrition survey, Australian intake is not far under the target amounts and way ahead of the US and UK with women eating 21 grams of fibre a day and men 27 grams. In the USA, women consume just over 14 grams a day and men just under 18 grams. In the UK, women consume 12.8 grams a day and men 14.8 grams a day. But, here’s what has been dubbed the Australian fibre paradox. Despite the relatively high average fibre intakes, Australians have some of the highest rates in the world of bowel cancer – ahead of the UK and US.

In part 2 (March), I’ll show how we can all incorporate more fibre into our diets in an enjoyable way, and talk about whether or not high fibre foods are low GI as many people think.

High fibre pasta
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.barclay@gisymbol.com
Website: www.gisymbol.com

Q&A with Jennie Brand-Miller

Prof Jennie Brand-Miller answers your questions. 


I find coconut water refreshing. But I have recently come across maple water. What is it? They say it is low GI. I am tempted to try it.
Maple water is the very same sap from the tree that they make the syrup from. It’s long been known as a refreshing drink straight from the tree when the sap is running in maple country, and not just in the US and Canada. In South Korea, drinking maple sap (“gorosoe”) is more than a springtime ritual, they have festivals and sap-drinking contests. Until recently, sap drinking had a very limited season as it could only be harvested during a narrow six-week window. According to the manufacturer of one of the launch brands, Kikki Maple Sweet Water®, “the sap is frozen to maintain its healthful benefits and maximize its fresh shelf life. 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.”

Maple water

What’s in it? Kiki has about 60 calories (250 kilojoules) per 10 fluid ounce (300ml) serving. Its light maple sweetness comes from the 2–3 percent concentration of sugars in the sap, but that still gives you around 15g or 3 teaspoons of sugar (sucrose, glucose and fructose) in a serve – as does coconut water, if you want a comparison. There are claims that it is a low glycemic drink. But there is no actual GI value for it at present, as it has not been GI tested – I assume the claim is based on the GI value for pure maple syrup (GI 54). This is a hard one to guesstimate, and it would be good to see it GI tested (ditto coconut water). If it is only 2–3% sugars, then it empties faster from the stomach (like watermelon), so it could have a higher GI than maple syrup, depending on the balance of the sugars. Even so, the glycemic load would be low unless you drank several cups at a sitting as there is less sugar (carbohydrate) in it. There are other claims about its nutritional benefits including vitamins, minerals and polyphenols. We still think that it’s one for the occasional category, and not for everyday hydration. It’s the calories that not only count, but add up. To quench your thirst, it’s hard to beat water.

What about coconut water? 
We were recently asked about how healthy coconut water really is. We haven’t reviewed it, but Catherine Saxelby over at Foodwatch has. You can check out her report HERE.

The latest GI values from SUGIRS 
Rice syrup 
Also called: Brown rice syrup, rice malt syrup This is a mild-flavored, malted-grain sweetener that dissolves easily and is used in drinks and dressings, in baking and as a topping for cereals, waffles and pancakes. It is about one-third as sweet as regular sugar (sucrose) and is made by fermenting whole brown rice with enzymes that break down the natural starch content of the grain. The sugar composition of the final product is around 45% maltose, 3% glucose, and 52% maltotriose (a trisaccharide consisting of three glucose molecules joined together).

  • Glycemic index = 98
  • Available carbohydrate per 5g serving (1 level teaspoon) 4g 
  • Glycemic load per 5g serving (1 level teaspoon) = 4 
  • Glycemic load per 10g serving (2 level teaspoons) =8
  • Glycemic load per 15g serving (1 level 15-ml tablespoon) = 12
  • Glycemic load per 20g serving (1 level 20-ml Australian tablespoon) = 16 
GI testing by an accredited laboratory
North America
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 (SUGiRS)
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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