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.
Snackification

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.

Provenance 

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!


References

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 Unpublished.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

Monday, May 22, 2017

An Ingrained Truth: Pre-Exercise Fuelling & Post-Exercise Recovery Foods for Performance

By Toni L Franklin

Accredited Practising Dietitian, Dietitians Association of Australia, Provisional Sports Dietitian, Sport Dietitians Australia


The desire to seek out new or peculiar foods to add to our arsenal of table talk, or ‘foodstagram’ posts, is born out of natural human curiosity. But is there any grain of truth in the notion that we should be seeking out exclusive ancient grains to fuel our exercise training and performances?

Fuelling our bodies before exercise and restoring nutrition after exercise is a fundamental component of Sport Nutrition. Why?

Before exercise, the carbohydrate in food tops up our liver and muscle glycogen stores, especially if we are training first thing in the morning after an overnight fast. Eating before exercise also helps to avoid that niggling hungry feeling and help us get the most out of our training. Taking care to eat foods that don’t cause gastrointestinal upset should also be at the forefront of your food choices (1,2). After exercise, food helps you refuel in preparation for subsequent exercise sessions, promotes muscle repair and growth, boosts adaptation that occurs as a result of training and supports your immune function (3,4). The combination of appropriate nutritious foods and exercise works synergistically to help you achieve your goals.

Traditional and ancient grains battle it out on the playing field. Which is best?

Grains are a nutritious source of carbohydrate, fibre and micronutrients. A good comparison of the nutrient composition of different grains is found in the article “What’s all the fuss about trendy grains?” Grains also contain some protein, a fact that is commonly overlooked. Previous studies have investigated animal protein sources with a high amount of an amino acid called leucine and found around 20g stimulates muscle protein synthesis during recovery from exercise. However, we have recently seen an increasing interest in investigating plant sources of protein to support muscle protein synthesis, perhaps through fortification of leucine or by combining plant based proteins such as grains with complementary amino acid profiles (5).

So do both the hipster ancient grains and the traditional grandparent grains provide appropriate fuel for exercise? 

 The answer is yes. However, at this point, it’s important to reveal another essential principle of sports nutrition - using familiar foods with a known tolerance is always encouraged for key training sessions or competition. Most runners would not wear a brand new, untested pair of running shoes for a marathon race unless they are invincible to injury, blisters and indifferent about performance. If an ancient grain buckwheat, quinoa and chia acai bowl is what you normally eat and tolerate before exercise, go forth and conquer. But a good old-fashioned porridge or some whole grain toast with banana and honey is equally effective and possibly more tolerable on the gut if this is what you are used to eating. There is also something to be said about the nostalgic calming effect that familiar foods can have on settling rattled nerves before a big event. The crux of the matter is that a varied diet remains central to a healthy lifestyle. Both traditional and ancient grains should be friends not foes and there is no grain more ‘superior’ than another.

Key points for fuelling and recovery 

- Have your pre-exercise meal 3-4 hours before exercise if you struggle with gastrointestinal discomfort during exercise. This is more crucial for higher intensity weight bearing sports such as footy and running or sports where your stomach will be jostled about, such as gymnastics or boxing. If you are having a smaller snack this can be eaten 1 or 2 hours before the event.

- Good pre-exercise meals or snacks include: eggs and tomato on rye toast, a whole grain sandwich or wrap with some lean protein and salad, wholemeal raisin toast or oats with yoghurt and fruit.

- Try to have some post-exercise recovery nutrition with a combination of carbohydrates and protein as soon as possible after your event.

- Good recovery nutrition meals or snacks include: whole grain crackers and cheese or nut butter, wholemeal pasta and vegetable salad, tabbouleh, wholemeal spaghetti and meatballs, homemade muesli bar with oats or dried fruit and seeds.

And if you’re ever unsure about what’s best for YOU, contact an Accredited Sports Dietitian for your tailored nutrition plan to help you be your best.

Toni Franklin is a Dietitian with a background in clinical and sport nutrition. For more information about how you can use nutrition to improve your sport performance, please contact a member of Sport Dietitians Australia (SDA), Australia’s peak professional body and credible source of sport nutrition information. Visit www.sportsdietitians.com.au for more information.



