1 August 2018

GI News - August 2018

GI News

GI News is published by the University of Sydney, School of Life and Environmental Sciences and the Charles Perkins Centre. 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
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: Fiona Atkinson, PhD, APD AN
Contact: sugirs.manager@sydney.edu.au

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Have We Lost Our Food Skills and How to Get Them Back was the bait-clicky headline of a recent piece in the Sydney Morning Herald. The article by Paula Goodyer with contributions from dietitians including Profs. Clare Collins and Margaret Allman-Farinelli makes the point that “a host of factors have led to a generation who lack cooking nous. The effect is a wider waistline and a thinner wallet”. It is worth reading. But we seriously question putting the food skills of previous generations on any sort of pedestal (think seriously overcooked vegetables for starters).

Historical mother in kitchen

Back in 2010 I created Recipes My Mother Cooked for Allen and Unwin. As well as their Mum’s recipes, I asked the book’s contributors (chefs, food writers, dietitians) to share some of their family fare memories. Some mothers were clearly truly amazing cooks. Many, however, had pretty basic skills and while family mealtimes were memorable, the meals themselves, not so much. Hadleigh Troy (then Restaurant Amuse, Perth; now Hampton and Maley) put it this way: “Although Mum says she taught me everything she knows when it comes to cooking, those who know her and love her are in on the joke.”

Recipes My Mother Cooked

By food skills, Paula Goodyer is essentially talking about learning to cook and to plan and prepare meals. Clearly, it’s important to be able to feed yourself (and your family if you have one) healthy fare. But, here at GI News we think it’s time to take off the nostalgia blinkers because what we all need today are some new healthy food skills to equip us to thrive in a world with a very different food supply from any previous generation. Along with an abundance of locally grown and imported fresh produce available year round, we have an abundance of convenience foods from frozen vegetables and meals to home-delivered meals and takeaways to help us put dinner on the table at the end of the day (and possibly provide breakfast and lunch as well).

The practical healthy food skills we need to develop or to upgrade are our:

  • Food knowledge skills to help us understand where the food we eat has come from, how it is grown, how animals are farmed, and whether or not it is sustainable. 
  • Food shopping skills to help us choose fresh produce and to make smart choices with convenience foods, home-delivered meals and takeaways. 
  • Food and nutrition skills to help us build healthy eating habits and to choose the sustaining foods we (and our families) need for good health and to cut through countless fads about foods, fad diets, and the misconceptions about healthy eating. 
As for the suggestion we need to turn off the tap with convenience foods, we think that’s idealistic rather than realistic in this day and age. Remember, in the end what really matters for good health, well-being and achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is the overall quality and quantity of the foods we consume – and those foods may be home cooked from scratch, assembled, delivered from a restaurant or healthy food provider, picked up as a takeout, or purchased as a frozen or pre-packaged meal from the supermarket.

There are many reasons people choose convenience foods. Sometimes it’s the only option for those on the road or working insane hours; for people doing shift work; for the frail elderly who can no longer cook but want to stay in their own home; for those with a disability who can’t cook; and for those who don’t have cooking facilities. Other times convenience food buys us time. As Prof Jennie Brand Miller says: “I don’t want to spend more time in the kitchen. I know how to cook but I want the food industry to provide me with high quality, healthy convenience food (takeaway food, eat-in food, plonk-together-in-a-saucepan food) so I get to do other things higher on my priority list such as being outside, exercise, yoga, mindfulness, reading, sailing … We know the food industry can give us anything we want but they work by the law of supply and demand. We have to DEMAND.”

To help our readers choose healthy convenience meals of all kinds, we’ll be adding an Eat Out/Take Out story to What’s New? from this issue of GI News. – Philippa Sandall, Editor.
Read more: 


Dr Jennifer Utter is an associate professor in public health nutrition at the University of Auckland's School of Population Health. Her main research interests are in adolescent eating behaviours, weight control, and obesity prevention. In recent years she has co-authored a number of papers on cooking skills and cooking programs.


#1 Do cooking skills in emerging adulthood predict better nutrition? 
The answer is possibly. The findings of a study (based on self-reported data) in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior suggests that developing cooking skills as a young adult may have long-term benefits for health and nutrition including fewer fast food meals, more meals as a family, and more frequent preparation of meals with vegetables in adulthood.

