1 January 2013

GI News—January 2013


  • Check out Jamie’s low GI 15-minute meal;  
  • How honey helped to make us human; 
  • The scoop on quinoa plus recipes to enjoy;  
  • GI provisions in new health claims legislation for ANZ;   
  • How low should a low GI diet go? 
  • Why going meatless one day a week is a good idea. 
Feet, forks, fingers, sleep, stress and love are the best medicine we have for preventing cancer and other chronic diseases says Dr David Katz and all are good for health anyway. Check out his Super Six in Food for Thought. This issue has all your favourite features including three low GI recipes to share with family and friends.

Good eating, good health and good reading.

: Philippa Sandall
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Food for Thought

Add years to your life and life to your years with Dr David Katz’s Super Six. 
‘Feet, forks, fingers, sleep, stress and love are the best medicine we have for preventing cancer and other chronic diseases, and all are good for health anyway,’ says Dr David Katz.

Dr David Katz
Dr David Katz

‘Regular physical activity (feet) is associated with weight control, reduced inflammation, enhanced immune function and reduced cancer risk specifically. Optimal diet (forks) exerts far-ranging effects on every aspect of physiology, and similarly stands to reduce the risk of all chronic disease. Combine eating well and being active with a commitment to never hold a cigarette (fingers), and the risk of all chronic disease declines by roughly 80 per cent.

Those are my top three, but the list of health promotion priorities very reasonably extends to three more. The quality and quantity of sleep has profound effects on psychology, immunology and neurology. A linkage to cancer risk is suggested by a rudimentary connection of these dots. Much the same is true of stress, which can contribute to hormonal imbalances and inflammation that propagate cancer – or can be managed to prevent such effects.

And, finally, there is love. We are, from our earliest origins, social creatures much influenced by our relationships with others. While love may seem a “warm and fuzzy” topic, it is in fact the cold, hard scrutiny of clinical trials demonstrating that those with loving relationships are far less vulnerable to chronic disease and death than those without.

Combine all six salutary practices, and the evidence is clear that benefits reverberate all the way to our chromosomes, altering the behavior of genes in a way apt to reduce chronic disease risk in general, and cancer risk specifically.

I hasten to append to this paean for the power of lifestyle a proviso: there is never a guarantee. Think of it this way: lifestyle practices are the ship and sails, but there are still the wind and waves. The former we can control to increase the probability of a safe crossing; the latter, we cannot – and thus even a well-captained ship may founder. But the Super Six can assuredly put probability on your side. You'll need a little help with love, but the other factors are up to you. Don’t wait for that brush with mortality – I commend the Super Six to you right now.’

About Dr David Katz Known internationally for expertise in nutrition, weight management, and chronic disease prevention, Katz is the founding director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center. He is the editor-in-chief of the journal Childhood Obesity, President-Elect of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, founder and President of the non-profit Turn the Tide Foundation, and a blogger/medical review board member for The Huffington Post.

What’s New?

Prof Jennie Brand-Miller on how low should a low GI diet go? 
‘The GI was introduced back in 1981 to rate the glycemic character of the carbohydrate in individual foods like bread, breakfast cereal, rice, pasta, apples etc.,’ says Prof Jennie Brand-Miller. ‘The purpose was to exchange one carbohydrate source with another for snacks and in your meals (e.g. replacing a high GI breakfast cereal like corn flakes with a low one like natural muesli). The decision behind the cut-offs for rating high GI (70 or higher) and low GI (55 or less) foods, was based on the scatter of GI values among the single foods that had been GI tested.

Increasingly we are asked about the GI of mixed meals and the effect of extra protein and fat in the food on GI and blood glucose response. Eaten alone, protein and fat have little effect on blood glucose levels, but that’s not to say they don’t affect your blood glucose response when they are combined with a carb-rich food. Protein will stimulate additional insulin secretion, resulting in lower blood glucose levels. Protein and fat both tend to delay stomach emptying, thereby slowing the rate at which carbohydrate can be digested and absorbed. So a high fat meal will have a lower glycemic effect than a low fat meal even if they both contain the same amount and type of carbohydrate.

