Monday, November 30, 2009

Introducing sorghum

Climate and weight friendly grain
Sorghum is the fifth most important cereal crop in the world after wheat, rice, corn and barley. And it's easy to understand why - sorghum is highly drought and heat tolerant plus lab tests have found it has higher antioxidant activity than other cereals and fruit.

Typically a stock feed, with the majority of Australia's harvest used as feed grains to the beef, dairy, pig, poultry or pet food industry, sorghum is not used widely as a food for human consumption in Australia. Sorghum is highly drought and heat tolerant, with about 60% of Australia's crop grown in the hot regions of Queensland and Northern NSW. Able to grow without much water, sorghum is generally very economical and also a good rotation crop. With constant reminders of climate change a concern amoungst scientists, politicians and everyday Australian's, sorghum could be utilised as a sustainable crop for human consumption.

Food chemist and researcher Stuart Johnson from Curtin University is working with food manufacturers Sanitarium and George Weston Foods who are already using sorgham in some products like breads and breakfast cereals, to help boost the use of this former stock-feed grain in the Australian food industry. This idea is not new in some parts of the world, where sorghum is relied upon as a staple food crop in Africa, Central America, and South Asia. Foods prepared with sorghum include popcorn, porridge, flour for baked goods and it is even brewed into beer. As sorghum is naturally gluten free, it is a great alternative to gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley and rye for those people with coeliac disease.

Although more research needs to be done, lab studies have found that wholegrain sorghum has a higher antioxidant activity compared to other cereals and fruits. It has a lower protein content than other cereals, but is a good source of B vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin b6, biotin and niacin; important for many vital body processes including energy metabolism. Also relatively high in potassium and phosphorus, like most other wholegrains sorghum is also high in dietary fibre.

Coloured varieties of sorghum (red, brown and black) are particularly rich sources of various phytochemicals, and animal studies have shown encouraging results for the use of this grain to help in the fight against type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers via its antioxidant properties, and obesity by suppressing appetite.

According to some, sorghum has huge potential, given its agronomic properties in favour of climate change and cost effectiveness, in addition to the emerging science behind its promising benefits in human health and disease. Whilst currently limited to health food shops and a small range of supermarket product lines, stay tuned as prospective clinical research trials are expected to give support to sorghum becoming more widespread in our food supply to aid in the battle against chronic disease.

Santa should eat more wholegrains

Wholegrains associated with smaller waistlines

If more kids left Santa a wholegrain cookie and a glass of low-fat milk perhaps his waistline would be somewhat trimmer. Recent research from the US in over 400 older adults has found that in those who ate wholegrains there was an association between lower percent body fat mass and lower percent waist fat mass (measured by dual-energy-X-Ray-absorptiometry). The researchers found a dose-dependent response in 60-80 year olds who enjoy wholegrain foods such as wholemeal & mixed grain bread, wholegrain breakfast cereals with greater than 25% wholegrains, brown rice, popcorn, porridge and other grains; ever more reason to eat more wholegrains. The authors state the dietary fibre from predominately wholegrain cereals appears to be more protective against the development of chronic disease compared with fruit or vegetable fibre.

The result of this study add to the growing body of evidence from other epidemiological studies that have shown middle-aged adults who eat more wholegrains have a lower body mass index (BMI) and central obesity, and tend to gain weight less significantly than those who eat mainly refined grains.

With abdominal adiposity a major risk factor for many chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and some cancers, the Australian government recommends Australian women keep their waist circumference under 80cm and men under 94cm to reduce the risk of these chronic health problems.

Like many other studies, the average intake of wholegrains in this study population was low suggesting we should all be eating more wholegrains to help combat growing waistlines and chronic health problems. Switching your breakfast cereal or bread to one containing wholegrains is one of the easiest things you can do to increase your wholegrain intake.

In this study, the association between wholegrain intake and abdominal body fat remained significant after adjustment for refined grain. So the take home message is - you can still include refined grain foods such as pasta, white rice and white bread as part of a healthy and varied diet when you include wholegrains too. Do Santa's waistline a favour and offer wholegrains this Christmas.

Go Grains Health & Nutrition recommends all Australian adults eat a least 48g of wholegrains every day. Click here to visit the wholegrains page of the Go Grain website, where you will find loads of helpful information on wholegrains; including some common examples of wholegrain foods and their approximate wholegrain content, a visual guide of how to reach the 48g daily target for wholegrains and information on the health benefits of choosing wholegrain.