Friday, November 24, 2017

Forget activated almonds, this year it’s all about sprouted grains!

Last year the Washington Post predicted ‘sprouted everything’ would be a major food trend for 2017 (1). And based on the steadily growing range of sprouted grain products on supermarket shelves in Australia, this trend is here to stay in 2018. But what exactly is a sprouted grain, and does it boost the already impressive nutrient profile of a whole grain? Read on for a summary of the evidence:

But first, what exactly is a sprouted grain?
There is currently no regulated definition for a sprouted grain, but it’s commonly agreed that it is a whole grain that has been soaked in water, and has started the germination process. So put simply, it has ‘sprouted’ a new shoot, and is in the transition phase between a seed, and a new plant.

How do they differ nutritionally to regular grains?
While the evidence around sprouted grains is still emerging, sprouting grains may boost their nutritional value.
The idea is, once they have started sprouting, the grain uses up some of its own starch as energy to grow, which then makes it easier for us to digest. Likewise, germination is said to boost the availability of vitamins and minerals, increase the grain’s antioxidant levels, and reduce phytates - which inhibit the absorption of minerals like zinc, calcium, and iron, meaning we can absorb more of the good stuff. But, given that there is no standard definition for the process, it’s reasonable to assume that variation may exist between products (2,3,4).
Additionally, as sprouted grains need all parts of the grain intact to germinate, they are always a whole grain, as opposed to refined. This is important, as we know whole grains are brimming with health benefits, being richer in protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals than their refined counterparts. So whether or not sprouted grains have additional benefits, those eating them will be reaping the benefits of including whole grains – so it may be a win-win!

What does the research say?
A scan of the literature brings up a small pool of studies – few of which relate to humans. Early findings suggest sprouted grains may reduce risk and assist with the management of chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, fatty liver disease and depression. However, it’s unclear whether eating sprouted products offers additional benefit beyond simply consuming more whole grains, - supported by the evidence as reducing risk of chronic disease and improving diet quality (5).

Where can we find them?
As well as being used in place of grains in home cooking or on trendy café menus, sprouted grains are making their way into a range of commercially available foods. They’re still a niche product, but are growing in popularity in the USA, so it’s no surprise Australia is following suit. We’re seeing sprouted grains appear in cereals and granolas, breads, flours, bars, grain-based drinks, even corn chips!

Can I make them myself?
You can. And on the upside, it’s cheaper than buying pre-sprouted grains, but it can be time consuming and fiddly.
D.I.Y sprouted grains:
1.      Rinse grains and place in a jar
2.      Soak the grains in water for 12 to 24 hours. They will expand as they absorb water, so it’s important that grains are completely submerged
3.      Use a sieve with small holes to drain the water completely from the jar, leaving the grains
4.      Rinse your grains twice a day and leave to drain
5.      Depending on the temperature, humidity and type of grain, sprouting should start to occur within three to seven days
6.      When you are happy with the level of sprouting, dry completely in a low oven or dehydrator and refrigerate for 3 days.

Once prepared, they can be used in the same way that you would ordinarily use grains – such as sprouted brown rice in a stir fry, or sprouted quinoa in a salad.      
Note: it’s important to be aware of food safety when it comes to sprouted grains. As they are prepared under moist, humid conditions, sprouted grains also offer an ideal condition for harmful bacteria to grow, so they can pose a risk for food poisoning. As such, the USA’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggest children, elderly people, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems should avoid eating sprouted grains.

Are they worth the extra effort/money?
Since the evidence is still emerging, it’s too early to confidently recommend sprouting your grains for the health benefits. But, given sprouted grains offer an interesting and tasty way to enjoy whole grains, there’s nothing to be lost from giving them, and the interesting sprouted grain products on the market a go. Watch this space!

