This month we cut through the confusion on cinnamon and blood glucose; look at why fats matter for optimal insulin administration; and why and how to make the most of Australian sweet lupin flour and flakes.
We are often asked about cinnamon and blood glucose management. It’s confusing on two fronts: the scientific evidence and the type of cinnamon.
Despite bold headlines claiming that “cinnamon will calm your blood sugars” there is no good scientific evidence as yet that it will do any such thing. A review in Nutrition Journal that evaluated 8 clinical trials concludes that while cassia cinnamon may have the potential to lower blood glucose, the short duration of studies carried out so far and their poor design has made the available evidence both inconclusive and difficult to interpret. Well-designed trials with adequate power to interpret the endpoints are urgently required to establish the efficacy and safety of C. cassia with its high coumarin content say the researchers. C. zeylanicum with its low coumarin content would be a safer alternative they also say – but there haven’t been any clinical trials using it yet. To control quantity and quality, most studies give participants capsules to down not a spoon of spice to sprinkle over porridge.
What’s the difference in the two cinnamons apart from the coumarin content? Culinary spice guru Ian Hemphill (author of the Spice and Herb Bible) explains. “True cinnamon is easily and regularly confused with cassia cinnamon. Everybody is confused from consumers, to traders, processors and even the growers themselves. It is virtually impossible for the average consumer to tell the difference. The best true cinnamon is a very thin underneath layer of bark from a quite young piece of branch, while cassia cinnamon is the complete thickness of bark from the fully grown tree. There are also significant differences in aroma and use. The aroma of true cinnamon is delicate, sweet and subtle, and it’s virtually impossible to use too much in your cooking. Cassia cinnamon (sometimes called bakers’ cinnamon) has a highly fragrant cinnamon aroma when it is ground, but you need to use it in moderation – too much spoils the flavour.”
The take-home: Stick with your doctor’s, dietitian’s and diabetes educator’s suggestions for managing your BGLs and enjoy the flavour and aroma of cinnamon or cassia in your cooking. Read what Ian has to say about using these culinary spices HERE.
THE EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL ADVANTAGE
If you have type 1 diabetes, the type of fat you consume with a regular mixed meal can significantly influence your postprandial glycemic response is the key finding of a small randomised crossover study from Italy published in Diabetes Care. The researchers found that:
- • With a high GI meal, adding extra virgin olive oil to a meal blunts the early postprandial blood glucose response that was observed after a similar meal with butter or that was low-fat.
- • With a low GI meal, neither the type nor the amount of fat influences the postprandial blood glucose response. “Independently of type and quantity of fat added” they write, “low GI foods determine a blunted early postprandial response and a late rise of blood glucose levels.” Or as Prof Jennie Brand-Miller always puts it: “means they are able to keep their blood glucose on an even keel.
The take-home for people with type 1 diabetes is that for optimal insulin administration with meals it’s not just about carbs. It is important to take account of the quality of both carbohydrates and fats in the meal.
These results may also be applicable to people who don’t have type 1 diabetes says Dr Alan Barclay. “People with type 1 diabetes are an easy subgroup to test such a hypothesis in because they monitor their blood glucose the most. More research in people with type 2 is definitely warranted.”
Pulses (legumes) are packed with plenty of good things for good health including lean plant protein, slow-digesting carbs, fibre (including the sticky ones that lower cholesterol), vitamins and minerals. In the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Drs Antigone Kouris-Blazos and Regina Belski review the current evidence for the myriad health benefits of legumes and highlight a newcomer, Australian sweet lupins from Western Australia. “Sweet lupin flour and flake products are slowly entering the Australian marketplace,” they told GI News “in bread (Edwards Lupin and Chia and Bodhis Bread), cookies (Bodhis, Skinnybik), Heinz gluten free pasta and Monster Muesli Choc-Lish and as a crumb for meat or fish patties or to add to dips improving the nutritional profile of these products. However, people with a history of food allergies, especially to peanuts, should avoid lupins” Explaining the advantages of lupin flour and flakes they said: “Compared to other legumes, sweet lupins have negligible levels of anti-nutritional factors (like phytates, trypsin inhibitors) which can reduce the absorption of nutrients in the bowel. Because of this, Australian lupin flour and flakes don’t need cooking or soaking, making them more versatile in the kitchen and they can be added directly to smoothies”. Have a look at Lupin Foods website for recipe ideas.