Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Carbohydrates may be linked to hearing loss

Age related hearing loss effected by quality of carbohydrate nutrition.

A new Australian study suggests that age-related hearing loss could potentially be reduced by decreasing the amount of lower quality carbohydrate in the diet and increasing the intake of cereal fibre

Age-related hearing loss is the most prevalent form of hearing loss worldwide. Research suggests that nutrition is a modifiable risk factor that could play a role in the development of age-related hearing loss. The Blue Mountains Hearing Study investigated whether a cross-sectional or longitudinal relationship exists between carbohydrate nutrition, starch, cereal and total fibre, and age-related hearing loss in a large group of adults aged 50 years and older. Of the total 2448 participants 32.1% had hearing loss and more than two thirds (67.9%), had no hearing loss over the 5 year follow up period. Those with hearing loss had a significant change between baseline and the follow up period.

In this group of older adults the higher Glycaemic Index (GI) of foods eaten are associated with an increased risk of hearing loss. However, this association is reduced when there is an increase in dietary intake of cereal fibre. This suggests that the effect of cereal fibre may override the effects of other components of carbohydrate and may have a protective effect on the hearing function, possibly by improving insulin sensitivity or by reducing blood glucose levels after eating.

The incidence of hearing loss in this 5 year period was predicted by a high Glycaemic Load* (GL). A high GL diet at baseline is found to increase the risk of developing age-related hearing loss by 76% among older adults. This is regardless of other potential variables such as education, smoking, previous history of diagnosed stroke and diabetes, family history of hearing loss and exposure to noise at work.

The association with GL and hearing loss suggests that both the quantity and quality of carbohydrate may play a role in the development of age-related hearing loss. The underlying causes for these findings are unknown, however long term higher dietary Glycaemic Load (GL) brings on abnormally high blood sugar levels and excess levels of insulin circulating in the blood. This can lead to diabetes, hypertension, and/or dislipidemia in individuals who are at risk. Other studies show a relationship between hearing and diabetes mellitus, stroke, and vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and serum lipids. Therefore, dietary GL could potentially influence hearing function through its adverse effects on vascular health. The current study speculates oxidative damage as the underlying mechanism between carbohydrate and hearing loss.

The authors however, conclude that in order to confirm this theory and replicate findings, large high quality randomised controlled trials of long duration are needed to investigate any potential links between carbohydrate nutrition and hearing.

Glycaemic Load* - the product of a food’s glycaemic index and total available carbohydrate content, and represents both the quantity and quality of carbohydrates.


Gopinath B et al. Dietary Glycemic Load is a Predictor of Age-Related Hearing Loss in Older Adults. J. Nutr. 140: 2207-2212, 2010.

Friday, November 26, 2010

New year, new diet?

Wholegrains, legumes and refined grains in weight loss...

If you are gearing up for a healthy summer eating plan and are not sure what to include, consider the results of some new research that has just been published. Over one hundred people participated in an 18 month weight loss trial with advice to either follow a control diet based on the National Heart Foundation of New Zealand guidelines, or a diet that emphasised wholegrains and legumes.

The first 6 months involved 2-weekly counselling sessions, cooking classes, supermarket tours, and recipe ideas, in the following 12 months participants had monthly contact with the investigators. Participants in the (very healthy) control group were instructed to follow the guidelines published by the National Heart Foundation of New Zealand which included recommendations to eat at least 3 servings of vegetables and 2 serving of fruit, at least 6 servings of breads and cereals (where 1 serve is equivalent to 1 slice of bread),at least 2 servings of reduced fat milk and milk products, 1-2 small servings of protein-rich foods (meat, poultry, fish, seafood and legumes) and 1-2 tablespoons of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats and oil products and a small amount of nuts and seeds. The intervention group was given similar advice, except they were specifically instructed to consume 2 servings of legumes as a substitute for 2 serving of breads and cereals, and all other breads and cereals were to be wholegrain.

Key foods were provided to the participants for the first 6 months of the study to encourage consumption of the ‘suitable foods’ for their group. For example, participants assigned to the control group received cornflakes, cans of fruits and veggies white bread and cereals with a medium to high glycaemic index. The intervention group received rolled oats and rye, canned legumes, wholegrain and rye bread. Providing key foods seems to have played a role in the participant’s weight loss, as after 6 months when less support was provided many people re-gained some of the weight they had lost.

Data from weighed food records showed that most people in the intervention group complied reasonably well with the substitution of legumes into their diet, with the median legume intake over the first 6 months almost reaching the advised 2 serves/day. This declined to just under 1 serve/day in the last 6 months of the study. Wholegrain intake remained stable in the intervention group over the 18 months at around 1.5 serves/day. Wholegrain intake was slightly higher in the intervention vs the control group at 2 and 6 months, but no different at 12 months, therefore, it is likely that poor compliance after 6 months could have diminished the difference between diets.

The great thing about this study for the participants is that both groups lost a significant amount of weight – approximately 7kg at 6months, and 5kg at 18 months, compared to their weight when they started the weight loss program. Due to the overall similar decrease in energy intake and similar weight loss in both groups it is more difficult to see differences between the two interventions. Overall, there was a small difference in wholegrain intakes between both groups and significantly noticeable differences between legume intakes. Both groups decreased blood pressure, triglycerides and glycaemic load resulting in significant weight loss in both intervention groups, but there was no significant difference between the groups. Despite a small difference in the glycaemic index (GI) between the two diets, there was no relationship of GI to weight loss, consistent with other trials. The group that ate more wholegrains and legumes had a significantly lower waist circumference by 2.8cm after 18 months of the weight loss program. This group also had a lower Total cholesterol and a lower LDL cholesterol at the end of the study.

From a practical perspective, 81% of people stuck out the complete 18 months of the weight loss program, giving a good indication that people were willing to incorporate wholegrains and legumes in their diet over this period. Overall, all participants found the diets easy to follow and did not report any decrease in dietary satisfaction. The researchers concluded that their data provides strong evidence in support of national guidelines for healthy eating that recommend the inclusion of wholegrains and legumes in the diet. This research also shows that although wholegrain foods are a better choice, core refined grain foods such as white bread, white pasta, and white rice can be included as part of a successful weight loss program.

Venn BJ et al, 2010. The effect of increasing consumption of pulses and wholegrains in obese people – a randomised controlled trial. JACN

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wholegrain goodness

Study finds those who eat more wholegrains have a better diet overall

We know that something in wholegrains is good for us. Whether it’s the fibre, phytochemicals or more likely a combination of multiple components working together in the wholegrain. Whatever the mechanism, there is something good in wholegrains that makes them really special.

Despite strong growth in wholegrain products, there is limited information about wholegrain intakes in the Australian population. A recent study just published has assessed the consumption of wholegrains and association with nutrient intake in a nationally representative US population.

The data was collected from a secondary analysis of cross-sectional data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 1999-2004. In the absence of Australian consumption data for wholegrains at a nationally representative level, this study may give some indication about the level of wholegrain intake in developed countries such as Australia. The US study investigated over 7000 adults, aged 19 to 50 year olds and over 6000 adults, 51 years and over. Participants were divided into four wholegrain consumption groups 0-0.6, 0.6-1.5, 1.5-3.0, and >3.0 serves a day. Serve sizes are calculated based on ounce equivalents of grains (one serve). One ounce equivalent is equal to the amount of food considered equivalent to ½ cup cooked rice, pasta or cooked cereal, 1 slice of bread or 1 cup of breakfast cereal. Note that Australian and US serve sizes are different. Australian serve sizes are larger, for example, one serve is equal to 2 slices of bread.

The study found that Adults aged 19 to 50 and 51+ years consumed a mean of 0.63 and 0.77 servings of wholegrains per day respectively. Seventy two percent of 19 to 50 year olds, and 70% of 51+ year olds consumed less than 0.6 servings of wholegrains or less daily, with only 4.8% and 6.6% of individuals in these age groups, respectively, eating the recommended 3 serves of wholegrains daily.

For both age groups, diet quality and intake of energy, fibre and polyunsaturated fatty acids were significantly higher in those consuming the most servings of wholegrains. Intake of negative nutrients such as total sugars, added sugars, saturated fatty acids, and cholesterol was significantly lower in those consuming the most servings of wholegrains, as was monounsaturated fatty acids. Apart from Vitamin B12 and sodium, the intake of all micronutrients was higher among those individuals who consumed the most servings of wholegrains.