1. The Washington Post, Plant proteins, healthy fats and more 2017 food trends. Accessed 16/11/2017 from:
2. Chavan JK, Kadam SS, Beuchat LR. Nutritional improvement of cereals by sprouting. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition. 1989;28(5):401-37.
3. Jaenke R, Barzi F, McMahon E, Webster J, Brimecombe J. Consumer acceptance of reformulated food products: A systematic review and meta-analysis of salt-reduced foods. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition. 2017;57(16):3357-72.
4. Mbithi S, Van Camp J, Rodriguez R, Huyghebaert A. Effects of sprouting on nutrient and antinutrient composition of kidney beans (Phaseolus vulgaris var. Rose coco). European Food Research and Technology. 2001;212(2):188-91.
5. Lorenz K. Cereal sprouts: composition, nutritive value, food applications. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition. 1980;13(4):353-85.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Grains are back: new research shows fewer Australians are avoiding grains!

After years of going against the grain, promising new research from the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC) has found fewer Australians are limiting grain foods, and more of us are enjoying legumes.

The triennial Consumption Study found 47 per cent of Australians limit grains, significantly less than the 60 per cent recorded in 2014. While the persistence of Paleo, low carb, and gluten free diets are likely still pushing the trend of grain-avoidance, these results suggest the wide-spread fear of grains is slowing – and that’s great news for Aussies’ health.

The evidence for grains and health is strong, and continues to develop. Grains like wheat, oats, rice, barley, and rye are nutrition powerhouses, boasting more than 26 nutrients and phytonutrients that help to protect us against chronic disease and arm us with good health. In fact, an in-depth review of more than 300 studies found whole grains and high fibre foods to be the most protective against diet related diseases of all food groups – even more so than fruit and vegetables!(1) 

And the evidence around legumes (think chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans) is equally exciting, with every additional 20g eaten daily (around a tablespoon) reducing risk of early death by 7-8 per cent (2).

Overall, we’re not a country of big legume-eaters, but it’s encouraging to see a greater proportion of Australians are including them in 2017 - 28 per cent, up from 24 per cent in 2014 which continues the upward trend of consumption. This was likely fuelled by the United Nations naming 2016 the International Year of Pulses, which saw celebrity chefs showcase legumes’ versatility and simplicity to prepare, through a whole range of different recipes.

The study also picked up on some interesting trends around the grain and legume foods Australians are eating. The percentage of people eating porridge, for example, has doubled between 2014-2017, while fewer people are choosing wheat breakfast biscuits. The way we eat is evolving too, with snacking on the rise.  Bars for example, were previously eaten as part of a meal at lunch or breakfast, but this year’s results showed they are more commonly eaten as a morning or afternoon snack. We’re also eating more alternative breads like flat breads and wraps.

The GLNC 2017 Consumption Study revealed a number of
encouraging trends in the grains and legumes categories
So how can you reap the wonderful benefits grains and legumes offer? It’s as simple as adding half a cup of legumes, or an extra serve of whole grain foods to your day! Try subbing half the mince in your Bolognese with lentils, or adding a handful of oats to your morning smoothie.
Check out the infographic below to find out what a serve of grains really means, and for more foodie inspiration, check out the recipe section of our website.

1. Fardet A, Boirie Y. Associations between food and beverage groups and major diet-related chronic diseases: an exhaustive review of pooled/meta-analyses and systematic reviews. Nutrition reviews. 2014;72(12):741-62.
2. Darmadi-Blackberry I, Wahlqvist ML, Kouris-Blazos A, Steen B, Lukito W, Horie Y, et al. Legumes: the most important dietary predictor of survival in older people of different ethnicities. Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition. 2004;13(2):217-20.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Plant Foods Offer An Unexpected Protein Hit

Grain foods, including bread, can contribute a surprising amount of plant-based protein to our daily requirements.

While young Aussies are forking out on pricey supplements in a bid to build muscle and cut weight, new evidence has revealed an unexpected source of protein: the humble loaf of bread.

The new findings, from the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council’s (GLNC) annual food category audit, revealed that close to one in every five loaves of wholemeal/whole grain bread assessed was considered a ‘good source’ of protein¹, boasting at least 10g per serve – the same amount found in a glass of milk or two boiled eggs.

Even white bread, often shunned as nutritionally inferior, came out on top with protein content; almost three quarters (73 per cent) of white sliced loaves were a ‘source’ of protein, with at least 5g per serve.

