Friday, December 16, 2016

Whole Grains and Legumes: A Source of Dietary Fibre for Toddlers

By Jennifer Zhang

Why is toddler nutrition important?

The current Australian Dietary Guidelines and Infant Feeding Guidelines lack recommendations for whole grains and legumes for toddlers (a toddler is defined as a child aged between 1-3 years in this instance). This is also an issue amongst international guidelines where very few recommendations for whole grains and legumes are available for children under the age of three. This is most likely attributed to the lack of evidence regarding the benefits of whole grains and legumes on toddler health and the highly variable requirements amongst toddlers where a specific recommendation may result in inadequate or excessive intake for some children.

A focus on toddler nutrition is very important as this is when children are learning eating behaviours and forming attitudes towards food. The development of these attitudes and practices can determine lifelong eating patterns and thus influence health outcomes and risk of diet-related disease later in life (1). Therefore, the introduction of whole grains and legumes as part of a healthy diet for toddlers is important to promote healthy eating habits from a young age, as the benefits of consuming high fibre grain foods in adulthood are well established.

Why fibre?

Both whole grains and legumes have a range of nutrients including B-group vitamins (folate and thiamin), iron, magnesium, and most importantly, fibre. Dietary fibre refers to the indigestible parts of plant foods that are usually partially or completely fermented in the large intestine (2). The health benefits of fibre for adults is well documented, with evidence suggesting that higher intakes are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and some cancers, as well as improvements in blood glucose and cholesterol levels (3). Therefore, it is important to encourage adequate fibre intake from a young age to develop good eating habits and promote favourable health outcomes later in life.

Fibre is also an essential nutrient for bowel health where inadequate intake is associated with constipation, a common issue amongst toddlers (3). The prevalence of constipation varies between 5-30% of children where increasing dietary fibre (and water intake) is usually the recommended treatment (4). It has also been shown that preschool-aged children identified as picky eaters have lower intakes of dietary fibre and increased prevalence of hard stools (5). Therefore, adequate fibre intake is very important for toddlers to prevent constipation and maintain bowel health. The current recommendation for dietary fibre is an intake of 14g per day for those aged 1-3 years (2).

Current Intake of Whole grains and Legumes

The Australian Health Survey (AHS) 2011-13 found that 2-3 year olds consumed approximately three serves of core grain foods per day, which was below the four serve per day recommendation (6,7). The AHS also found that on average 2-3 year olds consumed 16g of fibre per day which is above dietary fibre recommendations. However, only 39% of grain foods consumed by 2-3 year olds were from whole grain or high fibre sources, which falls short of the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommendation to consume at least two thirds of grain intake from whole grain or high fibre varieties (6,7).

The AHS also looked at legume intake for children aged 2-3 years as part of both the vegetable and lean meat and alternatives food group. It was found that less than 1% of children aged 2-3 years consumed the recommended 2.5 serves of vegetables per day, with an average intake of 1.4 serves for males and 1.1 serves for females (6,7). Of the types of vegetables eaten by 2-3 year olds, only 11% were legumes or beans (6). Similarly, less than 16% of males and 6% of females aged 2-3 years met the one serve recommendation for lean meat and alternatives, with an average intake of 0.7 serves per day (6,7) and only 10% coming from legumes (6).

Therefore, overall intake of both legumes and whole grains is very low amongst toddlers. It is important to include whole grain foods and legumes in the toddler diet to ensure that requirements for important nutrients such as fibre are met.

Fibre in Whole Grains

But there is some good news! Fibre intake can be easily increased by substituting current grain foods with whole grains. See the below table comparing the amount of fibre in one serve of refined and whole grain versions of foods (8).

Amount of Fibre
% Increase in Fibre

Whole Grain
Bread (1 slice)
1.1 g
1.9 g
Rice (1/2 cup)
0.9 g
1.4 g
Breakfast Cereal (2/3 cup)
0.8 g
4.6 g
Pasta (1/2 cup)
1.7 g
4.2 g

Amount of Fibre per 75 g
(1/2 cup serve)
Baked Beans (Canned)
3.9 g
Black Beans
6.6 g
Kidney Beans
5.4 g
Split Peas
6.2 g
2.8 g
3.5 g

As you can see, simply switching refined options for whole grain options can increase dietary fibre intake dramatically, helping a toddler reach their goal for fibre intake. For example, one ½ cup serve of wholemeal pasta can provide up to one third of a toddler’s dietary fibre requirement (2).