We believe there’s a real need to define the difference between a low GI diet and/or meal and a low GI food. Because a low GI food is defined as 55 or less, people have made the reasonable assumption that a whole diet that averages less than 55 is low enough. In fact the average Australian and American diets already has a GI of 56 to 58 because we all eat low GI fruits and dairy products and of course sugar has a medium GI (65). To reduce the risk of chronic disease, we believe that a low GI eating pattern/diet must have much lower number.


We would propose that a GI of 45 or less is a reasonable definition of a low GI diet or meal. This is because what we now know from numerous observational cohort studies around the world is that the daily average GI of the diet of people in the lowest quintile (20% of the population) is about 40–50. Similarly, in a meta-analysis we published in Diabetes Care of 15 experimental studies investigating the role of low GI diets in managing diabetes, the daily average GI was 45. Since this average GI has been proven to have significant health benefits in people with existing diabetes and in reducing the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes, and importantly, people can and do achieve it in real life, we believe a GI of 45 or less is what we all need to be aiming for.’

Why we can't afford to be so dependent on so few crops. 

Graziano da Silva
Graziano da Silva

From the peaks of the Andes to the Asian steppes, from the Arctic coasts to the African savannah, roughly 30,000 edible crops have been identified throughout the world. At December 2012’s international Crops for the 21st Century seminar José Graziano da Silva reminded us that while some 7000 species of plants according to FAO estimates have been cultivated or consumed as food throughout human history, many of these species are disappearing today. ‘If we lose these unique and irreplaceable resources, it will be more difficult for us to adapt to climate change and ensure a healthy and diversified nutrition for all,’ he said. ‘Globalisation has created an abundance of food in some parts of the world, but has failed to end the chronic shortages that exist elsewhere. It has also created a homogeneity of products, accompanied by a loss of different culinary traditions and agricultural biodiversity.’

According to FAO, the caloric intake of most people on the planet is based today on only four crops: rice, maize, wheat and potatoes. ‘Our dependence on a few crops has negative consequences for ecosystems, food diversity and our health. The food monotony increases the risk of micronutrient deficiency,’ he said. ‘We are slowly forgetting how to identify, cultivate, cook and conserve hundreds of local varieties that have adapted over time to the climactic conditions and the characteristics of every kind of land. We are losing a precious fountain of knowledge that has been accumulated over generations to find in local nature a response to our needs.’

Field of wheat

To address these challenges, the FAO has called for the sustainable intensification of agricultural production via a food production model it calls Save and Grow, that also preserves and enhances natural resources. In calling for increased research on under-utilised crops, Graziano da Silva stresses that such species ‘play a crucial role in the fight against hunger and are a key resource for agriculture and rural development’.

He also underlined the importance of sustainable diets. ‘While almost 870 million people go hungry, an even greater number are overweight or obese. And even as inadequate access to food causes suffering in poor countries, every year consumers in industrialised countries waste 220 million tons of food, an amount equivalent to sub-Saharan Africa’s total annual food production,’ he said.

Get the Scoop

The scoop on quinoa. 
The United Nations has declared that 2013 is International Year of Quinoa. It was extensively cultivated by pre-Columbian cultures from around 3000 BC, and along with corn and potatoes was a staple in Andean meals and referred to as the ‘mother grain’. During 2013, food security, agriculture, and nutrition experts want to work together to make sure that traditional growers in South America can keep up with the demand, and that the crop can continue to feed millions as the world’s rising population and growing food shortages make eradicating hunger a formidable challenge.

Photo credit: Lauran and Henriette Damen, Kindred Organics

What’s so super about quinoa? One of the things that make quinoa a ‘super food’ is its resilience. In a world where climate change and natural disasters are threatening many traditional types of agriculture, heartiness is a much-desired quality in a crop. It’s a cool climate crop and the world’s main producers are Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador but it is also being grown in the US. Here in Australia, Lauran and Henriette Damen of Kindred Organics in Tasmania are in their fifth year of growing, harvesting, cleaning and polishing organic quinoa on a commercial scale. ‘It’s an amazing crop,’ they told us, ‘but rather challenging to grow.’

Nutritionally, it is an excellent source of low GI carbs (GI 53) and protein (around 8 grams per cup of cooked quinoa) and is rich in B vitamins and minerals including iron, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc. It is also gluten free.