Felicity Curtain, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutrition Manager for GLNC, said this brings perspective to our nation’s protein fixation.

‘Australians are protein-obsessed, with at least 10 per cent of adults over 15 using sports supplements², but most of us can easily reach our daily needs through a range of whole foods, including bread!’

Curtain said grain foods like wheat, rye, barley and oats are naturally rich in plant-based protein, on top of other nutrients like vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and phytochemicals.

‘When combined with other good quality protein foods like meat, eggs, dairy foods or legumes, grains will get you well on your way to meeting your protein needs.’

While individual needs vary based on age, gender, body size and activity level, protein requirements range from between 0.75-1g of protein per kilogram of body weight; around 50g per day for a 65 kilogram woman.

So forget protein shakes, try these post-exercise alternatives that offer at least 15g protein per serve:

· Two slices of whole grain toast with nut butter and sliced banana
· A bowl of whole grain cereal with Greek yoghurt and berries
· A delicious smoothie made with milk, yoghurt, fruit and rolled oats
· A whole grain roll filled with lean ham, cheese and salad
· Whole grain crackers with cheese and hummus

Visit the GLNC Website for recipes, factsheets and up-to-date information on the latest evidence around grains and legumes.


  1. GLNC. 2017 Bread Audit. Unpublished.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Australians Are Falling Short on Cereal Fibre

by Eden Barrett,  Accredited Practising Dietitian and PhD candidate from the University of Wollongong 

When we think about the benefits of fibre, we typically think about its role in digestive health and staying regular. While this is certainly one of fibre’s great benefits, there are many more you may be less familiar with. For example, did you know that a diet high in fibre has also been found to protect against heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers (1,2,3). Additionally, fibre helps you to feel full eating fewer calories, which may explain why higher intakes of fibre are also associated with lower body weight (4).

What is particularly interesting is that these associations are often found to be strongest with high intakes of cereal fibre specifically (3,5,6,7), meaning the fibre that comes specifically from grain foods such as breads, pasta, rice and breakfast cereals.

To understand how much cereal fibre Australians are currently eating, we recently conducted some research with the University of Wollongong to develop a database of more than 1,900 foods containing cereal fibre, expanding on the current AUSNUT 2011-13 food composition database. This database allowed us to estimate how much cereal fibre Australians are getting through the foods they eat. In addition, we were also able to determine the main foods which were contributing to cereal fibre intake as well as how the amount of cereal fibre a person is eating may be related to their likelihood of meeting daily total fibre targets.

On average, Australian adults ate 6.4g of cereal fibre each day, while Australian children and adolescents ate 6.2g each day (8). This is the equivalent of about 2-3 slices of whole grain bread or 1 cup of wholemeal pasta. The main food items contributing cereal fibre within the Australian diets were:

  • Breads and bread rolls (29% of adult intake and 27% of child intake)
  • Ready to eat breakfast cereals and porridge (29% of adult intake and 22% of child intake)
  • Cereal-based mixed dishes (e.g. spaghetti bolognaise or risotto) (13% of adult intake and 16% of child intake).
Australians who ate the most cereal fibre were not only eating more cereal foods in general but were also choosing higher-fibre varieties, such as whole grain breads and breakfast cereals, porridge, whole wheat pasta and bran-based products.

Interestingly, those who ate the most cereal fibre also ate the most total dietary fibre and were more likely to meet the recommended daily target for dietary fibre (30g/day for men and 25g/day for women):

  • Men with diets highest in cereal fibre were 4.4 times more likely to meet the recommended target for total dietary fibre.
  • Women with diets highest in cereal fibre were 3.1 times more likely to meet the target for total fibre.
With that in mind, how much cereal fibre should you be eating, and how can you increase your intake? Within Australia, there is no guideline on how much cereal fibre to eat. However, the Australian Dietary Guidelines suggest adults should aim for four to six serves of grain foods each day and we should aim to choose whole grain, high-fibre options at least half of the time.