References

1. SDA Sports Dietitians Australia. Factsheets: Eating & Drinking before exercise. Retrieved from: https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/factsheets/fuelling-recovery/eating-drinking-sport/

2. Australian Sports Commission (2009). Eating before exercise. Retrieved from: http://www.ausport.gov.au/ais/sports_nutrition/fact_sheets/eating_before_exercise

3. SDA Sports Dietitians Australia. Factsheets: Recovery Nutrition. Retrieved from: https://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/factsheets/fuelling-recovery/recovery-nutrition/

4. Australian Sports Commission (2009). Recovery nutrition. Retrieved from: http://www.ausport.gov.au/ais/sports_nutrition/fact_sheets/recovery_nutrition

5. Witard, O.C., Wardle, S.L., Macnaughton, L.S., Hodgson, A.B., Tipton, K.D. (2016). Protein considerations for optimising skeletal muscle mass in healthy young and older adults. Nutrients, 23;8(181) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4848650/

Carbohydrates & Fertility: An Update On the Latest Research

By Melanie McGrice, AdvAPD

One in six Australian couples struggle to conceive [i] and the psychological, physical and emotional impacts of infertility can be overwhelming.  As one woman struggling with fertility recently wrote on her Instagram feed “I am angry.  Angry at my friends and family who managed to have children easily, angry at the doctor who told me that I had nothing to worry about, and mostly, angry at myself for all of the croissants that I’ve eaten over the years.” 

Pre-conception weight is one of the major risk factors for fertility outcomes and it is well accepted that weight loss improves fertility in overweight and obese women [ii]. In fact, research suggests that women who have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30kg/m2 often have natural menstrual cycle disruptions at a rate of almost three times higher than women of a healthy weight [ii]

Although research shows that low carbohydrate diets are no better for long term weight loss than other energy restricted diets (and in fact, may be worse as they are often more difficult to ensure nutritional integrity, and are often more difficult to maintain), low carbohydrate diets are a popular choice for rapid weight loss [iii].  Considering the urgent weight loss requirements for many women (particularly in their late 30’s and early 40’s) wanting to conceive, we wanted to investigate the impact of low carbohydrate diets for conception.

Overall, the research shows that lower carbohydrate diets have a positive effect on reproductive hormones, ovulation rates and pregnancy rates than standard diets in women who are overweight or obese. However, before adopting a low carbohydrate diet there’s a few important factors to keep in mind….

1.      Firstly, the research does not yet confirm how low in carbohydrates the diet should be.  Our research was based on diets which were less than 45% carbohydrates so that we could include Very Low Energy Diet studies (also known as intensive phase meal replacements where all meals are replaced with meal replacements).  However, although lower than usual, 45% carbohydrates is not ketogenic for most people.

2    There’s one small prospective study which used meal replacements (which didn’t meet the criteria for inclusion into our systematic review), that actually reduced the number of eggs available for fertilisation [iv]!  This provides a warning that low carbohydrate diets are not suitable for everyone wanting to optimise their fertility.  One possible alternative may be a low carbohydrate diet for short term weight loss, followed by a period of slight weight regain.  This practice, known as “flushing” is often used to improve the fertility of farm animals [v]. A pattern of a period of weight loss, followed by a period of weight regain has also been found to demonstrate a positive impact on reproduction in women [v].  

      Consequently, I believe that a low carbohydrate diet should only be utilised for a short period of time to optimise menstrual cyclicity and fertility hormones, followed by a period of renourishment.

3.      Furthermore, optimal nutrition is essential in the lead up to pregnancy. Wholegrains are some of the best sources of key fertility nutrients such as iodine and folate.  Women following a low carbohydrate diet without meeting all their nutritional requirements could do more harm than good, so it’s essential to seek expert advice from an Accredited Practising Dietitian when considering a change in diet at any life stage. 

      The takeouts here are that low carbohydrate diets are clearly not suitable for everyone looking to lose weight in order to increase their fertility. However, a low carbohydrate diet may be a suitable option for some women who would benefit from losing weight prior to conception. As such it's important to always seek expert advice from a qualified nutrition professional, before embarking on any dietary changes.

To see the review or for further information, go to www.melaniemcgrice.com.au/research

References

[i] http://www.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/womens-health-policy-toc~womens-health-policy-experiences~womens-health-policy-experiences-reproductive~womens-health-policy-experiences-reproductive-maternal~womens-health-policy-experiences-reproductive-maternal-fert

[ii] Sim, K.A.; Partridge, S.R.; Sainsbury, A. Does weight loss in overweight or obese women improve fertility treatment outcomes? A systematic review. Obes. Rev. 2014, 15, 839–850.

[iii] http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/90/1/23.short

[iv] Tsagareli, V.; Noakes, M.; Norman, R.J. Effect of a very-low-calorie diet on in vitro fertilization outcomes. Fertil. Steril. 2006, 86, 227–229.

[v] Butler, S.T. Nutritional management to optimize fertility of dairy cows in pasture-based systems. Animal 2014, 8, 15–26.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

What's all the fuss about trendy grains?

By Alexandra Locke & Rebecca Williams

What’s all the fuss about ancient grains?