Fibre in Legumes

The total amount of dietary fibre in legumes can vary widely between 3-6 g per 75 g of cooked legumes. Below is a table showing the amount of dietary fibre in commonly eaten legumes (8):

A portion of legumes as small as ½ cup cooked can provide up to 20-47% of a toddler’s dietary fibre requirements (2).

In summary, the consumption of whole grains and legumes can be very beneficial for increasing fibre intake for most toddlers, especially if you have a picky eater as each small portion of whole grains or legumes can provide a significant amount of fibre. The early introduction of whole grains and legumes should be encouraged to prevent childhood constipation, help form healthy eating habits from a young age and promote long term health.

1. Queensland Health. A healthy start in life: a nutrition manual for health professionals – Toddler nutrition [Internet]. 2008 [cited Dec 6]. Available from:
2. Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand – Nutrients, Dietary Fibre [Internet]. 2014 [updated 2014 Sep 4; cited 2016 Dec 6]. Available from:
3.  Anderson JW, Baird P, Davis JRH, Ferreri S, Knudtson M, Koraym A, et al. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutrition reviews. 2009;67(4):188-205.
4. SA Child Health Clinical Network. South Australian Paediatric Practice Guidelines – Constipation in Children [Internet]. Government of South Australia; 2014 Feb 11 [cited 2016 Dec 13]. Available from:
5. Taylor CM, Northstone K, Wernimont SM, Emmett PM. Picky eating in preschool children: Associations with dietary fibre intakes and stool hardness. Appetite. 2016;100:263-71.
6.  Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4364.0.55.012 - Australian Health Survey: Consumption of Food Groups from the Australian Dietary Guidelines, 2011-12. Canberra; 2016 May 11 [cited 2016 Dec 13]. Available from:
7. National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Government; 2013 [cited 2016 Dec 13]. Available from:
8. Food Standards Australia New Zealand. AUSNUT2011-13 – Australian food composition database [Internet]. Canberra: FSANZ; 2014 May 9 [updated 2016 Apr 27; cited 2016 Dec 6]. Available from:

Looking Ahead to 2017: 5 Key Food Trends

By Alexandra Locke

As the year draws to a close, it’s time to start looking at the key trends for the year to come, highlighting new and innovative ways to reach consumers, provide key benefits and ultimately raise awareness of our brands by offering a new outlook for the coming year.

We’ve taken a look at 5 of 2017’s top trends and the considerable opportunities for change and innovation!

“A key trend is a genuine growth opportunity. It’s a set of changes in consumer beliefs and behaviours, leading to a change in a market. It’s something on which a company can base its strategy to increase sales of existing products or create new products, to boost market share and profitability.”

Number 1: Digestive Wellness 2.0

Forecast to be the biggest trend for 2017 according to the New Nutrition Business 2017 Trends Report, digestive wellness reflects the rise in consumer awareness of the effects of good and bad digestive health. Emerging research is connecting the digestive system to all areas of health including anxiety, depression, weight management and diabetes amongst many others and is continuing to reveal new developments in this area. No longer purely a reaction to the hot topic of gut health and the microbiome, this area encompasses other trends such as the gluten free movement and rise in plant based eating. 

Consumers are now paying more attention to how a specific food can make them feel, so want to feel the benefit of the products they buy and 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 so the opportunities for manufacturers within this sphere will grow too – this is a trend to get on board with now!

Many consumers identify gluten and lactose free foods as a key to digestive health, which will ensure these trends persist. As such, those products experiencing the most growth in this area fall within the dairy alternative category. This highlights plenty of opportunities for both grain and legume products too, as consumers become increasingly aware of the benefits of fibre on good digestive health. Key opportunities include dairy alternatives, gluten free innovation and fermented foods which are also experiencing significant resurgence and innovation - pickled lentils anyone?

Number 2: Plant-Based

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Sage advice from Michael Pollan which many consumers are now taking to heart with the rise of the second biggest trend for 2017 and perhaps the most opportunistic for those in the grains and legumes industry - the plant based diet. With new research demonstrating the multiple benefits of a mostly plant based diet, ranging from up to a 25% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes to lower incidences of obesity and smaller waist circumferences (1), the possibilities for product development within this space are numerous, with plant milks and meat and dairy alternatives all increasing and a spotlight moment for seeds and grains.