It's also versatile. In the kitchen, you can use it in dishes that call for other grains or grain products including rice, couscous, bulgur or barley. It cooks in about 10–15 minutes and has a light, chewy texture and slightly nutty flavour. The beige/tan variety tends to have more flavour than the red – but a combination of the two makes a colourful dish. Here is a taste of the quinoa recipes we have published:

If you have their books, you may also like to check out
  • Jamie Oliver’s Blackened chicken with San Fran quinoa salad in Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals and 
  • Yotam Ottolenghi’s Avocado, quinoa and broad bean salad in Plenty.

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.


Spaghetti al gorgonzola. 
This quick and easy pasta dish made with these simple ingredients absolutely belies its special occasion taste. Try it tonight with a crispy garden salad. Makes four 1-cup servings. Enjoy.

For the sauce 
1/3 cup (80ml) evaporated skim milk (Italians use cream)
2 tbsp unsalted butter (Australian cooks use 1½ tbsp)
4–6oz (110–170 g) gorgonzola, crumbled
8oz (230 g) spaghetti

For the topping 
2 tbsp walnut pieces, toasted
2–4 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, optional

Spaghetti al gorgonzola

Bring sauce ingredients to room temperature.
Cook spaghetti according to package directions until al dente. Do not overcook.
Warm the milk over low-medium heat in a large non-stick sauté pan. Add the butter and when it is melted add the gorgonzola. Stir until creamy. Remove from heat and set aside.
Drain the pasta, add to the sauce. Mix well.
Sprinkle the walnuts and mint on top of the spaghetti. Serve immediately with grated cheese on the side.

Per serve 
1690 kJ/404 calories; 16g protein; 18g fat (includes 10g saturated fat); 47g available carbs; 2g fibre

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 packed with fresh produce including these delicious stuffed vegetables from the Low GI Vegetarian Cookbook (Hachette Australia)

Stuffed vegetables with barley, quinoa, pine nuts and pepitas.  
You could substitute the pearl barley and quinoa with cooked brown rice or couscous. Any variety of fresh herbs, vegetables and nuts/seeds can be added to the stuffing mix. Serves 4.

½ cup pearl barley
½ cup quinoa
3 cups water
2 medium eggplants (aubergine), halved lengthwise
1 tbsp olive oil 1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp dried oregano
1 zucchini (courgette), finely diced
2 red capsicums, halved, deseeded
6 large vine ripened tomatoes
2 tbsp pine nuts
2 tbsp pepitas
2 tbsp freshly chopped mint
1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Stuffed vegetables with barley, quinoa, pine nuts and pepitas
Photo of vegetables stuffed with quinoa: Ian Hofstetter

Cook the pearl barley and quinoa in separate pans following packet instructions until tender. Drain well. Meanwhile …
Scoop out the flesh of the eggplants, leaving a 1cm (½in) shell. Sprinkle the shell with salt and turn upside down on kitchen paper to drain off the bitter juices. Dice the eggplant flesh.
Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF).
Deseed and dice 2 of the tomatoes. Cut of the tops of the remaining 4 tomatoes and scoop out their seeds, leaving a shell, set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium–low heat. Add the onion and celery, cook stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic, oregano and zucchini, cook stirring for 1 minute more. Increase the heat to medium–high, add the diced eggplant and zucchini and cook stirring for 2–3 minutes or until light golden. Add the drained barley, quinoa, diced tomato, pepitas, pine nuts, mint and parsley and season.
Rinse the eggplant shells out and pat dry. Fill the eggplants, tomatoes and capsicums with the stuffing, place on a lightly oiled baking tray and roast for 30 minutes or until vegetables are soft and golden brown. Serve.

Per serve 
1538 kJ/368 calories; 12g protein; 19g fat (includes 2g saturated fat); 31g available carbs; 13g fibre

Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals.  
The cover describes the recipes in this book as ‘delicious,’ ‘nutritious’ and ‘super-fast’. And they are. We particularly like the fact that many are also low GI and that Jamie seems as keen on a can of legumes as we are! Check out www.jamieoliver.com for more information.

Lamb meatballs, chop salad and harissa yoghurt
‘This book is an expression of big, exciting flavours, fast, for busy people’ writes Jamie in his intro. This recipe is certainly all that. Recipe © Jamie Oliver 2012. Serves 4.