Although these are positive results, unfortunately the majority of the Adult US population was not consuming enough wholegrains, which is likely to be the similar story in Australia. What we do know is US adults who consumed the most servings of wholegrains had better diet quality and nutrient intakes.

The researchers in this study used a stricter definition for wholegrain than many previous studies. Known as the My Pyramid Equivalents Database (MPED), this definition excludes added bran and pearled barley, which are not technically wholegrain; most published studies have not used this newer definition. The intake of wholegrains was slightly lower in this study compared to other US studies, however this is likely due to the change in the definition of wholegrains used.

Some of the well documented barriers to wholegrain consumption include lack of familiarity and preparation, lack of understanding of the health benefits, the higher price associated with some wholegrain foods, an inability to identify wholegrains and a reported preference for refined grain foods. The authors conclude how important it is for health professionals, industry, government and public health campaigns to promote the consumption of wholegrains more vigorously. They state that dietitian’s need to know more about wholegrains and ways to promote them; health claims could be another way to help increase wholegrain consumption and they also stress the importance of a national wholegrain campaign such as the 2&5 fruit and vegetable campaign.

Go Grains Health & Nutrition is actively involved in many similar strategies aimed to ultimately increase wholegrain consumption and the results of this study help to support the work of Go Grains in Australia.


O’Neil C, Nicklas T, Zanovec M and Cho S. Whole-grain Consumption is Associated with Diet Quality and Nutrient Intake in Adults: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2004. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Oct 2010, Vol 110, (10) 1461-1468.

Risk of skipping breakfast

Skipping breakfast is linked to risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and obesity

A recent Australian study has found people who regularly eat breakfast are less likely to develop heart disease, diabetes or become obese, than people who start the day on an empty stomach.

A twenty year follow up national study of Australian school children, found that that those who skip breakfast in both childhood and adulthood have a significantly larger waist circumference, BMI (indicator of healthy weight), higher fasting insulin, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol compared to those who eat breakfast.

The study suggests that skipping breakfast over a long period may alter metabolism which may result in a greater storage of fat. The higher waist circumference in adults who miss breakfast in childhood and adulthood, may be as a result of higher energy intakes over the course of the day during the 20 year follow up, a factor that has been highlighted by other researchers.

Researchers believe that not eating breakfast seems to be more common, possibly because of efforts to lose weight or due to lack of time. Children and adults who skip breakfast are less likely to meet dietary recommendations for breads and cereals, fruit and dairy, and are more likely to eat takeaway food more than once per week.

Regardless of age, race, socioeconomic status and other lifestyle factors research shows that not only is eating breakfast important but the type of breakfast eaten may play a role in BMI. Eating cereal (cooked or ready to eat cereal) or certain breads for breakfast, is associated with a significantly lower BMI in adults compared to those who skip breakfast or eat other types of breakfast.

Those who eat breakfast that consists of grains (cereals and breads) may have similar energy intakes to other food types, however have lower BMIs, than those who do not eat breakfast or eat meat and eggs for breakfast. Cereals and bread not only provide energy, protein, vitamins and minerals, but some contain insoluble fibre which contributes to a longer lasting feeling of fullness, making them a suitable option for breakfast.


Smith KJ et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2010. Doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.30101. Skipping breakfast: longitudinal associations with cardiometabolic risk factors in the Childhood Determinants of Adult Health Study.

Farshchi HR et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81:388-96. Deleterious effects of omitting breakfast on insulin sensitivity and fasting lipid profiles in healthy lean women.

Sungsoo C et al. JACN 2003;22(4):296-302. The Effect of Breakfast Type on Total Daily Energy Intake and Body Mass Index: Results from the Third National Health Examination Survey (NHANES III).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Eating habits and psychological disorders

Mediterranean diet linked to lower depression and anxiety

Healthy diets are commonly linked to a reduced risk of chronic disease such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Now research has linked dietary intake to psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety.

An Australian study of 1046 women, aged 20-93 years old, found that those who habitually eat vegetables, fruit, beef, lamb, fish and wholegrain foods (a traditional diet) are less likely to have depression and anxiety disorders compared to those who consume a western diet. A western diet consisted of processed or fried foods, refined grains, sugary products and beer. Women who ate a traditional diet were 35% less likely to have major depression or dysthymia and 32% less likely to have anxiety disorders, whereas the western diet was linked to depressive disorders.

The ATTICA study of 853 men and women from Greece, found that more anxious men and women had different eating habits compared to those less anxious. Women who eat sweets as well as meat and meat products were more likely to be anxious while men who ate legumes and cereals were less likely to be anxious.

Depressive illness is influenced by genetic, hormonal, immunological, biochemical, and neurodegenerative factors. Diet affects each of these factors and possibly the development of depression. Inflammation is thought to play a role in the onset and maintenance of depressive disorders as well as chronic disease such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Adhering to a Mediterranean diet, high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, wholegrains, fish, olive oil and low fat dairy products, ensures an adequate intake of folate, B vitamins, antioxidants and healthy fats. A Mediterranean diet is linked to less inflammation compared to a western diet and may therefore protect against depression and anxiety.


Jacka FN et al. 2010. Association of Western and Traditional Diets with Depression and Anxiety in Women. Am J Psychiatry; AiA:1-7.

Sanchez-Villegas A et al. 2009. Association of the Mediterranean Dietary Pattern with the Incidence of Depression. Arch Gen Psychiatry;66(10):1090-1098.

Yannakoulia M et al. 2008. Eating habits in relation to anxiety symptoms among apparently healthy adults. A pattern analysis from the ATTICA study. Appetite; 51:519-525.

Wholegrains and young healthy women

A new study shows wholegrains eaten daily can potentially lead to better health in women

The liver secretes C-reactive protein (CRP) which flags inflammation. Spikes in the level of CRP are also linked to chronic diseases in women such as diabetes, cancer and disorders of the heart and blood. Increased problems with fertility and general reproduction, hypertension and premature birthing can also occur when CRP levels are high. A new US study suggests eating wholegrains every day can lower CRP levels and potentially lead to better health in young women.

The study of 259 young healthy women aged between 18-44yrs, shows that eating wholegrains daily, significantly and inversely reduces levels of CRP. Women who ate half a serve of wholegrains daily, equal to 1 slice of wholegrain or wholemeal bread, had 11.5% significantly lower levels of inflammation, compared to those who did not. Those who ate more than half a serve of wholegrains per day had 12.3% significantly lower levels of inflammation, compared to those that did not eat any wholegrains. The study shows that eating more than half a serve of wholegrains daily, significantly lowers levels of CRP and the chance of moving to a more severe cardiovascular risk category , as classified by the American Heart Association, regardless of any dietary or metabolic factors.

The results of this study highlight the benefits of even a moderate intake of wholegrains per day as part of a healthy diet, with the potential to improve short and long term health outcomes in young healthy women. Scientific research shows that people who eat 48g of wholegrains a day, reduce the risk of developing chronic disease by 20-30%.


Gaskins AJ et al. Wholegrains are associated with serum concentrations of high sensitivity C-reactive protein among premenopausal women. J Nutr 140: 1669-1676, 2010.

Assoc Prof P. Williams & Go Grains Health and Nutrition Ltd. The Grains & Legumes Health Report. A Review of the Science. 2010.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sugar in breakfast cereals

How concerned should you be?

There has been a lot of attention around the nutrient content of our food, in relation to fat, sodium and sugar, with recent media coverage focusing on the level of sugar in breakfast cereals. Breakfast cereals make a significant contribution to our daily intake of protein, carbohydrate, fibre, vitamins, minerals and some antioxidants and should not be grouped with ‘high sugar foods’ such as sweets, soft drinks, cakes and sweet biscuits (which offer little nutrition and are energy dense).