Utter and colleagues collected data as part of the Project Eating and Activity in Teens and Young Adults longitudinal study conducted in Minneapolis-Saint Paul area schools (USA). Participants reported on adequacy of cooking skills in 2002–2003 when they were 18–23 years old. Data was then collected in 2015–2016 on nutrition-related outcomes when participants were 30–35 years old.

Most participants perceived their cooking skills to be adequate at age 18–23, with approximately one quarter reporting their cooking skills to be very adequate. Later in adulthood those who perceived their cooking skills as adequate ate less fast food meals and, for those with children, had more frequent family meals and had fewer barriers to food preparation. The authors conclude that “ongoing and new interventions to enhance cooking skills during adolescence and emerging adulthood are warranted but require strong evaluation designs that observe young people over a number of years.”

#2 Cooking programs for kids – more than good nutrition 
That certainly was the case for GI News editor Philippa Sandall. She and her classmates at Remuera Intermediate donned white starchy aprons with big bows for cooking classes for two years. The big bow was the undoing. She and her cooking partner Helen Budd were having a chat as something bubbled away in a pot on the gas stove. It must have been a pretty interesting conversation because they didn’t notice Helen’s burning bow until Margaret Howie dashed up and doused the flames with a pan of water. Many lessons learned.

This comprehensive program review by Utter and colleagues in Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition describes the experiential cooking programs for children and young people that have been conducted and evaluated to date. They report that youth cooking programs appear to result in better nutrition and cooking skills and that cooking programs may also positively influence social aspects of well-being. However, the jury is out on the true impact that cooking programs can have on nutrition and social well-being as to date evaluations of these programs have been limited, and large-scale, randomized controlled trials are needed to quantify.

Read more: 

It’s a common refrain that our grandparents were raised in simpler, more natural times, before processed foods and ubiquitous screens gave us all sorts of lifestyle diseases. But how true is that assumption? Were our grandparents really healthier than us? Or are we just romanticising a bygone era? Tegan Taylor of ABC Health and Wellbeing has put together a useful summary. She covers life expectancy, diet, activity, and medicines and medical care. Her verdict: “Looking at diet, the claim that our grandparents had healthier lives than us seems a little dubious, and we're definitely able to access better health care and preventative medicine than they had access to. But they were probably healthier in terms of the amount of physical activity they did throughout the day.”

Read more: 
If we could go back 100 years in a time machine, what would kids be like? They’d be shorter, leaner, probably dirtier and less well-fed — but would they be fitter? It turns out reports Prof Tim Olds in The Conversation that we actually have a beautiful window on the past.

“In 1919, a young woman named E.M. Bedale started postgraduate research at University College London, an uncommon undertaking for a woman at that time. Her studies focused on energy balance in children, which led her to spend several years at a serendipitously eponymous school called Bedales in rural Hampshire. During her two years at Bedales, Miss Bedale measured the energy expenditure and intake of the school’s students, using methods that are still considered to be gold standards today. Her data provide a startling contrast to our time. Children from almost 100 years ago were 50% more active than kids today. They accumulated over four hours more of physical activity and sat for three hours less than today’s kids -  every day.”

And it’s not just the kids. He points out that: “In the 1960s, half the jobs in private industry in the United States required at least moderate-intensity physical activity, compared to less than 20% today. Work in factories and farms has given away to office work, and that has amounted to over 400 kilojoules less each day that adults expend at work. This difference alone results in a weight increase of about 13 kilograms over 50 years, which pretty closely matches actual changes in weight. The situation is similar here (Australia).”

He concludes: “The roots of inactivity go deep into the cultural and socioeconomic logic of post-industrial societies. In many ways, the whole ethos of ease now saturates our society, and efficiency is the hallmark of modernity.

Think about it this way – nobody is in the market for a labour-creating device. Sit-on mowers, leaf blowers, self-opening doors and automatic car windows, robot vacuum cleaners, sensor lighting, dishwashers and microwaves all yield daily microsavings in energy expenditure that add up to hundreds of kilojoules. In 1900, the average American housewife spent an estimated 40 hours every week in food preparation. Today, that time is barely four hours – and it appears to have reached an absolute minimum.

What can be done about it? We’re not going to wind back time to the days of kids playing cricket in the street, families driving the Vauxhall Viva with wind-down windows, dads pushing hand mowers and mums using wringers. The challenge is to fashion spaces where alternative forms of active leisure can be pursued. And we’ve already started: the gymnasium is such a space, internalising the lost world of manual labour. Exergaming (think Wii), which transposes outdoor play spaces into virtual worlds, is similar. We all need to re-imagine physical activity if we’re to overcome this malaise of post-industrial society.