While different grains differ in the amount of fibre they provide, opting for whole grain cereal foods is a good way to increase your cereal fibre intake. Importantly, whole grain foods also contain other important nutrients such as magnesium and iron, as well as many B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate).

There are many ways to add whole grains in to your diet at every meal or snack. Here are just a few simple ideas to get you started:

  • Use wholemeal or whole grain bread for your sandwich at lunch
  • Go for plain popcorn or whole grain crackers as a high fibre snack
  • Try porridge in the colder months or muesli in Summer as an easy breakfast option
  • Give wholemeal pita breads a go for healthy homemade pizzas
  • Substitute regular flour for oat flour when baking muffins or making pancakes
  • Try wholemeal pasta or brown rice to boost the fibre content of your favourite family dinners
And remember, even small changes can have big benefits for your health. Just starting with one of these simple swaps to a higher fibre, whole grain option will help to boost your cereal fibre intake and contribute to a healthier you!


1 Yao, B. D., H. Fang, W. H. Xu, Y. J. Yan, H. L. Xu, Y. N. Liu, M. Mo, H. Zhang and Y. P. Zhao (2014). "Dietary fiber intake and risk of type 2 diabetes: a dose-response analysis of prospective studies." European Journal of Epidemiology 29(2): 79-88.
2 Wu, Y. H., Y. F. Qian, Y. W. Pan, P. W. Li, J. Yang, X. H. Ye and G. Xu (2015). "Association between dietary fiber intake and risk of coronary heart disease: A meta-analysis." Clinical Nutrition 34(4): 603-611.
3. Aune, D., D. S. Chan, R. Lau, R. Vieira, D. C. Greenwood, E. Kampman and T. Norat (2011). "Dietary fibre, whole grains, and risk of colorectal cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies." BMJ 343: d6617.
4 Du, H., H. C. van der A Dl Fau - Boshuizen, N. G. Boshuizen Hc Fau - Forouhi, N. J. Forouhi Ng Fau - Wareham, J. Wareham Nj Fau - Halkjaer, A. Halkjaer J Fau - Tjonneland, K. Tjonneland A Fau - Overvad, M. U. Overvad K Fau - Jakobsen, H. Jakobsen Mu Fau - Boeing, B. Boeing H Fau - Buijsse, G. Buijsse B Fau - Masala, D. Masala G Fau - Palli, T. I. A. Palli D Fau - Sorensen, W. H. M. Sorensen Ti Fau - Saris, E. J. M. Saris Wh Fau - Feskens and E. J. Feskens "Dietary fiber and subsequent changes in body weight and waist circumference in European men and women." (1938-3207 (Electronic)).
5 Hajishafiee, M., P. Saneei, S. Benisi-Kohansal and A. Esmaillzadeh (2016). "Cereal fibre intake and risk of mortality from all causes, CVD, cancer and inflammatory diseases: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies." Br J Nutr 116(2): 343-352.
6. Schulze, M. B., M. Schulz, C. Heidemann, A. Schienkiewitz, K. Hoffmann and H. Boeing (2007). "Fiber and magnesium intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes - A prospective study and meta-analysis." Archives of Internal Medicine 167(9): 956-965.
7. Koh-Banerjee, M. F., M. Franz, L. Sampson, S. Liu, D. R. Jacobs, Jr., D. Spiegelman, W. C. Willett and E. Rimm (2004). "Changes in whole-grain, bran, and cereal fiber consumption in relation to 8-y weight gain among men." Am J Clin Nutr 80(5): 1237-1245.

8. Barrett, E. M, Probst, Y. C & Beck, E. J (2017). “Creation of a database for the estimation of cereal fibre intake”. Submitted to Journal of Food Composition and Analysis.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Declaration of Lupin as an Allergen

On the 25th of May 2017 the Australia New Zealand Foods Standard Code added lupin to the list of allergens that must be declared on food packaging. This amendment to Standard 1.2.3 means that it is now mandatory for lupin to be declared when it is present as an ingredient, compound ingredient, additive or processing aid.