About sugar
‘Sugars’ on a nutrition information panel of a product label is a total of naturally occurring and added sugars. Sugars occur naturally in fruit and dairy foods in the form of fructose and lactose. Fruit in a product, adds to the sugar content. Sugar is also more concentrated in dried fruit as it loses its water content during the drying process. Products containing dried fruit will therefore have higher sugar content, such as breakfast cereal, but this does not mean it is bad for you. Dried fruit also provides beneficial nutrients including dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Products labelled ‘no added sugar’ may contain naturally occurring sugars such as fructose and lactose, but no further sugars have been added to the product. ‘Sugar’ will appear in the ingredients list for foods with added sugar.

The sugar concern
The concern with eating too much sugar is that it provides empty kilojoules and can contribute to weight gain. However, this is also a concern for other nutrients such as fat and total energy which can also contribute to weight gain, in particular because we tend to be inactive, sit for so long, and generally eat too much. Placing blame on a particular nutrient alone surely is not the solution to the obesity problem. We must also consider our energy balance that is energy input versus energy output. The quality of a food should therefore be determined by its total composition and not by a single ingredient.

Choosing a breakfast cereal
Breakfast cereals are not necessarily ‘healthier’ if they are lower in sugar. The Glycaemic Index (GI) of a breakfast cereal is also not the only indicator of a healthier choice, as the GI value of a breakfast cereal will tend to be lower when you add milk or yoghurt. Consider the total composition of breakfast cereal, as it should be rated on how nutrient rich it is. Look for those that are higher in fibre per serve, preferably contain ‘wholegrain’ in the ingredients list and are less energy dense. Some nutrients to consider when selecting breakfast cereals:

(Source: National Heart Foundation of Australia, 2009)

Wholegrains and cardiovascular disease

Study finds blood pressure decrease in healthy participants

A brand new intervention study from the UK has found two serves of wholegrain foods a day can significantly lower cardiovascular disease risk in free-living, healthy middle-aged people, mainly by lowering blood pressure. Replacing white bread and refined breakfast cereal with just two slices of wholegrain bread and a cup of oats a day for twelve weeks was enough to reduce blood pressure and potentially reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease – one of Australia’s most costly and deadly diseases.

Two hundred and thirty three virtually healthy men and women aged between 40 and 65 were randomly sorted into one of three groups; refined grain group (control), wholegrain wheat, or wholegrain wheat + oats group. The authors designed this study to be practical and realistic for free-living individuals to achieve with little alteration to their usual lifestyle. Therefore, refined cereals and white bread where simply substituted for two slices of wholegrain bread and a cup of wholegrain breakfast cereal or a cup of oats and either two slices of wholegrain bread or a cup of breakfast cereal.

After only six weeks of the intervention, participants in both the wholegrain wheat and wholegrain wheat +oats group significantly decreased their systolic blood pressure by around 5mm Hg. This decrease is similar to the average reduction observed in twenty seven pharmacologic trials and could translate to a 15% decrease in the risk of coronary artery disease and 25% decrease of stroke. Using wholegrain foods to help maintain healthy normal blood pressure has worthwhile benefits, including a reduction in drug-related side effects of blood pressure lowering medication and significant cost savings for Australia’s healthcare system. The other great thing about this study is that the wholegrain products used are similar to those widely available from Australian supermarkets in contrast to supplements or specifically formulated foods.

The study did not show a favourable effect for cholesterol reduction or any other blood lipids, including inflammatory markers. These results are similar to that of the recently published sixteen week WHOLEheart study involving just over three hundred overweight adults. As suggested in the WHOLEheart study the findings of both these intervention trials do not question the efficacy of increasing wholegrain foods as a public health measure for disease risk reduction, but instead highlight some of the limitations associated with randomised controlled trials when investigating complex food synergies and nutrients, especially in otherwise healthy individuals. Lipid-lowering interventions commonly fail to show an effect in subjects with normal lipid levels, which was the case in this intervention and the WHOLEheart trial. Perhaps the results would have been even more favourable for all biomarkers of cardiovascular disease in an unhealthy population.

Although the exact mechanisms by which wholegrains can reduce blood pressure still remain unclear, the results of this study provide solid evidence for recommending the consumption of two serves of wholegrain foods a day to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Australian dietary guidelines recommend Australians eat 4+ serves of grain-based foods a day (including breads, breakfast cereals, rice and pasta). At least half of your serves should be wholegrain. Commonly available wholegrain foods include wholegrain bread and breakfast cereals, oats, brown rice, wholegrain pasta, popcorn, wholegrain crispbreads and rice cakes/crackers.


Effect of increased consumption of wholegrain foods on blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk markers in healthy middle aged persons – a randomised controlled trial. Tighe P and Duthie G et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010. Published ahead of print.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The beauty of brown rice

Recent findings suggest it may reduce diabetes risk

Brown rice may be something you have never tried or wouldn’t typically buy; it may also receive a few crinkled noses from the kids. But that tiny brown grain of rice might do more for you and your family’s health than you imagine. Wholegrain brown rice has been a standout in the crowd lately, with two recent scientific studies finding a special compound in brown rice may help guard against high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Retaining the bran and germ, brown rice contains more nutrients and fibre than white, however both brown and white varieties of rice both contain essential vitamins and minerals, including B-group vitamins such as thiamine and niacin, zinc and phosphorus. Brown rice is a wholegrain food, as are mixed-grain breads, wholegrain breakfast cereals, rolled oats, wholemeal pasta, corn and popcorn.

One cup of brown rice contains around 2.4g of dietary fibre, which equates to around 10% of an adults daily fibre needs and around 80g of wholegrains, which is close to double the suggested daily wholegrain intake. In the absence of an official government recommendation for wholegrains intake, Go Grains Health & Nutrition has reviewed the research and suggests all Australian adults aim for 48g of wholegrains per day.

An excellent source of energy, rice is full of energy-giving carbohydrates - used by the body for brain performance, physical activity and everyday bodily functions including growth and repair. Rice is low in fat, cholesterol free (as are all plant foods) and virtually salt free with less than 5mg of sodium per 100g is therefore great for those who need to watch their salt intake.

A new study has just been published that analysed diet, lifestyle and disease data collected from 39,765 men and 157,463 women from 3 large cohort studies; the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Nurses Health Study I and II. The researchers found people who ate high amounts of white rice also enjoyed plenty of fruits and vegetables, but not many wholegrains, cereal fibre and (bad) trans fats. Those people who enjoyed brown rice were more likely to be health conscious; more physically active, leaner and less likely to smoke or have a family history of diabetes and had higher intake of fruits, vegetables and wholegrains and lower intakes of red meat and trans fats. After adjustments were made, more than two servings of brown rice a week was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Due to low intakes of brown rice amongst the study participants it remains unclear whether higher intakes of brown rice are associated with further disease reductions. Nonetheless the researchers found simply switching white rice for brown rice was associated with a significantly lower risk of developing diabetes. The researchers also looked at wholegrain consumption overall and found stronger associations when analysing wholegrains as a group, rather than brown rice on its own.

Brown rice can be cooked the same way as white rice in the pot, in the microwave or a rice cooker usually for just a little bit longer. You can now even buy microwave pouches – great for the lunch box, workplace or a quick meal for one or two. Next time you are having rice for dinner, why not give brown rice a go. You may find you actually like the tastier, slightly more nutty version, especially now you know how much better it is for you. If you need help acquiring the taste, mix half white with half brown rice, cooking separately of course.

Qi et al, White Rice, Brown Rice, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women, Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(11):961-969

Monday, July 12, 2010

Nutrition and the young athlete

Fuelling the school age athlete for optimal performance

Good eating and drinking practices are important for growing children, particularly when they are active and participating in sports. Kids who are constantly active need to eat and drink regularly to ensure that their energy and hydration levels are maintained. Children who eat healthy well balanced meals, will be better nourished and be able to play better, stay mentally alert, and recover quickly from training and competition. Those who eat too little may become tired and sluggish and be at risk of under nutrition, which may result in poor growth and delayed development.

Providing kids with quality, variety and adequate nutrition is key to keeping them mentally alert for school and physical activities throughout the day.

Daily Requirements


A young athlete’s energy requirements will vary from child to child depending on their activity levels. As a general guide however, energy intake during the day should be made up of:

- 55-58% from carbohydrates
- 12-15% from protein
- 25-30% from fat

Young athletes who exercise strenuously for more than 60 – 90 minutes a day may need to increase their energy intake, in particular from carbohydrate sources, to 65-70% of energy intake.