Read more: 
Indian cuisine offers a variety of healthy meals including mains, salads and sides such as pickles and raita. On top of that opt for:
  • Meat (lamb, beef and goat), chicken, fish and other seafood curries
  • Vegetable curries including aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower); palak paneer (cottage cheese and spinach); and baingan patiala (eggplant and potato)
  • Tikka (dry roasted) or tandoori (marinated in spices and yoghurt) chicken, prawns or fish
  • Dhal (a good low GI choice)
  • Unleavened breads such as chapatis, plain naan or roti 
  • Rice, birayani and pulao – Basmati rice is lower GI but watch the quantity. 
Dahl with Basmati rice


With carbohydrates top of the pops as the world’s favourite dietary villain, you’d think mandatory Nutrition Facts/Information panels would provide all of the important information about them to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions. But they don’t.

Carbohydrates include the maltodextrins, starches and sugars that we are able to digest and absorb to provide our bodies with fuel such as glucose, plus dietary fibre that provides bulk and importantly is also a fuel for our microbiome.

How we label carbohydrates in foods varies around the world, with the USA now providing the most detailed information. Dietary Fiber is correctly listed under Total Carbohydrate, and Total Sugars are now broken down to include Added Sugars. While people who are limiting their added sugars intake may find this additional information useful, it doesn’t solve all of the problems with carbohydrate in the Nutrition Facts panel.

New Nutrition Facts

People with diabetes need to know how much available carbohydrate is in a serve of a food or beverage to estimate how much of an impact it may have on blood glucose (sugar) levels, and in many people’s cases to estimate how much insulin is required for optimal blood glucose management. It can be calculated using the following equation:

Available Carbohydrate = Total Carbohydrate (g) – Dietary Fiber (g) 

In Australia, the Nutrition Information panel only lists (Total) Carbohydrate and (Total) sugars. Unfortunately, dietary fibre is optional unless a nutrition claim is made about carbohydrates on the packaging. On the positive side, Carbohydrate is available carbohydrate, so people with diabetes don’t need to subtract fibre to calculate it.

Nutrition Information

In both countries, if you add Dietary Fiber and Total Sugars you will notice that it doesn’t add up to Total Carbohydrate. Question: what’s missing? Answer: maltodextrins and starches. They are the hidden carbohydrates in foods and beverages – not sugars. Does it matter? YES. Maltodextrins and starches provide more kilojoules per gram (17.5 kJ/g compared to 16 kJ per gram) and often have a higher glycemic index than sugars, and they also contribute to tooth decay.

When companies reformulate their foods and beverages to reduce the amount of Added Sugars they contain they often add in maltodextrins or starches to compensate, as they provide bulk and texture – a bit like sugars. While lower in Added Sugars, the reformulated product may not be a healthier choice at all. But because of current labelling laws you don’t know that.

Because, like starches, maltodextrins are chains of glucose (10+ glucose compared to 3–9 glucose molecules, respectively), that are broken down using the same digestive enzymes, they should be grouped together for simplicity. So, an ideal Nutrition Facts / Information Panel would include all of this important information about carbohydrate to ensure we can make truly informed purchasing decisions.

Since January 2018, GI News has included a new segment “GOOD CARBS FOOD FACTS A TO Z” and we have included more detailed information on carbohydrates in food to ensure our readers can make truly informed decisions:

GI News Nutrition Information

While we think it’s unlikely that any government will legislate to include this detailed information on all food packaging, it would be ideal if they at least included starches. We aren’t optimistic.

 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.


To Vegan or Not? 
Vegan diets are often perceived as being a healthier, more ethical and more sustainable way to feed our growing global population. But do vegan diets really deserve their health halo?


Vegan diets typically exclude animal derived ingredients (e.g. meat, dairy products, eggs and gelatine) and foods produced using animal labour, such as honey. Vegans eat grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. According to Google Trends, searches for the term “vegan” have almost tripled over the past 5 years. Despite the fact that “going vegan” is going viral, veganism is not new. The Indian religion of Jainism is centred on non-violence and has been practicing veganism since ancient times. Some Jains even avoid eating potatoes as uprooting them kills the plant along with any microorganisms living on it.

Are vegan diets healthier? In an article about Dr David Jenkins’ conversion to veganism (he’s the nutrition scientist who introduced the world to the glycaemic index), Leslie Beck claims that “plant-based eaters are thinner and have lower cholesterol and blood-pressure levels, a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and lower cancer rates – especially colorectal cancer.”