Within this trend there’s been a significant increase in the number of consumers following a Flexitarian diet promoting a mostly plant based or vegetarian approach, whilst also including small amounts of animal based products. With an increase of seven times the amount of plant based claims on packaging since 2011 (2), there’s a clear indication that this trend is here to stay. The future looks bright for natural products, legume snacks, tempeh and protein based plant foods.

Number 3: Inflammation

A relatively recent area of focus in the FMCG space, inflammation is fast becoming the next hot topic. With inflammation now linked to everything from the development of chronic disease to how effectively we handle stress, this trend is driving consumer purchasing and behavioural decisions. A recent study has shown that whole grain intake had the strongest link to anti-inflammatory markers out of 37 foods studied (3) – highlighting more opportunities for the whole grain category in 2017. 

The star in this space is surely turmeric, recently attracting much praise for its anti-inflammatory properties and appearing in everything from wraps to tea to smoothies. You only have to take a quick sweep through Instagram to encounter numerous Turmeric Lattes, Golden Mylks and Glowing Smoothies. And single serve on-the-go drinks are the number one opportunity for manufacturers looking to weigh in on the inflammation trend, offering plenty of potential for dairy alternative inflammatory busting beverages. With research on inflammation coming thick and fast, this is one trend that’s not going away!

Number 4: Good Carbs, Bad Carbs

Over the past year we've increasingly seen consumers choosing between ‘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. But consumers are still cutting carbs with 35% actively cutting down on carbs as a dietary priority with the breakfast cereal category amongst the hardest hit due to the persisting perception that many cereals are overly refined, processed and high in sugar (4).

With ‘healthier’ forms of carbohydrate on the rise in 2016, we’ve seen significant movement towards alternative pasta products made with quinoa, chickpea or rice flour to products avoiding the traditional carb-heavy format as much as possible such as veggie noodles made with zucchini or beetroot, with this trend set to continue well into 2017. The focus should now be on manufacturers emphasising the importance of good forms of carbohydrates and making traditional carbohydrates more convenient - think porridge and traditional breakfast items in on-the-go formats alongside products incorporating vegetables wherever possible.

Number 5: Snackification

And finally, the rise of the snack market. With the Australian snacking market now worth more than $2 billion and climbing fast (1), this field is seeing the most innovation in response to massive consumer demand for snack products of all varieties. Grains and legume innovation in this area is rife and for good reason – Australians are now snacking four times as much as 10 years ago.

This innovation combined with a low failure rate for products makes an attractive proposition for manufacturers, with 60% of snacks launched between 2003 and 2013 still on the market in 2016(4). 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. Take Peeled Snacks for example – a vegetable based snack made from rice and pea flour which passed $10 million in sales this year (4) thanks to hitting three of the recent major trends: plant based, no added sugar and a source of veggie protein. Chickpeas in particular have seen a surge in innovation, with products including low sugar, plant based cookies, roasted chickpeas and a range of healthy spreads made with the humble legume.

Professor David Hughes, Emeritus Professor of Food Marketing at Imperial College London, sums up the gravitas of this trend, “...such is the degree to which snacking is becoming part of people’s everyday habits, whatever food commodity you are in, you need to have a snacking variant.”

For more on the irrepressible rise of the snack market, click here.

Consumers look set to continue experimenting with their preferred way of eating, working out what approach is best for them but the more trends a product can align with, the more successful it’s likely to become. And with so many areas of new and emerging research and technological and processing advances being made almost every day, it appears there are no limits to the opportunities manufacturers face throughout 2017 and beyond.