Carbohydrates are an important source of fuel for the body and restricting carbohydrates in the diet is not recommended, particularly for athletes, as it may compromise their performance. Carbohydrate containing foods such as fruit, vegetables, dairy products (milk and yoghurt), legumes and grain-based foods should form the basis of an athlete’s diet. A healthy diet should include at least four serves of grain-based foods each day, preferably wholegrain, such as bread and cereals, rice, pasta and noodles.


Protein is needed to build and repair muscles and plays an important role in recovery after training. Protein rich foods include, fish, lean red meat and poultry, dairy products, nuts and eggs.


Kids often wait till they are thirsty before they drink fluids so it is important to ensure they are adequately hydrated. Dehydration can impair sports performance, decreasing strength, energy and coordination. Water is the best choice for fluids every day however, other fluids such as fruit juice or sports drinks could be used occasionally during prolonged activity. Sports drinks are generally required in situations of prolonged strenuous exercise where there is likely to be more than 2% loss of body weight due to sweating. High sugar drinks such as soft drinks should be avoided, especially after exercise.

Energy drinks contain caffeine levels twice that found in a standard cup of coffee. There is no safe level of caffeine consumption for children. It is recommended that primary aged school children do not consume drinks which contain caffeine, while high school children should limit their intake. Caffeine can cause increased anxiety, sleep disturbances and increased blood pressure, with withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, tiredness and irritability.

Vitamin, Mineral & Sports Supplements:

An athlete’s vitamin and mineral needs are generally met by a nutritionally adequate diet. Vitamin and mineral supplements are only of benefit if a diet is inadequate or if there is a diagnosed deficiency. They should not be taken to enhance performance as they can have side effects.

Sports nutrition supplements should not be seen as the main focus of any athletes’ training. Few sports supplements have credible good scientific evidence but, it is for well trained fully developed athletes. Their safety of use is not known in the adolescent age group due to the lack of research undertaken in this area.

Sports Activity Energy Eating Requirements

More than 2 hours before exercise - children should eat a carbohydrate rich meal such as sandwiches, bread rolls, baked beans on toast, pasta, rice, noodles, cereal and milk or fresh fruit.

One to two hours before exercise - children should drink fluids and eat a light snack such as a sandwich, fresh fruit or a reduced fat dairy snack such as yoghurt or custard.

Two to three hours after exercise - children should drink lots of fluid and eat carbohydrate rich foods such as cereals, pasta, bread varieties, rice or noodle dishes with stir fry meat and vegetables, sandwiches, legumes, fruit or fruit juice.

Points to Remember

• Ensure children are well hydrated before, during and after a sports event to prevent overheating. Water is the best choice for fluids every day.
• Foods should be appealing to children, so offer a variety of nutritious foods.
• Aim for at least four serves of grain-based foods each day. Grain-based foods include bread and cereals, rice, pasta and noodles.
• Involve children with the preparation of meals, this will not only be fun, it will encourage them to eat foods they have helped to prepare and teach them valuable cooking skills.
• Snacking is an important tool for managing hunger for children. The key is to snack on healthy foods that provide nutrition and energy, in particular towards the end of a busy day.
• Include snacks such as fresh fruit, vegetable sticks, dairy foods and bread varieties (multi-grain breads, wholemeal pitas and wholegrain rolls). Try crispbreads (low fat and salt varieties), muffins, crumpets, rice cakes, and homemade pizzas.
• Have a selection of healthy food snacks on hand, during and after sporting events.
• Perishable foods should be packed between cold items to ensure they are kept cool and safe. Pack a frozen water bottle or ice brick with food.

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. 2003. Commonwealth of Australia
Fuelling and Cooling the Junior Athlete. 2008. Sports Dietitians Australia
Feeding Your Child Athlete. 2008. KidsHealth
Sporting Performance and Food. Vol 2. 2007. Everyday Health.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

'Ancient' super grains

Add nutritional variety to your diet

Grain–based foods make an essential contribution to the diet of Australians. Wheat, oats and rice predominate but interest is increasing in ‘ancient’ grains such as quinoa.

Ancient grains such as quinoa, amaranth and millet are often referred to as ‘super grains’ - a reputation that stems from their excellent nutritional attributes. The heritage of these grains goes far back to biblical times. Not technically true cereal grains, pseudo cereals are broadleaf plants used in much the same way as grains like wheat, barley, rye, oats and rice. Nutritionally superior in some aspects but very similar in others, they offer a wealth of essential vitamins and minerals as well as fibre and phytonutrients.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is a small disc-shaped grain first cultivated in the Andes of South America. A staple food of the Inca peoples and referred to as the "mother of all grains", quinoa has a slightly higher protein content than other grains, and a more ‘complete’ amino acid profile. Like other grains, quinoa is low in fat and high in fibre and also gluten free for those with coeliac disease. With a light fluffy texture and slightly nutty flavour quinoa can be eaten as an alternative to rice, pasta, barley, cracked wheat and even porridge. You should always soak and rinse quinoa before eating or cooking as the grain has a naturally bitter-tasting outer layer, designed to deter birds from enjoying the crop.

Amaranth is one of North America’s oldest crops and a staple grain of the Aztec people that has been cultivated for over 8,000 years. A tiny, (1-2mm) round ball, amaranth is one of the highest protein grains (14%) and has a slightly peppery taste. The protein found in amaranth is of very high quality - containing the essential amino acid lysine (often lacking in many grains). Amaranth is versatile and can be used for a variety of food uses – as a substitute for rice, popped like pop corn as a snack, or puffed for use in breakfast cereals. Amaranth flour can be used as a gluten free alternative to wheat flour for baking.

Millet is a staple in the diets of some African and Asiatic people but eaten much less commonly in the western world. It features in the traditional cuisine of western India in flat breads, sweet desserts or savoury stews with meat, beans and vegetables. The protein content of millet compares favourably with that of corn and wheat. The tiny grain comes in a variety of colours and has a mild flavour, which is why it is often toasted before cooking. You will find millet in the health foods aisle of the supermarket in some gluten free breakfast cereals and as an alternative to wheat flour for baking.

Buckwheat is most familiar to Australians in the form of Japanese ‘soba’ noodles. The name buckwheat comes from its triangular seeds which can be toasted to bring out their earthy rich nutty flavour, made into honey or even flour – commonly used to make buckwheat pancakes. Buckwheat is more closely related to rhubarb than to wheat, but has similar nutritional properties to other wholegrains in terms of quality protein, fibre and is rich in antioxidants. Buckwheat, like other pseudo cereals, is also gluten free for people with coeliac disease.

Chia (pronounced chee-ah) was first used as food as early as 3500BC by the Mayans, Aztecs and Southwest Native Americans. Chia seeds were eaten as a grain, drunk as a beverage when mixed with water, ground into flour, included in medicines, pressed for oil and used as a base for face and body paints. Chia seeds have a bran, germ and endosperm. What makes them so special is that they are full of fibre, protein and omega 3 fats as well as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The protein in chia is of high quality, containing all 8 essential amino acids, which is rare for a plant source of protein. Chia can be sprinkled over salads, cereals and muesli or incorporated into breads, muffins, slices, cookies or porridge. Visit for recipes and ways to incorporate chia into your diet.

If you are keen to add variety to your diet, most pseudo cereals are available from health food stores or the health food aisle of your supermarket. They tend to be more expensive than traditional grains such as wheat, oats and rice which although perhaps less trendy, are just as nutritious but more affordable.

Go Grains Health & Nutrition recommends all Australian adults and teens aim for at least 48g of wholegrains every day. The amount for smaller children is less; however children should increase the amount of wholegrains as they grow. For more information on wholegrains and your health, check out

Wholegrains and fibre

Their role in weight management

The World Health Organisation recognises that healthy weight maintenance is a large challenge, as is overcoming obesity. Despite the public health significance of obesity and the promotion of various weight loss diets, there is no scientifically agreed optimal diet for its prevention and treatment, and opinions differ about the role of nutrients such as dietary fats and carbohydrates in the cause. Research does show, however, that diets including wholegrains and fibre can help to reduce the risk of being overweight.