But this is plant-based and not plant-only diets – there isn’t much long term research on health outcomes of people following vegan diets. The fact plant-based diets are healthier might not be that surprising as veggies are well known to be great for your health; they are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals and low in kilojoules (calories). However, we can’t ignore that meat, eggs and dairy provide essential nutrients not naturally present in plants such as vitamin B12, vitamin D and long chain omega-3 fats (although mushrooms are fungi and not plants they contain small amounts of B12 and can contain vitamin D if they are exposed to sunlight).

While you can find some of these nutrients added to plant-based foods, you must look a bit harder to find them. Or take supplements. There are risks of missing out on these nutrients and a vegan diet is not necessarily a healthier diet – it all depends what foods you choose and the overall balance of foods. French fries, fake meats (meat analogues), veggie chips, vegan desserts are plant-based but they can also be highly processed and high in saturated fat, salt, refined carbs (starches and sugars) and additives. There are lessons to learn from our vegan friends: eat more legumes, wholegrain cereals, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, which are all healthy options for everyone.

Is veganism the most sustainable diet? You might think veganism is the most sustainable way to feed our growing global population and vegan activists certainly promote this as a reason to follow them into a plant-only lifestyle. They have a point. Meat has the greatest environmental footprint, followed by dairy and then plant-foods. This is because livestock farming requires more land and water; and animals produce more GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions compared to plant-based foods. However what may surprise you is that veganism doesn’t appear to be the most sustainable dietary pattern because it doesn’t utilise all types of land. Some less fertile land is not suitable for growing fruits and vegetables but can be used for livestock such as dairy cattle. According to a recent analysis the most sustainable eating pattern is (drum roll please) a vegetarian diet including dairy products (a lacto-vegetarian diet).

Another study found some vegan diets have higher environmental impacts than some omnivore diets. Eating locally and eliminating food wastage play a big role in sustainability too. For example, a locally raised free-range egg has a smaller environmental footprint than an avocado that has been flown halfway across the globe and then thrown in the bin because it went brown in the bottom of your fruit bowl.

Why vegan? 

  • Animal welfare: There are no cruelty issues with plants. 
  • Environment: Plant-based diets have the advantage, but it’s complicated. Reduce your impact by eating mostly plants, locally sourced, and don’t waste food. 
  • Nutrition: for good health, eat mostly plants and just enough animal food to meet your nutrient requirements. Vegans need to eat fortified foods or take supplements to meet their needs for hard-to-get nutrients. 
Thanks to Rachel Ananin AKA TheSeasonalDietitian.com for her assistance with this article.

 Nicole Senior    
Nicole Senior is an Accredited Nutritionist, author, consultant, cook, food enthusiast and mother 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.


What’s not to like about rambling pumpkins with their softly hairy stems and elegant tendrils reaching for the sun. Boil and steam them for a quick side dish or soup, but roast when you want concentrated flavour and creamy sweetness. Toss some seeds on the compost and bingo, you’ll find yourself with a pumpkin patch.


“Pumpkins are nutritious as well as delicious. Their rich golden colour comes from high levels of beta-carotene, similar to carrots. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant thought to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers, and is also converted to vitamin A by the body. They also contain useful amounts of fibre, vitamins C, E and riboflavin,” says Nicole Senior.

Food skills – shopping: Look for pumpkins when shopping that feel heavy and hard with a firm unblemished skin and a consistent colour throughout. If there’s still a stem attached, make sure it is dry.

Food skills – storing: Whole pumpkins will keep for a long time when stored in a cool, dark well-ventilated area. If you buy a segment wrapped in plastic, it has a much shorter life as the cut surface can spoil quickly. Pre-packed peeled and chopped pumpkin is convenient but look for flesh that is close grained and not fibrous, dried or watery. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

PUMPKIN nutrition facts
 Source: The Good Carbs Cookbook


The Good Carbs Cookbook (by Alan Barclay, Kate McGhie and Philippa Sandall) published by Murdoch Books helps you choose the best fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, lentils, seeds, nuts and grains and explains how to use them in 100 refreshingly nourishing recipes to enjoy every day, for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and dessert. The recipes are easy to prepare, (mostly) quick to cook, long in flavour and full of sustaining goodness, so you feel fuller for longer. There is a nutritional analysis for each recipe and tips and helpful hints for the novice, nervous, curious or time-starved cook.