1. Innova Market Insights Report. 2016.
2. Harland J, Garton L. An update of the evidence relating to plant-based diets and cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and overweight. Nutrition Bulletin. 2016;41(4):323-38.
3. Ozawa M, Shipley M, Kivimaki M, Singh-Manoux A, Brunner EJ. Dietary pattern, inflammation and cognitive decline: The Whitehall II prospective cohort study. Clinical nutrition. 2016.
4. Mellentin, J. New Nutrition Business. 10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition and Health 2017. 2016.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Highlights from the Nutrition Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting

By Rebecca Williams

The Nutrition Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting was held in Melbourne from the 29th of
November to 2nd of December. The conference brought together nutrition scientists from around the world to hear the latest research on the association between food and health. Some of the highlights from the conference included:

A Systematic Approach to Estimate the Legume Content of Australian Foods
GLNC’s University of Wollongong student Anna Ross gave an oral presentation which showcased some of the results of her Masters research project. This included the expansion of the AUSNUT 2011-2013 database to include legume content data from three legume subgroups: non-oil seed legumes, soy foods and beverages, and peanuts. Cereal based products and dishes formed the largest proportion (23%) of the database. This database will provide a tool for use in a range of research and practice settings.

Role of Nutrition in Immune Homeostasis
Professor Mimi Tang from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Victoria spoke about the critical role diet plays in regulating immune homeostasis through shaping the gut microbiota and promoting the production of short chain fatty acids. Children are born with a largely sterile gut which rapidly evolves in early life depending on the mode of delivery (vaginal vs caesarian section), maternal microbiota, whether the baby is breast fed vs formula fed and the types of first foods. The greatest shifts in the microbiota is believed to occur in the ‘first 1000 days’, particularly during the transition onto solid foods. Diets that contain high fibre foods are associated with favourable immune homeostasis, increased short chain fatty acid production (particularly butyrate and acetate) and a reduced risk of non-communicable disease.

Food Group and Dietary Fibre Consumption on Paleolithic and Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE) Diets
A four week randomised intervention of 39 healthy females from Edith Cowan University showed that those following a Paleo diet had a higher intake of fruit, vegetables and protein, but a lower intake of grains, legumes and dairy compared to those following the AGHE diet. While there were no differences in total fibre, soluble and insoluble fibre intake, consumption of resistant starch was significantly lower on the Paleo diet. Therefore while the Paleo group did consume more fruit and vegetables, their reduced intake of grains and legumes appears to negatively impact resistant starch intake. This may have an unfavourable effect on gut microbiota and risk of chronic disease.

Fun Facts from Research Presented at NSA
  • One third of all food produced for human consumption in the world is lost or wasted.
  • Dietary factors are now the leading contributors to the global burden of disease.  
  • It is estimated that around one third of the most common cancers are preventable through appropriate dietary intake, maintaining a healthy weight and regular physical activity.
  • Transmissible diet-induced epigenetic changes can occur in a single generation.
  • Australians consumed nearly half of added sugars (as a proportion of daily intake) at non-main meal occasions, most of which came from energy dense nutrient poor foods.

Making the Most of the Whole Grain Opportunity

By Rebecca Williams

New research examining global whole grain intakes suggests that Australia is doing better than some countries for whole grain consumption(1). However we still have a long way to go to meet the amount of whole grain recommended for good health and chronic disease risk reduction.

According to the most recent National Nutrition Survey only 34% of grain food consumed came from whole grain or high fibre grain foods(2). This aligns with GLNC’s own research, which shows that more than 40% of Australians eat less than one serve of whole grain food per day(3). An intake of three serves of whole grain a day is recommended to promote health and reduce chronic disease risk(4, 5), however in Australia only one in three people meets this target(3).

Whilst Australia is doing much better than the UK - where just 17% of people meet this target and the US where only 8% eat enough whole grain - we’re not doing nearly as well as countries like Denmark, Sweden and Norway(1). Residents in these countries typically consume twice as much whole grain as the average Australian and may experience fewer instances of chronic disease as a result.

One of the reasons Australians are not meeting whole grain recommendations may be because they are confused about which foods are whole grain foods. The 2014 GLNC Consumption Study found that less than half of survey respondents were able to identify that oats and wholemeal pasta were a source of whole grain(3). One of the contributing factors to consumer confusion may be that unlike other nutrients, the Food Standards Code does not regulate whole grain content claims, and consequently foods making whole grain claims may vary in the amount of whole grain they contain. Data from the 2016 GLNC product audit showed that the whole grain content of packaged breads with whole grain content claims on pack varied from around 8g to 60g of whole grain per serve(6).