'Wholegrain’ foods contain intact and /or milled grains where the grain components - bran (fibre-rich outer layer), endosperm (middle starch and protein layer) and germ (nutrient rich inner core) - are present in the same proportion as in the original grain.

Wholegrains are important sources of carbohydrate, protein, dietary fibre, minerals, vitamins and other bioactive components such as antioxidants. The many benefits of wholegrains are well documented, in particular their association with protection against chronic diseases (heart disease, diabetes and some cancers). They have also been shown to have role in long term weight control.

There is good evidence from scientific studies that a diet high in wholegrains is associated with a lower body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and risk of being overweight.

A study of over 27,000 men showed high wholegrain intake to be inversely associated with long term weight gain. For every 40g of wholegrains eaten daily, weight gain was reduced by an average of 0.49kg.

Another study found a higher intake of wholegrain or high fibre foods to be associated with a 49% lower risk of becoming obese over a 12 year period. Plant based foods and dietary fibre were shown to be protective against excess bodyweight in a large, ethnically diverse research population.

The higher fibre content of diets rich in wholegrains is believed to be one of the means by which they help control body weight. Research shows that increased dietary fibre promotes satiety due to its bulk and low energy density, with hormonal responses leading to reduced hunger and reduced energy intake. The high-fibre content of most wholegrain foods is believed to help in preventing weight gain by increasing appetite control. It does this by delaying carbohydrate absorption, hence promoting the feeling of fullness.

Increasing dietary fibre intake by an additional 14g per day has been shown to result in a 10% decrease in energy intake and a weight loss of over 1.9 kg over 4 months. The effects of dietary fibre were more striking in obese individuals. The authors of this US study concluded that increasing dietary fibre intake from the current average of 15g to 25-30g per day, would be beneficial and may help reduce the prevalence of obesity.

In addition to fibre there are also additional components in wholegrains that contribute to metabolic changes, favouring long term weight management.

The National Health and Medical Research Council recommend a dietary fibre intake of 25-30g per day for adults and 14-18g per day for children above one year of age.

There is currently no official recommendation for wholegrain intake in Australia, but based on the scientific evidence, Go Grains Health & Nutrition recommends 48g of wholegrains a day is an achievable, evidence based target intake.

Wholegrain content of some foods


Williams P et al., Cereal grains, legumes, and weight management: a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence. Nutr Rev. 2008 Apr;66(4):171-82.

Koh-Banerjee P et al., Changes in whole-grain, bran, and cereal fiber consumption in relation to 8-y weight gain among men. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80:1237-45.

Liu et al., relation between changes in intakes of dietary fiber and grain products and changes in weight and development of obesity among middle-aged women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003. 78:920-7.

Slavin J and Green H. Dietary Fibre and Satiety. British Nutrition Foundation Nutrition Bulletin. 2007. 32(suppl 1). 32-42.

Griffiths T. Towards and Australian ‘daily target intake’ for wholegrains. Food Aust 2007. 59(12):600-601.

Harlan J and Garton LE. Whole-grain intake as a marker of healthy body weight and adiposity. Public Health Nutrition: 11(6), 554-563.

NHMRC. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand. Executive Summary. 2006.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Wholegrain foods and legumes

Your daily dose for disease prevention?

When it comes to grain foods, wholegrains are shining stars. Wholegrain foods and legumes are a fundamental part of a balanced diet and scientific studies consistently show that they can play a major role in reducing the risk of many of the chronic diseases that burden our society today. Wholegrains may even be more important than first thought, with new research collected as part of "The Grains & Legumes Health Report - A Review of the Science" finding that wholegrain foods could help prevent asthma and gum disease, and may also improve mood and cognitive function.

The Grains & Legumes Health Report is a review of the latest scientific evidence on the health benefits of grains and legumes, co-authored by Associate Professor Peter Williams, University of Wollongong and Go Grains Health & Nutrition, with the report's foreword written by Chief Research Scientist, CSIRO Food Futures National Research Flagship, Dr David Topping.

Wholegrains contain all the goodness of the grain – however, it’s the fibre-rich outer bran layer and nutrient-rich inner core (germ) that makes them so special. They contain plenty of vitamins (particularly B-group vitamins and vitamin E), minerals (notably iron, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus), fibre and protective substances (like antioxidants and phytonutrients). The most commonly eaten wholegrain foods include wholemeal and mixed grain breads and crispbreads, oats, wholemeal pasta, brown rice and pop corn. Wholegrain foods can contain grains that are whole (visible grains), or milled into finer pieces (wholemeal). Therefore, wholemeal foods are also wholegrain.

Eating the equivalent of 2-3 slices of wholegrain bread a day (or 1½ cups of wholegrain breakfast cereal, brown rice or wholemeal pasta) can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and obesity by up to 20-30%. Wholegrain foods may even be as powerful as cholesterol lowering medication, with 2-4 serves of wholegrain foods a day lowering the risk of heart disease by as much as 40% - equal to the effect of statin drugs.

Research studies show a diet high in wholegrain foods can help to lower blood pressure. One particular study found that replacing white rice with brown rice, white bread with wholegrain, and low-fibre cereals with barley or whole wheat cereals, significantly reduced blood pressure in overweight patients with high cholesterol in just 5 weeks.

For those at risk, but who have not yet developed type 2 diabetes, wholegrains may be the solution. Research has shown the progression of impaired glucose tolerance to type 2 diabetes can be reduced by almost 60% and insulin resistance improved, by simple lifestyle changes such as frequently eating wholegrain foods.

In addition to the more established benefits of wholegrains in the prevention of chronic disease, there is also emerging science about the benefits of wholegrain consumption for prevention of periodontal disease and asthma, as well as suggestive evidence for improvements in mood and cognitive function. Further research will help confirm these promising findings.

What is it about wholegrains that makes them so impressive? The complete package of fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients work together – research suggests there is no one single component in wholegrains which accounts for their beneficial effect to health.

There is very little research data available on wholegrain consumption in Australia but we understand adults and children are not eating enough. A recent survey conducted by Go Grains Health & Nutrition found that on average Australians aged 5 – 70+ are eating less than 1½ serves of wholegrain foods a day, falling short of international recommendations that at least half of all grain consumption should be wholegrain. Children should increase the amount of wholegrains in their diets as they grow.

Legumes are an economical, easy to prepare and nutritious food that Australian’s are not eating enough of. Research shows that less than a quarter of Australians eat legumes every day while data from the latest National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey in 2007 revealed only 5-7% of Australian children aged 2-16 years are eating legumes each day.

Legumes provide a range of essential nutrients including good quality protein, low glycaemic carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre. They are generally low in fat and contain no cholesterol. Among the well known legumes are navy beans (baked beans), chickpeas, soybeans, lentils, red kidney beans, cannellini beans, butter beans and split peas.

Epidemiological studies consistently show that eating legumes can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity, as well as improve gut health. One study found that consumption of legumes four or more times per week, was associated with a 22% lower risk of coronary heart disease and 11% lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

A seven year longitudinal study of older people from different dietary cultures (including Japan, Sweden, Greece and Australia), found higher legume intake was the most protective dietary predictor of longevity, with a 7-8% reduction in risk of death for every 20g increase in daily legume intake.

Recent science suggests there may be a stronger role for legumes in helping to protect against prostate, breast and colorectal cancer than previously thought. Two large international cohort studies report; a lower incidence of colorectal adenoma’s in women who consumed four or more servings of legumes a week, and a 33% lower risk of colorectal cancer in women who ate the most legumes, although much of the evidence is limited to soy intake as there are generally low intakes of other legumes in most free-living populations.

There is consistent scientific evidence for the role of wholegrains, and suggestive evidence for the role of legumes, in protecting against cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and obesity. The risk reduction (20-30%) from just three serves of wholegrain foods (equivalent to 3 slices of wholegrain bread) a day could theoretically translate to health expenditure savings of over $1.2 billion a year.

Start by switching to a wholemeal / mixed grain bread or wholegrain breakfast cereal.

To download a copy of The Grains & Legumes Health Report, visit

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Carbohydrates debunked

Refined carbohydrates - better than you think!

