Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Top trends for grains and legumes in 2014

Have you noticed the constant flux of new products and new categories of foods in your local supermarket? This ongoing cycle of change is driven by national and international food trends which relate directly to what people want to purchase and so what is in our supermarkets. Here, Sarah Hyland - Research Director at Colmar Brunton, provides some insights into the global trends influencing what we see in our supermarkets as well as which grain and legume foods will be trending 2014.

Naturality is number 1 - ‘Naturality’ is the biggest food trend in most Western countries at the moment. Natural is a buzz word which continues to have an influence on consumers’ food choices and what we see in our supermarkets. Interestingly, it appears that ‘natural’ is very much defined in the mind of the consumer – meaning made from fewer or simpler ingredients (“clean labels”) and foods with real (or perceived) health benefits. There very much exists a kind of intrinsic ‘health halo’ and even naturally functional characteristic for natural or perceived to be natural foods and beverages. 

Caution with the ‘free from’ movement - One area of particular interest is the gluten free and free from movement which continues to grow exponentially overseas and in Australia. While there is certainly a need for additional choices for people with medicinally diagnosed food allergies or food intolerance – it may often be the case that people without these medically diagnosed conditions perceive these ‘free-from’ foods as healthier for them than traditional options which may not be the case – and they generally cost more.
While many foods are vying for recognition as ‘natural’ and healthy in people’s minds the easiest way to choose healthier foods is by choosing a variety of foods within the Five Food Groups suited to your specific needs. These foods includes grain foods - mostly whole grain or high fibre, legumes, vegetables, fruits, diary, protein foods –eggs, meat, poultry, fish, nuts.

Oats – A flag ship for healthy whole grains – While the scientific evidence consistently links a variety of whole grains with reduced risk of disease and improved nutrition, oats have a universal appeal which is unrivalled by other traditional and commonly consumed whole grains like wheat, rye, or barley. People get that oats are a healthy food, and this has translated to their use being extended into other food categories with success. 
While rolled or quick oats as porridge is the main format in which Australians enjoy oats, overseas oats have been incorporated into variety of other foods including oat-based dairy alternatives, fruit and oats liquid breakfast and just recently in Australia a new ‘cholesterol lowering’ pasta product was launched in Australia containing oat fibre. The high content of cholesterol lowering beta glucan is likely to be one of the key characteristics of oats contributing to their uptake in different food formats. 

New ‘Ancient Grains’ on the horizon – With ancient grains hot on the fork of many, 2014 is likely to see the continued rise ancient varieties of grains. To accompany some of the currently emerging ‘ancient grains’ (featured in the December 2013 edition of Balance) keep an eye out for some new ‘ancient grains’ in 2014 including kamut, einkorn, spelt, sorghum and teff. Just like our more traditional whole grains such as wheat, oats, rye and barley, they have the potential to contribute important nutrients within a balanced diet and help to reduce the risk of disease. Food such as puffed kamut and spelt breads are already available in mainstream supermarkets, and these other varieties can be purchased online or in health food stores.

Hummus a champion for chickpeas – Whilst not every trend in the US arrives on Australian soil, the rise and rise of chickpea consumption is one to watch. In the US, a taste for hummus is driving chickpeas consumption exponentially. In fact, Hummus had expanded from being a $5 million-a-year US market in 1995 to one worth $325 million in 2010.

Quinoa becoming mainstream – 2013 was the International Year of Quinoa and this saw the continued growth of this nutritionally important grain. Internationally, launches of quinoa products increased by over 50% in 2013 and have had a remarkable rise in popularity, growing more than fivefold over the last five years. In 2014 it is safe to say quinoa has moved into the mainstream and can now be found as whole grain, flaked and flour as well as in breads, breakfast cereals, bars and even as a milk substitutes. 

Is Chia a grain? While chia is commonly incorporated into grain foods like breads, cereals and muesli bars, it is actually classified as an oil seed – not a grain. Chia has different nutritional features, namely being higher in oils (healthy fats) when compared with traditional grains and pseudo grains which have a lower fat content. Similar to quinoa, chia has also experienced exponential growth in recent years and can now be found in a wide range of foods particularly grain foods. One product that certainly raised the eyebrows of the GLNC team is a recent product released in the US – Chia water… yes, water with chia seeds throughout!

New and updated fibre data now available for Australian foods

Current and accurate food composition data is the foundation of product claims, dietary modelling and health education programs. Data on soluble, insoluble and resistant starch content of Australian foods is scarce and many foods in the NUTTAB database don't currently have fibre results that reflect the current food supply. An industry lead initiative by Goodman Fielder, Ingredion and Grain Growers Limited (GrainGrowers) has resulted in updated and new comprehensive fibre data for 53 foods being released.