To ensure consumers are getting consistent information on whole grain content, the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council launched the Code of Practice for Whole Grain Ingredient Content Claims in 2013. The Code helps to regulate whole grain content claims through the establishment of a benchmark for the minimum amount of whole grain a product must contain to make a whole grain ingredient content claim.

A recent impact assessment revealed significant uptake of, and a high level of compliance with, the Code by food industry. This should instil confidence in the Australian public’s ability to identify foods which contain a significant amount of whole grain.

Since the Code was launched Registered Users of the Code have added over 100,000 tonnes or more than 400 Olympic swimming pools of whole grain to the Australian food supply through new and renovated products. This is great news as it means that with increasing innovation in the whole grain category, it’s easier than ever for Australians to choose foods that are high in whole grain. 

While food industry is doing its part to support consumer choice, quantified public health recommendations would encourage consumers to choose whole grain more often. Based on the evidence for better health outcomes, this recommendation should be to choose whole grain for at least three of your six serves of grain foods a day.

The average Australian would need an increase of just 1.5 serves of whole grain a day to meet the recommended three serves and reap the significant health benefits of higher whole grain intake. This could be as simple as swapping the white bread in your sandwich for a wholemeal variety, or opting for a whole grain breakfast cereal in the morning. If you're in need of some inspiration, why not check out some of the delicious whole grain recipes available on the GLNC website.

Registered Users of the GLNC Code of Practice in Australia and New Zealand include:

If you're interested in registering with the Whole Grain Code of Practice or simply want to find out more click here.

1. Mann KD, Pearce MS, Seal CJ. Providing evidence to support the development of whole grain dietary recommendations in the United Kingdom. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2016:1-9.
2. ABS. 2011-2012 Australian Health Survey: Consumption of food groups from the Australian Dietary Guidelines, 2011–12 — Australia. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016.
3. GLNC. 2014 Australian Grains and Legumes Consumption and Attitudinal Report. Unpublished: 2014.
4. NHMRC. Australian Dietary Guidelines Providing the scientific evidence for healthier Australian diets. 2013 Accessed online January 2014.
5. Aune D, Keum N, Giovannucci E, Fadnes LT, Boffetta P, Greenwood DC, et al. Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Bmj. 2016;353.
6. GLNC. GLNC 2015-2016 Grains and Legumes Product Audit. Unpublished: Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council 2016.

Monday, November 14, 2016

An Exploration of the World’s Blue Zones

Tim Crowe Associate Professor in Nutrition at the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at Deakin University in Melbourne and Australian Blue Zone expert takes us through the science and evidence behind Blue Zones and a plant based diet.
What is a Blue Zone you may ask?

Well sit back, relax, and let us take you on a journey throughout the five regions of the world that experts have identified as Blue Zones, Ikaria  - Greece, Okinawa – Japan, Sardinia – Italy, Nicoya Peninsula – Costa Rica and a seventh day Adventist community in Loma Linda, California.

Blue Zones are, in simple terms, hot spots in the world where people live the longest and healthiest lives. It is common for people in these areas to live to 100 with the number of centenarians almost 5-times higher than in Australia.

So why are people in Blue Zones living so much longer than us? 

We recently invited one of Australia’s leading Blue Zone experts, Associate Professor Tim Crowe, to educate us.

A lot of the work in Blue Zones has been based on observations on the ground, so what does current research say to support the common habits of Blue Zones which are linked to longevity? There are 9 key elements they have in common.
  •  Incorporating movement naturally as part of their daily routine – Blue Zone residents move every 10-15 minutes.
  • Have a sense of purpose each day. 
  • Down shift and maintain a routine that helps keep them relaxed. Stress can lead to chronic inflammation in the body. 
  • Stop eating when they are 80% full.
  • They eat a more plant based diet and minimal red meat. 
  • They enjoy a glass of wine with friends and family.
  • They live as part of a community – whether this is faith based or meeting up once a week for a knitting class. 
  • Engagement with family is key to a Blue Zone way of life.
  • Blue Zone residents enjoy an active social life.

Key Dietary Patterns for Health

One of the key elements of the Blue Zones is eating a plant based diet, and this major review from 2014 looked at the diet and chronic disease links from 304 meta-analyses and systematic reviews published in the last 63 years - the biggest analysis of its kind. The key findings showed that plant-based foods were more protective against the risk of developing chronic disease compared to animal-based foods. Amongst plant foods, grain-based foods seemed to have a small edge over fruits and vegetables.