Mixed messages about carbohydrates and their effect on the body are common in the media, with research findings sometimes contributing to further confusion. Carbohydrate foods such as bread and rice have been staples from ancient times for many cultures, but today there are many misconceptions about how and when they should be eaten or even if they should be eliminated from the diet. Avoid eating carbohydrates after a certain time of the day as you won’t burn them off or opt for low glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrate choices - does this sound familiar, the dos and don’ts of eating? Carbohydrates are often linked to causes of obesity and other chronic illnesses, but are other underlying factors responsible?

Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for the body, particularly the brain, nervous system and red blood cells. They are found in many foods we eat in different forms ranging from those closest to their natural form (oats, rice, legumes), to those that have been processed to allow eating and digesting more readily (bread, pasta, breakfast cereals), to those that are considered more a ‘treat’ (sugars, sweet biscuits, soft drinks).

Carbohydrates should contribute approximately 45-65 percent of the energy in a healthy diet. Healthy carbohydrate options include grain-based foods like bread, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, noodles and legumes, starchy vegetables, fruit and milk products. Cutting out these carbohydrate foods does not make good sense as they contribute important nutrients including protein, dietary fibre and essential vitamins and minerals such as iron, folate and thiamin. Wholegrain varieties also contain many components that can promote good health.

‘Not so healthy’ carbohydrate foods such as soft drinks, cordials, fruit juices, lollies, cakes, doughnuts, sweet biscuits and pizza add few if any nutrients to the diet and may be inappropriate sources of energy on a regular basis.

Carbohydrates and health

Carbohydrates have differing effects on blood glucose levels depending on the type and quantity eaten. The carbohydrates in foods with a high glycaemic index (GI) are digested rapidly whereas those in low GI foods are slowly digested. A low GI diet is generally encouraged but a healthy diet can include both high and low GI foods.

A small number research studies have shown an association between a high GI diet and increased risk of disease such as heart disease. On closer inspection the carbohydrate food sources in such studies are not always representative of healthy options but often include less healthy options such as sugar, honey, jam, pizza and cakes. These foods are often higher in saturated fat, with up to double the amount recommended by health authorities which could also attribute to health outcomes. Other factors which may influence study outcomes, but are not always accounted for, include body weight, smoking, exercise, alcohol consumption and stress management.

When considering the pros and cons of eating carbohydrates, nutrient content should be considered as well as the GI. Carbohydrates foods such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta and oats provide a range of important nutrients. Refined varieties are lower in nutrients than wholegrain varieties but can make a nutritionally important contribution to a healthy diet. Carbohydrate foods such as soft drinks, confectionary, cakes and sweet biscuits provide minimal nutrients and are not a suitable part of a healthy diet on a regular basis.

Australian dietary guidelines recommend 4+ serves a day of grain-based foods such as breads, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta and crispbreads, and it is good practice to make at least half of these wholegrain. Variety is important, so choose from all food groups daily, with less healthy ‘treats’ eaten only occasionally.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Popular 'low carb' diet overhauled

Fad diets come and go and some are revisited, but yet they always seem to be an ongoing topic of conversation in the media and even amongst friends. The Atkins diet is back and revamped with the inclusion of fruit and vegetables. Wholegrains are introduced in the maintenance phase. Why has this diet been changed if it was, in its original form, an appropriate and successful method for weight loss? Can it be that event the proponents realise there is a better way?

The word 'diet' is a head turning top, but for most dietitians and nutrition healthcare professionals, it can have an eye rolling effect. The term 'diet' - once used to describe the usual food and drink intake of a person - is now more commonly associated with a restrictive regimen to promote weight loss.

There are countless diets that claim effective and quick weight loss, most often not supported by research. Weight loss trademarks claiming 'sweet, sexy, science' are related more to marketing than to credible research. What can be sweet and sexy about a weight loss program even though it claims to have the science behind it? Science in simple terms is knowledge gained through research and investigation.

Our ancestors seemed to live a simple life, food was consumed closest to its natural form, technology was not as evolved, people were more active and overweight and obesity was not common. Today the incidence of overweight and obesity is of concern. In 2007-08, one quarter of all Australian children aged 15-17 years were overweight or obese. Studies have shown that once children become obese they are more likely to stay obese into adulthood and have an increased risk of developing chronic diseases. In 2007-08, almost two-fifths (37%) of adults in Australia aged 18 years or over, were overweight and a further quarter (25%) were obese. The economic cost of obesity due to the loss of wellbeing and burden of disease is enormous ($8.3 billion in 2008, in Australia).

The World Health Organisation projects that by 2015, approximately 2.3 billion adults will be overweight and more than 700 million will be obese, globally. With these fast growing statistics it is no wonder that organisation are claiming to have the solution to weight problems.

The simple laws of physics demand that energy 'in' should equal energy 'out'. However, our increasingly sedentary lifestyle at work and home, modes of transportation and increased intakes of energy dense foods (high in fat and sugar but low in vitamin, minerals and other nutrients), means the modern trend is for a higher energy intake than expended by the body.

Surely a lifestyle change is necessary to ensure energy consumed does not exceed expended, rather than a diet that claims to kick start weight loss by restricting carbohydrates? Even the term 'kick start' mentions physical activity! As well as monitoring food intake, physical activity should be a focus of healthy weight management.

Diets that are focused on restricting carbohydrates (commonly referred to as carbs) - some even go to the extent of providing carb counters - should send off warning bells. Who wants to count numbers around everything eaten? Weight management is not simply about limiting energy by restricting carbohydrate intake - because everything contributes energy, particularly fat and protein - but more about quality and quantity eaten.

Diets that severely restrict carbohydrates often recommend eating meat such as bacon on a regular basis and clearly do not have the correct science behind them. For example, a piece of bacon is nutritionally inferior to a slice of wholegrain bread or an apple - high quality carbohydrate foods that provide nutrients, antioxidants and fibre. What is important is the quality of carbohydrate eaten. Fruit, breads, cereals (particularly wholegrain) and legumes are carbohydrate containing foods that should be included in a healthy diet every day, whereas carbohydrate foods such as ice cream, soft drinks and sweet biscuits should be treated as 'occasional' foods.

Food is not only eaten to provide sustenance, it also provides enjoyment, and often brings family and friends together. So too does exercise (gold, soccer, football, walking). Remembering the simple rule of physics ensures we can enjoy eating a variety of food and drink in moderation each day, whilst being physically active. Maintaining this long term contributes to a healthy lifestyle.

2. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2009. Australian Social Trends. Commonwealth of Australia
3. World Health Organisation, 2006. Fact Sheet 311: Obesity and overweight

Recovery from exercise

Switch your sports drink for cereal & milk

You have just returned home from a long bike ride or run, do you reach for the big brand sports drink or sit down to a nutritious bowl of wholegrain cereal and milk? The results from a recent study in the US could change your mind and improve your bank balance. The researchers found the readily available and cost effective recovery option of cereal and low fat milk was comparable to sports drinks in refuelling muscles with glycogen, and may be better at helping tired muscles build protein.

Originally designed to offset dehydration in elite athletes, sports drinks are marketed strongly and have high product awareness amongst the general public and elite athletes. They contain sodium, potassium and chloride plus around 6% carbohydrates and are formulated to aid rapid recovery by providing energy for active muscles and electrolytes for re-hydration. Available in an endless range of flavours to suit individual preferences, sports drinks may help to encourage drinking and re-hydration through their preferred taste compared to water.

Lynne Kammer and her team of researchers at the University of Texas at Austin set out to research the effect of using ordinary foods after moderate exercise (as performed by an average fit individual) to support recovery processes. Endurance exercising causes short term changes to occur in the body, particularly in the muscle. Energy stores are depleted and muscle proteins are broken down to make way for new, stronger muscle proteins. Optimal recovery of muscle energy stores and muscle repair requires eating the right foods at the right times.

The researchers fed 12 healthy trained subjects with either 1200mL of sports drink or 73g (about 1 1/3 cups) of wholegrain cereal and 350mL of skim milk after 2 hours of moderate cycling (60-65% VO2Max). They found no significant differences between sports drink and cereal and milk, except for one marker of protein synthesis. The results of this study suggest that wholegrain cereal and milk is as good, and in some aspects may be better than, commercially available sports drink at kick starting muscle recovery after exercise, especially when refuelling at home, where cereal and milk is often freely available.