We know how impossibly sweet pumpkin becomes when roasted. We know that harissa is a fiery chilli spice paste indispensable in North African cooking. Introduce one to the other with mild mannered and restorative chicken stock and you have a soup, the recipe for which you, understandably, will refuse to share. The sour cream can be left out or replaced with natural yoghurt. Preparation time: 15 minutes
• Cooking time: 40 minutes

• Serves: 6


1 kg (2lb 4oz) butternut pumpkin (winter squash)
4 large Roma tomatoes, halved
1 medium onion, peeled and thickly sliced
4–5 garlic cloves, peeled
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
⅓ cup olive oil
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 tablespoon harissa paste
Salt flakes and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra light sour cream

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F (fan-forced 180°C/350°F). Line a baking tray with baking paper. • Peel the pumpkin, roughly cut into chunks and arrange on the baking tray with the tomatoes, onion, garlic and rosemary. Drizzle the oil over and then roast for 30 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender and just starting to blister. • Remove the rosemary sprigs and then tip everything into a blender, add the stock and harissa paste. If you prefer a more mouth puckering taste, add more harissa but only a little at a time. The mixture may be too much for the blender so you may need to work in batches. Blitz until smooth and add a little more salt and pepper if necessary. Pour the soup into a pot and bring to a gentle simmer, adding more stock if you want a thinner consistency. Swirl in the cream and serve.

Per serve 
985kJ/235 calories; 6g protein; 15g fat (includes 2.5g saturated fat; saturated : unsaturated fat ratio 0.2); 17g available carbs (includes 12g sugars and 5g starches); 5g fibre; 690mg sodium; 905mg potassium; sodium : potassium ratio 0.8

Anneka Manning is an author, food editor, cooking teacher, home economist, mother of two and the founder of BakeClub. With over 27 years' experience, she specialises in teaching the ‘why’ behind the ‘how’ of baking, giving home cooks the know-how, understanding and skill to bake with confidence and success, every time. She has written and contributed to a number of books, including The Low GI Family Cookbook (Hachette), Mastering the Art of Baking (Murdoch Books) and BakeClass (Murdoch Books).

Jap or kent is a popular pumpkin variety with ribbed green skin covered with yellow flecks and sweetish orange flesh that is good roasted, boiled, steamed or stir fried. But, do not limit yourself to pumpkin, any leftover roasted vegetables and chickpeas will make a delicious salad with rocket or baby spinach leaves, then sprinkled with the dukkah and drizzled with the yoghurt sauce.

Serves 6–8.


650g jap or kent pumpkin, deseeded and cut into 2cm (¾in) thick wedges
2 tbsp (40ml) extra virgin olive oil
½ head cauliflower, cut into 3cm florets
400g/14oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tsp smoked paprika Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp sesame seeds
¼ tsp salt (optional)

Tahini yoghurt sauce
¼ cup Greek-style yoghurt
1 tsp tahini
1 tbsp (20ml) lemon juice
½ clove garlic, crushed or finely grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Line a large oven tray with non-stick baking paper. • Spread the pumpkin on the lined tray and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Place cauliflower and chickpeas in a large mixing bowl, drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper and toss to combine. Spread evenly on the oven tray, filling the gaps between pumpkin and bake for 35 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and golden. • Meanwhile prepare the dukkah and yoghurt sauce • Sprinkle the roasted vegetables with the dukkah and serve with the sauce.

To make the dukkah, place the cumin and coriander in a small frying pan and toast over medium heat for 1–2 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, or until aromatic. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or small food processor and grind until finely ground. Add the pine nuts to the pan and toast in the same way as the spices until golden. Add to the toasted spices and pound or pulse until roughly chopped (do not over-process or it will form a paste). Transfer to a small bowl, add the sesame seeds and salt, if using, and stir to combine.

To make the yoghurt sauce, mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Stir through 1 tablespoon water to thin to drizzling consistency, if desired.

Per serve 
780 kJ/ 186 calories; 8 g protein; 10 g fat (includes 1.3 g saturated fat; saturated:unsaturated fat ratio 0.15); 15 g available carbs; 5 g fibre

Baker’s tips 
The dukkah will keep in an airtight container or jar in the fridge for up to 1 month. The yoghurt sauce can be made up to 3 days head of serving. Keep covered in the fridge.


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Nutritional analysis To analyse Australian foods, beverages, processed products and recipes, we use FoodWorks which contains the AusNut and Nuttab databases. If necessary, this is supplemented with data from www.calorieking.com.au or http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search.

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