Current and accurate food composition data is the foundation of product claims, dietary modelling and health education programs, to name but a few uses. Data on soluble, insoluble and resistant starch content of Australian foods is scarce, so to date users of food composition data have had to rely on overseas sources which do not accurately reflect domestic cultivars, growing and manufacturing practices. In addition, many foods in the NUTTAB database don't currently have total fibre results reported or, where they do, the data does not reflect the current food supply.

An industry lead initiative by Goodman Fielder, Ingredion and GrainGrowers has addressed this, resulting in updated and new comprehensive fibre data for 53 foods now being released. Researchers, food companies, dietitians, health departments and others working with food composition data are now able to access this data from the Food Standards Australia New Zealand website on the NUTTAB home page. FSANZ hopes this initiative will stimulate more data like this being generated and released.

With the results of the recent National Nutrition Survey emerging, researchers will be able to use data such as this to more accurately assess the level of consumption of total fibre and fibre types in the Australian population. This will help to build the evidence base for future reviews of dietary targets and other population based interventions.

The NUTTAB data tables can be viewed in full at:

For information of the method refer to the Resistant Starch report, or contact Coral Colyer at Goodman Fielder (coral.colyer@goodmandfielder.com.au).

The Resistant Starch Report can be viewed in full at:

Lectins and health - a review

Have you heard of lectins? They are a type of protein found in small amounts in over 30% of plant foods including grains and legumes. While they are not well known, popular fad diets including the Paleolithic diet (Paleo diet) cite lectins as a main reason to exclude grains and legumes from the diet. As the topic of lectins is making headlines in the Paleo world, GLNC has reviewed the science on the role of lectins and lectin containing foods within a balanced diet. 

The Paleo diet is an eating plan which is intended to closely reflect that of our hunter gather ancestors – GLNC’s Position Statement on the Paleo Diet can be found here. A quick Google search on lectins, directs you to the websites, and blogs of prominent Paleo’s (avid Paleo dieters)  from around the world. Paleo’s describe lectins as toxic and destructive anti-nutrients which damage the intestine, cause a leaky gut leading to obesity  and diseases (1, 2). The presence of lectins in grains and legumes is one factor which underpins the Paleo recommendation to exclude these foods. However, examination of the scientific evidence as a whole indicates there are flaws in this argument.

The science doesn’t stack up
The beliefs which underpin the avoidance of lectin containing grains and legumes are based on studies which have limited generalisability to humans. The studies used to support the argument against lectins were mostly conducted in animals, using doses of purified lectins which could not be achieved through foods alone and some studies even injected the lectins directly into the bloodstream.(3-13) In the studies which observed negative effects in humans, they involved people with pre-existing intestinal damage and/or the participants of the study ate foods which were not adequately prepared for human consumption i.e. unsoaked legumes.(14, 15)

It is inaccurate and misleading to apply the results of such studies to humans, let alone use them to support the dietary recommendations for large populations. Upon reviewing the broader science on lectins, including a comprehensive review of the literature published last month, there is no convincing evidence to indicate that lectins cause harm. The claims made by proponents of paleo diets to avoid grains and legumes due to these foods continaing lectins are not supported by the scientific eveidence. (3, 16)

Interestingly, there is some evidence that low doses of dietary lectins, consumed within adequately prepared foods may in fact have health benefits including anti-cancer effects and assist weight management by helping to promote a feeling of fullness. (17, 18)

Grains and legumes promote health
In contrast to claims to avoid grains and legumes, there is a significant body of evidence, including large population studies (in humans) which indicate that higher intakes of grains, mostly whole grain and high fibre are associated with improved nutrition and a reduced risk of a disease (19, 20) – including cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Comprehensive reviews of scientific trials also demonstrate legumes have beneficial effects on the markers of chronic disease such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood glucose control.(21-23)

Grains and legumes provide a range of essential nutrients including carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals as well as dietary fibre and phytonutrients. In support of the Australia Dietary Guidelines and in line with the evidence on the nutrition and health effects of grains and legumes, the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC) recommends that Australians should enjoy grain foods 3 – 4 times a day, choosing at least half as whole grain or high fibre grain foods, and enjoy legumes at least 2 – 3 times each week. 

To view the complete scientific topic summary prepared by GLNC contact GLNC via email: contactus@glnc.org.au or phone: 1300 GRAINS


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