The important take home message from this study is not only that ordinary whole food sources such as cereal and milk may offer a more cost effective recovery strategy than commercial sports nutrition products, but also that the combination of protein and carbohydrate from whole foods provide an easily digestible, high quality source of protein and carbohydrates with naturally occurring nutrients, as compared to extra calories provided from a somewhat expensive sports drink. Other protein-carbohydrate recovery foods might include low-fat yoghurt and fruit, low-fat flavoured milk/smoothie or a sandwich with meat/cheese.

Kammer et al, Cereal and nonfat milk support muscle recovery following exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 2009, 6:11

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

All about rye

Keep regular and feel fuller for longer

Chronic constipation affects up to 27% of the population in Western countries and may affect an individual's quality of life. Research has shown that eating wholegrain rye bread relieves constipation and also decreases appetite.

Rye bread can help keep you regular

Nearly one half of those suffering from constipation are unsatisfied with their treatment due to it being ineffective. Various products are available in the market to alleviate constipation - ranging from natural to medicinal sources - but these can be costly and may result in unfavourable gastrointestinal effects (cramps, bloating, flatulence or diarrhoea).

A recent study has shown that an average of 2-3 slices* of wholegrain rye bread relieved mild constipation within one week without increasing unfavourable gastrointestinal effects. Wholegrain rye bread was more effective than wheat bread or laxatives, and improved bowel function compared to other forms of fibre or laxatives. It also created a favourable bowel environment, regulating gastrointestinal activity. Previous investigations have also shown that rye bread had positive effects on bowel function in healthy and constipated adults.

Rye is rich in dietary fibre and contains components such as arabinoxylan which appear to feed the growth of beneficial bacteria in the bowel. The growth of beneficial bacteria discourages the growth of harmful bacteria and contributes to intestinal health.

Rye bread can help keep you fuller

Other research has shown that eating wholegrain rye bread approximately 3-4 slices* resulted in decreased appetite compared to white wheat bread. Wholegrain rye bread decreased hunger feelings both before and after lunch when included in a breakfast meal, and rye bread and rye products resulted in a better insulin response. What contributed to the feeling of fullness is not known, however research to date has shown that foods naturally rich in dietary fibre promote this feeling and decrease appetite in the short term. Dietary fibre that delays absorption of nutrients may lead to the feeling of fullness for longer by increasing the time required for digestion.

Long term studies show that an increased intake of dietary fibre results in a lowered energy intake and loss of body weight. These results are also supported by studies that show a diet low in dietary fibre is associated with an increased risk of obesity.

About rye

Dating back as far as 500AD, rye was introduced as a staple in Britain by the Saxons and Danes. Today rye bread is made with various percentages of rye flour and is generally available in 3 varieties:
  • light rye - a combination of rye and wheat flour (lighter, softer, milder flavoured bread)
  • dark rye - includes a large proportion of rye flour
  • pumpernickel - dark bread made from a mixture of rye flour, rye meal and kibbled or cracked rye grains
Rye bread can be light or dark in colour depending on the proportion of rye flour used. It is often dense in texture and high in fibre. Look out for words "whole", "wholegrain", kibbled" and "flaked" next to rye in the ingredients list. Remember ingredients are listed from highest to lowest quantity in the product.

*1 slice = 35g

1. Holma et al. Constipation is relieved more by rye bread than wheat bread or laxatives without increased adverse gastrointestinal effects. J.Nutr. 2010; 140: 534-541
2. Isaksson et al. Effect of rye bread breakfasts on subjective hunger and satiety: a randomized controlled trial. Nutrition Journal. 2009; 8:39
3. Rosen et al. Endosperm and whole grain rye breads are characterized by low post-prandial insulin response and a beneficial blood glucose profile. Nutrition Journal. 2009; 8:42

Monday, March 8, 2010

Awesome oats

Beyond cholesterol lowering

Don't wait for a cold winter's day to reap the health benefits of oats. New evidence suggests there may be more to oats than cholesterol lowering, with recent research revealing special compounds in oats may help protect against heart attached by reducing inflammation and blockages in blood vessels, and initial investigations have found oats may decrease the risk of asthma in young children.

Killing one Australian every 10 mins and affecting two out of three Australian families, cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in Australia with huge financial impacts on our health care system. Fortunately, many of the risk factors for CVD are preventable including smoking, high blood pressure, lack of physical activity, diabetes, overweight, obesity and high cholesterol.

For the past decade or more, there have been a growing number of scientific studies supporting the role that oats can play lowering cholesterol and helping to protect against cardiovascular disease. A new study has found oats can help not only reduce LDL (bad cholesterol), but also decrease waist circumference in overweight and obese adults as part of a 3 month weight loss program. Just 2 serves (40g each) of a wholegrain oat cereal each day as part of a weight loss program reduced LDL cholesterol by almost 10%, significantly more than lower fibre control foods as part of a weight loss program (5%). The even better news is; these favourable outcomes were noticed as early as 4 weeks into the study. Both groups lost around 2kg over the duration of the weight loss program, but the group eating oats lost significantly more weight from around their waist.

Oats are naturally rich in beta-glucan (a type of soluble fibre), considered to be responsible for the cholesterol lowering benefits of oats. More recently, another powerful component of oats has been linked to good health. Avenanthramides, a type of antioxidant has been found to help reduce the ability of blood cells to stick to artery walls. This effect could help reduce hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) which can in time lead to heart attack. One study also suggested these avenanthramides could help explain how oats can reduce the risk of colon cancer.

In addition to heart health, some evidence from initial investigations has shown oats can help reduce the risk of asthma in young children. The study conducted in Finland found early introduction (in the first 6 months) of oats into the diets of babies with an increased risk for type 1 diabetes was associated with a significantly lower risk of persistent asthma by the age of 5 years. These findings need to be confirmed in other populations.

Oats are an economical and versatile wholegrain that can provide the whole family with essential vitamins, minerals, and fibre for good health. Many food manufacturers have realised the health benefits of oats, and you can now enjoy the pleasure of eating oats all year round with new product developments such as oat breakfast biscuits, bread with added oats and many flaked and shaped breakfast cereals made from oats. Aim to eat 4 or more serves of grain-based foods (like oats, breads, breakfast cereals, pasta and rice) everyday - at least half should be wholegrain.

1. Maki KC et al. Whole-grain ready-to-eat oat cereal, as part of a dietary program for weight loss, reduced low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in adults with overweight and obesity more than a dietary program including low-fibre control foods. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010; 110;205-214
2. Andon MB et al. Stae of the Art Reviews: The oatmeal-cholesterol connection: 10 years later. AJLM 2008; 2:51-57
3. Virtanen et al. Early introduction of oats associated with decreased risk of persistent asthma and early introduction of fish with decreased risk of allergic rhinitis. B J Nutr. 2010; 103:266-273

Monday, February 1, 2010

Wholegrains and hypertension

Food manufacturers reduce sodium in food supply

Most people know wholegrains are better for you. Along with lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some cancers; latest research has established that wholegrains can also help to lower your risk of and reduce hypertension (high blood pressure) potentially decreasing the need for medication.

Hypertension is defined as a systolic blood pressure of 140mmHg or higher or a diastolic blood pressure of 90mmHg or higher. A leading risk factor for heart disease, hypertension tends to develop with age and is estimated to affect over 2 million Australians. High dietary sodium intake is just one of the many major risk factors for hypertension together with physical inactivity, smoking, overweight or obesity and alcohol consumption.

In a US study of almost 30,000 female health professionals, those who ate more than 4 servings of wholegrains (equivalent to 4 slices of wholegrain bread) had a 23% lower risk of hypertension compared to those who ate virtually no wholegrains. Even those who ate smaller amounts of wholegrains (equivalent to 1 slice of wholegrain bread) had a 7% reduced risk.

The Health Professionals Follow Up Study of over 50,000 US males found a similar association, with those eating the most wholegrains having nearly a 20% reduction in risk of hypertension compared to those eating the least wholegrains. This inverse association between wholegrain intake and risk of hypertension was evident independent of sodium intake. This finding is important since grain-based foods such as bread and breakfast cereals are coming under increasing 'fire' from health professionals for their contribution to sodium intakes.