Lupin is a type of legume (like kidney beans or lentils) which is available in several formats including flakes, flour and whole beans and can be incorporated into grain foods such as bread, breakfast cereal or pasta. The decision to identify lupin as an allergen on food packaging will make it easier for people with a lupin allergy to identify and avoid foods containing lupin and enjoy those that are lupin free.

This amendment to the Food Standards Code occurs with a 12 month transition period, meaning that the food industry will have until 26 May 2018 to update product information and declarations. All products, new and existing, will be required to comply with this requirement. For more information, click here.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Increasing Legume Intake Among Australians

by Courtney Rose-Davis, APD, PhD Candidate

These days, we’re seeing more and more research suggesting that legumes possess significant health benefits, different to that of other food groups. Studies suggest that consuming legumes 4 times per week, compared to only once, reduces risk of coronary heart disease [1,2]. When legumes are added to our diet, levels of total and LDL cholesterol are lowered [3]. Legumes, including chickpeas, lentils, kidney, fava and black beans, amongst others, are a key feature of the Mediterranean diet, which is predominantly eaten by people living coastally in Southern Europe [4]. This balanced diet has been proven to lower our risk of heart disease and diabetes. Although just one part of this dietary pattern, legumes provide important nutrients including protein, fibre and other minerals, especially as the Mediterranean diet is low in meat. In terms of health benefits, one study showed that the Mediterranean diet would only be 90% as effective if legumes were excluded [5]. 

In Australia the story is very different, where adults eat very few legumes. Data from the most recent National Nutrition Survey suggests legume intake is only 20 g/week for males, and 16 g/week for females [6]. The health benefits of following a Mediterranean diet with legumes could be enormous; however this previously hadn’t been well studied. So we conducted a research trial where older Australians (aged >64 years) were asked to follow a Mediterranean diet for 6 months. Around 80 participants were asked to consume at least 3 servings of legumes per week, at a serving size of 75 g or half a cup (225 g/week). Three servings of legumes were provided to participants as canned legumes, to make this easier for them. The participants had their diets analysed before they commenced the study and median legume intake was 0 grams/week, meaning at least half the study participants were eating no legumes at all. The average intake however was 140g/week, which was quite high compared with national data, however still less than half the amount needed to provide health benefits.

Surprisingly, over the course of the study, legume intake increased to an average of 340g/week, with the median increasing from 0 to 231 g/week. Anecdotally, participants said they found legumes not only tasty, but versatile and useful when making filling lunches and salads. Recipes and instructions to incorporate legumes were provided, such as making legume patties and dips, adding legumes to soups, casseroles and salads and even replacing some meat with legumes.

It’s difficult to say with certainty which of these factors contributed to the legume increase, however, it appears that with some instruction and encouragement, older Australians could greatly increase their intake and enjoy legumes more often. The easy provision of legumes might have played a large role, although participants clearly went and bought their own on top of our provisions suggesting that participants genuinely enjoyed this part of their diet. It's most likely that several factors contributed, including providing them for free, provision of innovative recipes, additional suggestions on how to incorporate them in their daily diet, but most importantly - the enjoyment factor. Legume intake likely promoted the intake of other healthful dietary components too, like olive oil and vegetables, as these are often consumed together.

The potential health benefits of such a change are exciting! Legumes on their own have been associated with considerable health benefits, and even more so when being consumed as part of the Mediterranean diet. Our encouraging results suggest that given the right resources, such as recipe inspiration and handy tips, most people can become a legume fan. Here are our easy tips to help you enjoy legumes more frequently:

- If using canned legumes, make sure you rinse them well before using – this can help reduce the sodium content by up to 40%.

- If using dried legumes, soak and cook in large batches and freeze in individual portions for quick and easy additions to midweek meals.

- Use lentils or black beans as a substitute for mincemeat – mix into patties, meatballs, spaghetti bolognaise and taco mince.

- Add to salads for a filling protein and fibre hit.

- Add to soups and casseroles to bulk out.

- Mix in with pasta dishes - this works especially well with lentils and chickpeas.

- Make nachos with kidney beans or black beans.