For animal-based foods, the effects of dairy products on health were considered neutral overall and fish was considered protective. Red and processed meats were linked to a higher disease risk. This research mirrors the type of diets eaten in Blue Zone.

Plant Foods and Health

A recently published review in JAMA Internal Medicine looked at the health of over 131,000 people and how it was related to the amounts of protein they ate from plant and animal based foods. Animal protein was linked to higher mortality from heart disease while plant protein was linked to lower mortality. There was a stronger link between the benefits of plant foods in people with at least one lifestyle risk factor (e.g. smoking, overweight, inactive, heavy drinking). The research team estimated that replacing processed red meat protein with the equivalent amount of plant protein would result in a 34% drop in earlier mortality and 12% if fresh red meat was replaced. Again, the dietary patterns studied in this work parallel with a Blue Zone diet.

Fruits, Vegetables and Happiness

Can eating more vegetables make you happy? In the first research of its kind, the answer seems to be ‘yes’. This study tracked the diet and mental health of a large sample of more than 12,000 randomly selected people in Australia. From the results, it was estimated that someone going from eating no fruits and vegetables to eating eight portions a day could experience an increase in life satisfaction which is equivalent to moving from unemployment to employment. Happiness is a key aspect of Blue Zones.

Diet and telomeres

So how exactly could the diets eaten by people in the Blue Zones lead to a longer life? One idea is that it may be linked to telomeres. Telomeres are the protective cap on the end of chromosomes which are linked to ageing and potentially a longer lifespan. The length of these telomeres shortens with age, leading scientists to begin looking into how much diet can influence telomere length. In the first study of its kind, researchers looked at studies that had previously collected information on both dietary patterns and telomere length of participants. From a pool of 17 studies, two clear themes emerged. Both a Mediterranean style dietary pattern and diets high in fruits and vegetables were linked to longer telomere length. Diets high in significantly refined grains, processed meat and sugar-sweetened beverages point towards a shorter telomere length.

Sitting is the New Smoking

Recent research has looked at the benefit of small amounts of regular physical activity as opposed to a block of exercise each day, finding that standing or moving for several hours over the course of the day is better than just dedicated exercise with long periods of sedentary activity around it. This fits with the Blue Zone finding of people undertaking regular purposeful activity throughout their day, in contrast to our Western lifestyles which typically feature long periods of sedentary activity, especially in white collar occupations.

For Australians wanting to adopt a more ‘Blue Zone’ lifestyle, the first place to start is to embrace the variety of wonderful plant foods available to us and to shut out the voices of those suggesting you should exclude and ban foods from your diet. Enjoy a wide variety of whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits and eat according to your tastes and preferences. The typical Australian diet is too high in highly processed discretionary foods so these are the food swaps we need to make to get more of those Blue Zone foods in our diet.

Less than half of Australians meet the minimum recommendations for physical activity, but this doesn’t mean you need to join a gym or running club. Being active throughout your day, be it enjoying your coffee whilst walking with friends rather than sitting in the café, spending more time in the garden, using the car less and giving the dog more exercise will all contribute to great health benefits. 

And finally, social media has its place, but nothing beats human connection as this is inscribed in our DNA - follow your interests and join a local community group, do some volunteering or make meeting up with friends a regular activity.

To watch Tim Crowe’s talk on the science behind Blue Zones, please follow this link.

For a range of delicious whole grain and legume rich recipes take a look at the GLNC recipe section and for more information on the health benefits of grains and legumes visit our website here!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Plant Protein & Health

By Hillary Siah, Accredited Practising Dietitian

Legumes are often an overlooked source of protein if you don’t follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, as most of us associate protein with a juicy steak, chicken breast or eggs. But that may be about to change as people become aware that legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, beans and peas are also a source of protein.

Not only are legumes higher in protein than most other plant-based foods, they are also an economical and environmentally friendly source of protein. If we all got more of our protein from plant-based sources such as beans and lentils it has been suggested that we would not only help improve the sustainability of the agricultural system but we’d also improve our health(1, 2).