You can’t have failed to notice the recent media hype given to a group of little grains, commonly referred to as ‘ancient grains’ and are frequently touted as being considerably more nutritious than traditional grains such as wheat, oats and rye – more than likely to justify their often considerable price tags. These trendy grains are now a selling point for many products on supermarket shelves and are commonplace on restaurant and café menus.

But with so much conflicting information out there, do you really get more bang for your buck when investing in trendy grains over traditional grains, such as oats, wheat and rye? We’ve compared the nutrient profiles of some of the most well-known traditional and trendy grains to find out which group packs a superior nutritional punch!

But first, what do we mean by ‘trendy’ grains?

Trendy grains have actually been around for years but have only recently enjoyed a surge in popularity, in part due to increasing numbers of people looking for alternatives to wheat. Many of these grains, including quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat aren’t even ‘true’ grains but actually belong to the seed family and are known as pseudo-cereals. Many people think pseudo-cereals are nutritionally superior to the traditional grain, but they actually offer similar benefits to ‘true’ grains and are used in much the same way.

So do trendy grains really contain more protein?

One of the most common misconceptions is that trendy grains have much higher levels of protein than traditional grains, but they’re actually very similar.  Whilst trendy grains quinoa and amaranth do indeed top the list for protein content in our grain comparison, traditional wheat comes in a close third with a hefty 13.4g of protein per 100g, closely followed by rye.

Another misconception is that quinoa is the only grain to contain the complete spectrum of amino acids – in fact, all grains contain complete amino acids with quinoa having only slightly higher levels!

Did you know? Quinoa is pronounced ‘keen-wah.’

What about fat?

Traditional grains steal the show on this one with brown rice, rye, barley and wheat being lower in fat than trendy grains. And there’s further good news for wheat, with recent Australian research showing that Australian adults with the highest intakes of core grain foods, including breads and breakfast cereals made from wheat, had a similar waist circumference and no difference in Body Mass Index (BMI) compared to those with the lowest core grain food intake(1) While oats top the list with the highest total fat levels in our comparison, much of this is healthy fat.

Surely trendy grains have more fibre than wheat or rye?

Again, traditional grains top the list with rye containing a whopping 14.6g of fibre per 100g, followed by wheat and barley, whilst trendy grains sorghum, quinoa and amaranth lag behind with around half the fibre content of rye.

Many people are surprised to learn that the leading sources of fibre in the Australian diet are actually breads and breakfast cereals, most of which are wheat based.(2) What’s more, whole grain wheat, oats and rye can help to promote good gut health due to their prebiotic fibres(3,4)  which encourage growth and activity of  health promoting bacteria in the gut.(5-7)

What about wheat?

Contrary to common perception, wheat is a particularly nutritious grain, even when compared to trendy grains like quinoa. Although wheat’s taken a hammering in recent years with many people avoiding gluten or cutting out carbs, this nutritious grain is easily accessible and readily found in many breads and breakfast cereals.  And several recent studies have shown that individuals who regularly consume whole grains (mostly wheat based) are at a reduced risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, compared to those who eat less.(8-10)
To give you an idea of how two of the most well-known grains stack up, we’ve compared their nutrient profiles below…


Wheat (g per 100g)
Quinoa (g per 100g)
Protein
13.4
14.1
Fat
1.4
6.1
Fibre
12.2
7
Carbohydrate
60.1
64.1
Iron
11.0
4.6

Did you know? Some grains, including amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa aren’t actually grains at all but belong to the seed family and are occasionally referred to as pseudo-cereals.

So what’s the verdict?

The takeaway message is that whilst many trendy grains do offer certain nutritional benefits, traditional grains offer comparable nutrients and in some cases have a more substantial nutrient profile. But whether you’re a fan of traditional or trendy grains or enjoy both, what’s important is ensuring we eat core grain foods 3-4 times a day and make at least half either high fibre or whole grain.  Our infographic shows why we should be eating more whole grains…


To benefit from the range of nutrients both traditional and trendy grains offer, mix it up every once in a while and enjoy a variety of grains as part of a balanced diet. And for recipe inspiration using both traditional and trendy grains, visit our website. 

References

1.     Fayet-Moore F, Petocz P, McConnell A, Tuck K, Mansour M. The Cross-Sectional Association between Consumption of the Recommended Five Food Group “Grain (Cereal)”, Dietary Fibre and Anthropometric Measures among Australian Adults. Nutrients. 2017;9(2):157.
2.     ABS. Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results - Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014.
3.     Shewry PR, Hey SJ. The contribution of wheat to human diet and health. Food Energy Secur. 2015;4(3):178-202.
8.     Brouns FJPH, van Buul VJ, Shewry PR. Does wheat make us fat and sick? Journal of Cereal Science. 2013;58(2):209-15.