400g (14oz) lean lamb mince
1 heaped tsp garam masala
olive oil
1 pinch of saffron
½–1 fresh red chilli
2 spring onions
½ a bunch of fresh coriander (cilantro)
2 cloves of garlic
1 x 400g (14oz) tin of chickpeas
350g (12oz) passata

½ a cucumber
2 little gem lettuces
1 bunch of radishes
2 ripe tomatoes
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon

To serve
1 heaped tsp harissa
4 heaped tbsp fat-free natural yoghurt
8 small wholewheat tortillas
1 orange

Lamb meatballs, chop salad and harissa yoghurt
Photography © David Loftus, 2012

Ingredients out • Kettle boiled • Large frying pan, medium heat • Large lidded pan, medium-high heat

Mix the mince in a bowl with salt, pepper and the garam masala • Divide into 4, then roll each piece into 4 balls with wet hands, placing them in the frying pan as you roll them and adding 1 tablespoon of olive oil • Toss regularly until dark golden all over • Put the saffron into a cup, just cover with boiling water and leave to soak.
Finely slice the chilli, trimmed spring onions and coriander stalks (reserving the leaves), put them into the large pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then squash in the unpeeled garlic through a garlic crusher • Fry for 40 seconds, then add the saffron and its soaking water, the drained chickpeas and the passata, cover and bring to the boil • In a small dish, swirl the harissa through the yoghurt.
Roughly chop and mix all the salad veg for the salad on a board • Add the extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice, then season to taste • Loosen the sauce with a splash of water if needed, then pour into the meatball pan and season to taste • Microwave (800W) the tortillas for 45 seconds • Serve it all with orange wedges and a scattering of coriander leaves.

Per serve 
1945 kJ/465 calories; 34g protein; 18g fat (includes 5g saturated fat); 36g available carbs; 12g fibre

Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals
Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals
is published by Michael Joseph, Penguin and is available in good bookshops and online.

We Are What We Ate

Alyssa Crittenden: How honey helped to make us human…. 

Dr Alyssa Crittenden
Dr Alyssa Crittenden

‘Most discussions of the evolution of the human diet implicate meat as the proverbial smoking gun responsible for many hallmarks of human evolution such as brain expansion, cooperation, family formation, pair bonding, tool making, and even selection of marriage partners. Some alternative interpretations discuss the importance of plant foods, like tubers (starchy underground storage organs – similar to potatoes), and suggest that the collection and consumption of plant foods is what made us human. The debate of the significance of meat versus potatoes, so to speak, appears to be rooted in deep evolutionary time. More recently, however, there has been a trend in incorporating a wider range of foods in evolutionary reconstructions of the human diet.

With the popularity of the “Paleolithic Diet” and “caveman cooking” steadily on the rise, it is increasingly important to turn to different lines of evidence to inform our thinking on the history of humans and their food. As new lines of evidence converge, it is becoming clear that the ancestral human diet was varied and included a combination of both animal protein and fat as well as plant foods; a Paleolithic menu that included meat, potatoes – and dessert!

It appears that the human sweet tooth has a long history in human evolution. New research proposes that honey may have been important in human evolution. Upper Paleolithic (8,000 – 40,000 years ago) rock art from all around the world depicts images of early humans collecting honey. The images range from figures climbing ladders to access hives residing high in trees to figures smoking out hives filled with honeycomb. Honey and bee larvae are important foods consumed by many populations of hunters and gatherers worldwide. Foragers in Latin America, Asia, Australia, and Africa include honey and bee larvae as major components of their diet.

The Hadza hunter-gatherers of Tanzania, the population with whom I work, even list honey as their number one preferred food item!

Hadza hunter-gatherer

The Hadza consume honey and larvae of both stingless bees and stinging bees, including the African killer bee (Apis mellifera). The Hadza locate the hives with the assistance of a wild African bird, the aptly named honey guide (Indicator indicator). The honey guide bird and the Hadza honey hunter communicate back and forth through a series of whistles and the bird guides the honey hunter, tree by tree, to the bee hive. Once the honey hunter has located the hive, he pounds wooden pegs ito the trunk of the tree, climbs to the top where the hive is located, chops into the tree to expose the hive, and smokes it out by placing burning brush into the opening. Smoking the hive acts to pacify the bees by dulling the senses of the guard bees who protect the opening of the hive. The bees see the smoke as a habitat threat and focus on collecting enough honey to rebuild their hive elsewhere. This allows the hunter to collect the honeycomb without being stung by the killer bees. The honey guide bird patiently waits outside of the hive and as the honey hunter obtains his honeycomb prize, the honey guide bird is rewarded with its delicious prize – wax from the comb and bees.