The latest science on plant protein

Current research on the specific effect of plant protein on health and chronic disease risk is limited. However, a recently published study, the largest to date, investigated the link between plant protein intake and risk of early death. The study took data from from cohorts of over 131,000 US adults for 32 years and looked at the relationship between consumption of animal and plant proteins and the risk of early death(3). Whilst this is the first large long-term study to look at the influence of plant protein intake on risk of death, the independent effect of specific dietary sources of plant protein was not assessed. However, adults who consumed more plant protein (>6% of total energy) had a higher intake of fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts compared to those with lower intakes (≤3% total energy).

Previous research has promoted the benefits of a predominately plant-based diet for health and longevity(4, 5). Interestingly, while this study did find that higher plant protein intake was protective against risk of early death, this effect was only observed in individuals with at least one ‘unhealthy’ lifestyle risk factor including smoking, heavy alcohol intake, being physically inactive or being overweight or obese. This may seem limited, but the findings suggest that a higher plant protein intake may be beneficial for the 63% of Australian adults who are currently classified as overweight or obese(6).

The good news is that even a small change in plant protein consumption may have a big impact on health. Increasing plant protein intake by as little as 3% per day was found to reduce the risk of death from all causes by 10%, with similar protective effect observed for risk of death from cardiovascular disease. This association was strongest when sources of plant protein such as legumes were swapped with processed meats.

This research adds to a growing body of evidence that highlights the protective effect that foods high in plant protein can have on health(7). A recent meta-analysis showed that higher intakes of plant protein were associated with lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes(8) and in a study that followed over 29,000 post-menopausal women for 15 years, substituting plant protein for animal protein reduced the risk of death from coronary heart disease(9).

Sources of plant protein such as legumes and whole grains are packed with other health promoting nutrients such as fibre(10) and important vitamins and minerals, as well as being low in saturated fat which may in part contribute the protective effect of foods rich in plant protein.

So, what does this mean for us?

Legumes are a source of protein that should be enjoyed by everyone - vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Legumes are nutritious, affordable and versatile and should form part of a healthy diet for all Australians, whether you’re bulking for summer or looking forward to a healthy retirement.
Based on the evidence of health benefits, GLNC recommends that all Australians enjoy legumes at least 2-3 times per week. This is simpler than you may think and can be as easy as tossing kidney beans into your spaghetti bolognese, adding chickpeas to your curry or starting the day with baked beans on toast. One great way to increase your plant protein intake is to add legumes to meals that contain grains(11)to amp up the nutritional factor even more.  For a whole host of tasty legume and grain based recipes, visit the GLNC website.

1. Saunders AV. Busting the myths about vegetarian and vegan diets. Journal of HEIA. 2014;21(1):2-13.
2. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009:1266-82.
3. Minyang Song TF, Frank Hu, Walter Willet, Valter Longo, Andrew Chang, Deward Giovannucci. Association of Animal and Plant Protein Intake With All-Cause and Cause-Sepcific Mortality. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2016.
4. 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.
5. Kouris-Blazos A, Belsi R. Health benefits of legumes and pulses with a focus on Australian sweet lupins. Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition. 2016;25.
6. ABS. Australian Health Survey: First Results. 2011-12.
7. Medina-RemÓn A, Kirwan R, Lamuela-Raventós RM, Estruch R. Dietary Patterns and the Risk of Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, Cardiovascular Diseases, Asthma, and Mental Health Problems. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition. 2016:00-.
8. XW Shang DS, AM Hodge, DR English et al. Dietary protein intake and risk of Type 2 Diabetes: results from the Melbourne Collaborateive Cohort Studies and a meta-analysis of prospective studies. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016;104(3).
9. Kelemen LE KL, Jacobs DR Jr, Cerhan JR. Associations of dietary protein with disease and mortality in a prospective study of postmenopausal women. American Journal of of Epidemiology. 2005;2005(161):3.
10. Kate Marsh JB-M. Vegetarian Diets and Diabetes. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 2011;6(2):135-43.
11. Young VR, Pellett PL. Plant proteins in relation to human protein and amino acid nutrition. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 1994;59(5):1203S-12S.