- Add mixed legumes to tomato, onion and canned fish and drizzle with olive oil  and lemon juice for a delicious, Mediterranean salad.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

What’s trending in grains?

By Alexandra Locke

After a 30% drop in grains consumption in 2014 (1) and plenty of talk about the benefits of the paleo, diet, the dangers of gluten and the plus side to cutting carbs, we’re now seeing a shift in media perspective,  with a much  more positive outlook for grains overall! With the right conditions, it’s high time to start promoting the benefits of grains again and get consumers back on board.

But where do the opportunities lie? There are three key trends where we see grains leading the charge in innovation…

Digestive Wellness

More than ever before, consumers are paying attention to how a specific food can make them feel, so they’re consciously looking for the benefits that certain foods can provide. What’s more, they want to feel assured that they’re promoting their digestive health and overall wellness when making food choices – these consumers will pay a premium for products which taste good and offer functional digestive benefits.

And this is where grains, whole grains specifically, come in – whole grains exhibit an impressive nutritional profile, providing dietary fibre, protein and are a healthy source of carbohydrate , also contributing nutrients like magnesium, folate and iron to our diets. Fibre intake is directly related to our digestive health so the opportunities for whole grain innovation in this category are big!
Good Carbs, Bad Carbs

Over the past year or so we've increasingly seen consumers understanding that there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ carbs, with an emphasis on the importance of choosing the most healthful carbohydrate format. Both the media and consumers are becoming more aware that carbohydrates are essential as part of a healthy balanced diet, focusing on crowding out refined and processed carbohydrates by increasing intake of whole grains, wholemeal bread and pseudo-grains, as well as eating more ‘alternative’ forms of carbohydrates, think sweet potato toasts and zucchini noodles.

With ‘healthier’ forms of traditionally carbohydrate heavy foods now on the rise, we’re seeing significant movement towards alternatives such as ancient grains, legumes flours and even substitution of flour with pureed veg! But again, with consumer awareness of whole grains on the rise, grains can still play a significant part in the healthful innovation of this category.

And finally, the rise of snackification is promoting massive innovation. The Australian snacking market is now worth more than $2 billion and climbing fast (2) and Australians are now snacking four times as much as 10 years ago.

And it would appear that anything goes with this trend, any food can be engineered to be thought of as a snack, any time of day is open to snackification and there are no limits on product development - almost any ingredient that can be dried, pureed, shaped, extruded or frozen is open to innovation. Whilst grains traditionally dominated this category, we’re still seeing big opportunities for grain foods moving forward. More food than ever is being consumed on-the-go, especially at breakfast and manufacturers are innovating with grains to make healthy choices more convenient for today’s busy lifestyles.

Whilst these trends clearly present big opportunities for manufacturers and retailers, there are also significant opportunities for those at the very beginning of the supply chain – for the growers and the farmers.

These mega-trends have paved the way for several smaller trends within the grains space…

Ancient Grains 

Quinoa is now found on nearly every trendy café menu in some form or another with this group of grains being seen as untainted and intrinsically healthy. Perhaps their alternative title of pseudo-grains has helped with the allure, but this presents opportunities for diversification on farm and many young farmers are doing just that. And perhaps fonio is the next big ancient grain?

Back to Basics with Oats 

This humble grain has seen a huge resurgence in popularity in recent years and manufacturers have already taken advantage of this opportunity. Now’s the time for growers to reap the rewards of increased demand for this crop and add value in the form of exclusivity… think single origin oats, exotic flavours and on-the-go formats.


Consumers want to connect with their food more than ever, so now is the time for growers to tell their story. With social media at our fingertips and whole communities of consumers ready and waiting, the desire to understand where our food comes from is strong. And consumers are actively seeking out those products with a story behind them.

Now is the time to connect with consumers, tell them the story of how their product got from farm to store and enrich them with the knowledge of understanding where their food comes from. We can’t leave it just to the marketers and manufacturers to promote this category anymore – we all need to be involved with spreading the story and helping to bring back the belief in grains!


1. GLNC. 2017. Consumption & Attitudes Study. Unpublished.
2. Innova Market Insights Report. 2016