Eating less sodium doesn't mean cutting out foods like bread and breakfast cereal. National dietary surveys in both adults and children show that grain-based foods are important sources of essential macro and micro- nutrients to the diets of Australians, even though they contribute to sodium intake. In the recent National Children's Nutrition & Physical Activity Survey, as much as half of the total sodium intake from grain-based foods came from less desirable products like biscuits, cakes and takeaway option, highlighting the importance of strategies to reduce sodium contribution from non-core foods.

Choosing healthier grain-based food options can help lower the amount of sodium we eat. Australian research published this year by Webster and colleagues found cereals and cereal products, particularly breakfast cereals, cereal bars, pasta and noodles, to be amongst the lowest sodium foods. Processed meats, sauces and spreads were the highest in sodium.

Many large manufacturers of popular grain-based foods in Australia have reduced the sodium content of their products over the past decade or more by an average of 25% in the quest to further reduce sodium content of foods available within the Australian food supply. Manufacturers are committed to continue long-term sodium reduction efforts slowly and safely where technically feasible, to maintain consumer acceptability and taste expectations, so grain-based foods can continue to be enjoyed every day by Australians of all ages.

Go Grains Health & Nutrition 2009

1. Webster et al, A systematic survey of the sodium contents of processed foods, AJCN, 2010
2. Flint et al, Whole grains and incident hypertension in men, AJCN, 2009
3. Wang et al, Whole- and refined grain intakes and the risk of hypertension in women, AJCN, 2007

Diet affects academic performance

Children with healthier diets do better in school

But yet another study of school students has demonstrated an association between overall diet quality and academic performance. There was a significant association between eating a variety of nutritious foods in the correct amounts and academic performance. Poor diet with too much fat and sugar and too little fruit, vegetables and wholegrains, is recognised as the primary contributor to overweight and obesity in school children, with undernourished school children shown to have decreased attention and academic performance compared to those well nourished.

Healthy eating habits adopted early in childhood and maintained through adolescence and adulthood will benefit academic performance, and improve long term health potentially reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

With school holidays over, it is back to the ritual of the school year and lunchbox preparation. The lunchbox makes up a large proportion of the food eaten daily by school children and therefore should include a variety of nutritious foods as recommended by dietary guidelines. A healthy diet should include at least four serves of grain-based foods each day (including breads, rice, pasta and noodles), vegetables and legumes, fruit, dairy products, meat, fish and poultry products.

Providing children with quality, variety and adequate nutrition will fuel them with energy to keep them physically active and mentally alert for school activities throughout the day.

Lunch box ideas

Fruit: fresh or tinned fruit. Cut up and easy to eat whole fruit is more appealing. Dried fruit is high in sugar so should be provided occasionally.

Vegetables: cherry tomatoes and vegetable sticks such as carrot, cucumber, celery and capsicum, make great snacks or sandwich fillings. Include dips such as yoghurt, avocado, hummus, eggplant or any homemade dips (a better alternative as they have less salt and fat).

Dairy Food: fruit yoghurts, milk drinks which can be frozen overnight, mini packaged cheeses or cheese sticks. Low fat and low salt crackers accompaniments are a healthier alternative to pre-packaged ones.

Breads: include variety; multi-grain breads, wholemeal pitas and wholegrain rolls are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals and are a great source of healthy carbohydrates - providing children with energy for physical activity, healthy growth and good brain function. Half white and half wholemeal sandwiches are a great way to introduce fussy eaters to wholegrains. Try crispbreads and fruit loaf or buns, foccacias, muffins, crumpets, rice cakes and homemade pizza. Avoid chips and savoury biscuits as these tend to be high in salt and fat.

Water: is the best and first choice for hydration, and especially important in the warmer months.

Sandwich Fillings: variety adds interest. Include vegemite, various spreads, cheese, lean meat, chicken, tuna, salmon, egg, baked beans, avocado, tomato, lettuce, rocket, hummus, grated carrot, sliced cucumber and snow pea sprouts.

What to Look Out For

Lunch Box Safety: ensure foods are appetising and do not become warm or soggy after several hours. Pack food in insulated containers. Lunch boxes should be kept cool to ensure they are safe. Pack a frozen water bottle or ice brick with the lunch. Perishable items should be packed between the cold items.

Nuts: many schools have a nut free policy due to the incidence of allergy. Consult with your school if nuts or nut spreads are an option to include in the lunchbox.

Salt: is listed on the nutrition panel as sodium. Foods with less than 120mg per 100g are low in salt, while foods with more than 500mg are high in salt.

Fat: look for low fat and low saturated fat options.

1. Florence et al. Diet and Academic Performance. J Sch Health. 2008;78:209-215
2. Evans et al. A cross-sectional survey of children's packed lunches in the UK: food and nutrient -based results. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2009;0:1-7.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Loving legumes

Good for your health & the environment

Join the cultures around the world that believe eating legumes, specifically black-eyed peas and lentils on New Year's Day, will bring prosperity and good fortune. At Go Grains Health & Nutrition we know that enjoying legumes on any day of the year will bring more than prosperity and good fortune - good health too! Not only are legumes cheap (tick for prosperity), they are versatile, a great source of fibre, contain plenty of vitamins and minerals, carbohydrates for energy and a great non-meat protein alternative. People who eat legumes have a decreased risk of many diseases such as Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), Hypertension, Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) and Cancer.

Sometimes known as pulses, legumes are the dried edible seeds of legume plants such as lentils, beans and peas. The main legumes available in Australia include: chickpeas, soy beans, navy beans (more commonly known as baked beans), brown lentils, red lentils, cannellini beans, lima beans (butter beans), broad beans (fava beans), red kidney beans, mung beans, peanuts (yes, peanuts are technically a legume), split peas, black-eyed peas, adzuki beans and pinto beans.

Legumes are a very important contributor to a healthy diet, yet so many people are missing out. Research conducted by Go Grains Health & Nutrition in 2009 found that Australians (n=1700) on average are eating only 1/3 of a serve of legumes (1 serve = 1/2 cup cooked, 75g) a day. Painting an even bleaker picture, research from the 2007 National Children's Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey found only 4.9-7.3% of children aged 2-16 years ate legumes the day before they were interviewed for the study.

Legumes are inexpensive, easy to prepare and very nutritious - rich in protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals, particularly B vitamins, iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium, and they are also low in fat! You might already be eating legumes without realising it - baked beans, dahl, hummus and falafels are all made with legumes.

One of the most common reasons cited for not eating more legumes is lack of knowledge about how to cook and prepare them. To improve their nutritional value, digestibility and reduce effects of flatulence you should always soak raw, dry legumes before consumption.
  • Quick soak - add 3 cups of water to each cup of legumes in a saucepan. Bring to boil and remove from heat. Cover and leave for 1-2 hours. Rinse before cooking.
  • Slow soak - soak legumes covered with plenty of water in a cool place for 4-8 hours (overnight is best), then drain and rinse before cooking.
  • Cooking - place soaked legumes into a saucepan and cover with fresh water. Bring to boil and cook for 1 1/2 - 2 hrs until tender. Added salt will prolong the cooking time.
If this is all too hard, then pre-cooked (canned) legumes are very convenient. You could drain and rinse them before cooking to remove excess sodium from the water.

Including legumes in your diet can lead to positive changes, especially in terms of dietary fibre which can help you to feel fuller for longer. Regular legume consumption can help reduce the risk of diseases such as CHD, cancer and T2DM by decreasing cholesterol and triglycerides, high antioxidant content and anti inflammatory compounds along with the positive effects of fibre and blood glucose control. If you are not used to eating legumes, introduce small amounts into your meals initially to give your digestive system time to adjust to the higher fibre content (resulting in less production of gas).

Legumes are good for you and the environment. Legume crops have a positive impact on the environment. Legume roots produce their own nitrogen which is taken from the air and converted into a form the plant can use. When the legume crop is harvested, excess organic nitrogen (a great fertiliser) is left behind and can be used by other plants, making legumes great rotation crops.

For recipes containing the goodness of legumes visit the recipe section of the Go Grains website.