The Rise & Rise of the Snack Market: A Focus on Legumes

By Alexandra Locke

The Australian snacking market is worth more than $2 billion, with an annual growth rate of 4% and climbing (1). New technology and continuing consumer demand for healthy alternatives is fuelling innovation in the snacking arena. We take a look at the latest trends on snacks featuring legumes, the most innovative products in this space and where the opportunities lie for manufacturers to produce healthier snacks for our changing lifestyles.

Australians now snack four times as much as 10 years ago (2), with this growth being driven by our ever-changing and increasingly busy lifestyles. And it’s the younger generation driving the trend in snacking, where consumers are shying away from traditional mealtimes and instead consuming more small snacks throughout the day.

Consuming food on-the-go is no longer seen as an anomaly, but a necessity with 96% of Australians regularly consuming snack foods (3). Snacking allows us to fuel ourselves in a way that fits in with our modern, fragmented lifestyles and consumers are increasingly demanding healthier, more innovative options. And this is where the unlikely legume fits in.

Although previously an often overlooked food group, the popularity of legumes continues to grow in all food sectors, helped along by their exemplary health benefits. With 40% of Australians citing that one of their top health priorities is to consume more fresh fruit and vegetables and 23% looking to eat healthier snacks (4), it seems only natural that snacking and legumes have combined to take advantage of this niche.

“Snacking is no longer about a specific product category but rather about a set of behaviours – a way of eating and drinking – a kind of occasion. In other words, anything and everything can be a snack – and increasingly is.” 
Food & Drink News

With 2016 being the International Year of the Pulse, it’s fitting that this year has seen an increase in legume based snacks. And there are many benefits associated with eating legumes; they’re an economical source of plant-based protein, inexpensive, a good source of fibre which helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer and they’re great for the environment too as they help to promote soil health.

With this push for new snack products, innovation is increasing on a daily basis - lentils are being puffed, chickpeas are being roasted, salted and served as a snack and lupins are being ground into flour. In fact, the number of new snacks containing legumes launched around the world increased by an astounding 54% between 2014 and 2015 (5)

We’ve taken a look at some of the top products emerging in legume based snacking.

Partner Foods has developed a range of roasted legumes including roasted and seasoned chickpeas and fava beans, Chic Nuts and Fav-va Nuts, which come in small portion controlled packs, providing a healthy snack at any time of the day.

an innovative legume based snack

Taking the Pea is another example of a company cashing in on the savoury snack trend with their range of crunchy flavoured peas, promoting their high fibre and protein content to young consumers.

an innovative legume based snack

Simple is the new natural and it doesn’t come much more simple than The Good Beans’ roasted, seasoned chickpeas.
an innovative legume based snack

Luke’s Organic range of corn chips includes a red lentil variety - a great way of getting plant-protein into the diets of those who may otherwise overlook the humble legume.

an innovative legume based snack

One of the more innovative products comes from Chaat Co who have produced a savoury yoghurt based snack topped with lentil puffs.

an innovative legume based snack

Many café’s and restaurants are now using chickpea flour to create gluten free snack products and pea protein to up the protein content of their bite-size snacks.

an innovative chickpea snack

And there’s an increasing number of manufacturers using legume flours in their snack products, including chickpea and lupin flour – Good Thins snacks are made with chickpea flour.

an innovative legume based snack

As the snacking category continues to grow in both definition and financial growth, there are multiple opportunities to be had for manufacturers. Discerning consumers are looking for a number of attributes with their snacking choices…

Nutrient dense
Small, individual serving sizes
Rapid hand-to-mouth format
Fresh ingredients
An emphasis on less processed ingredients
Plant protein based
Most importantly, consumers want new and different products!

And there are plenty of options for product growth, with companies competing in this growing market by adapting existing lines with new ingredients, such as new varieties of puffed legumes and products made with lentil or lupin flours. As well as new innovation, such as savoury yoghurt with bean puffs or high protein smoothies made with chickpeas.

One thing’s for sure, anything goes and the market is wide open for new products and innovation.

To make your own legume based snacks, visit the GLNC website for a range of delicious recipes.

1. IBIS World. AU Snack Food Manufacturing. 2015
2. Australian Food News. Australian's Snacking Ten Times as Much as Ten Years Ago. 2015
3  Australian Food News. Australia's Snacking Habits Revealed. 2014
4. IPSOS, Food Chats. 2016
5. Innova Market Insights. Pulses are Still on Beat. IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo 2016.