Hadza man up tree

Honey is a highly nutritious (and delicious!) food source, composed primarily of fructose and glucose. Combined with larvae, which is high in protein, fat, and B vitamins, honeycomb is nature’s energy bar. The ethnographic cross-cultural evidence of honey consumption, combined with depictions of honey hunting portrayed in rock art around the world, suggest that honey has long been been a part of human history. Early humans, and their expanding brains, would have greatly benefited from consuming honey and bee larvae because the human brain needs glucose to fuel the high metabolic demands of neural development and function. The Paleolithic diet likely included meat, plant foods, and honeycomb – one of the sweet secrets to human evolution!’
The Importance of Honey Consumption in Human Evolution. Food and Foodways
– Clip from an upcoming documentary on the Hadza (the population with whom I work)
David Attenborough follows a honeyguide bird

Dr Alyssa Crittenden is Lincy Assistant Professor of Anthropology (and honey enthusiast!), University of Nevada, Las Vegas

GI Symbol News with Dr Alan Barclay

Dr Alan Barclay

New health claim legislation for Australia and New Zealand includes provisions for GI. 
Food Standards Australia and New Zealand’s (FSANZ) draft food standard to regulate nutrition content claims and health claims on food labels and in advertisements was recently approved by the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation clearing the way for its implementation in early 2013. Once law, all health claims need to be supported by high quality scientific evidence and will only be permitted on foods that meet specific eligibility criteria including the Nutrient Profiling Scoring Criterion (NPSC), which identifies healthier foods and drinks. The NPSC model is still undergoing development as part of the process of developing a new front-of-pack labelling system for Australia.

Under the new standard:

  • General level health claims such as ‘calcium is good for strong bones’ can be supported either by pre-approved or industry self-substantiated food/health relationships. 
  • High level health claims such as ‘calcium reduces the risk of osteoporosis’ however, will require pre-approval by FSANZ. 
What about GI? We are delighted to see that the new standard includes specific requirements for claims about the glycemic index, making Australia and New Zealand one of the few countries in the world that officially allows claims about GI on food labels. It specifically requires a food or drink to be tested in vivo (in humans) according to AS 4694 – 2007 (the Australian standard for GI testing). On top of this, to make a generic GI claim, a food or drink must meet the requirements of FSANZ’s Nutrient Profiling Scoring Criterion.

What about the GI Symbol? The new Standard also allows Certification Trademarks owned by bona fide not-for-profit organisations like the GI Foundation’s GI Symbol (or the Heart Foundation’s Tick) to be used. Foods that carry the GI Symbol have always met the requirements of AS 4694 – 2007, and in fact must now meet the requirements of ISO 26642:2010 (the international standard for GI testing).

As foods that use the GI Symbol have already met the Symbol program’s very stringent nutrient criteria, which identify healthier low GI choices within food categories, they do not need to additionally meet FSANZ’s Nutrient Profiling Scoring Criterion.

In 2013, here at the GI Foundation we will be developing a range of high level health claims about the GI and these will only be able to be used on foods that carry the GI Symbol. Stay tuned…

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

GI Update with Prof Jennie Brand-Miller

Prof Jennie Brand-Miller answers your questions.


I have heard it’s a good idea to go meatless one day a week. Why is that? 

The beta cells of the pancreas, which make insulin, are under constant assault from our modern Western way of eating – it's not just too many high-Gl carbs, it's also too much saturated fat. Both increase your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. One way to cut the saturated fat is to have a "meat-free" day. Make it the one day of the week where you make a concerted effort to give legumes the starring role in your diet. There are plenty of vegetarian recipes in our Low GI Vegetarian Cookbook but if you've not in the mood to cook, then try a healthy high protein-low GI felafel wrap. You'll need to buy Goodness Superfoods™ wholegrain barley wraps, some hommus, tabbouli and felafel balls (all at your local supermarket). Spread the hommus over the wrap, then the tabbuouli, then squash 2-3 balls and wrap. Heat for 30 seconds in the microwave and voila…tonight's meal.

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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