Discriminating between carbohydrate-rich foods: A model based on nutrient density and glycaemic index


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Abstract

Aim:The aim of this study was to develop a model for conceptualising the nutritional quality of carbohydrate-rich foods, using nutrient density and glycaemic index.Methods:A nutrient density score based on six distinguishing nutrients was developed. Nutrient density scores and glycaemic indices for 95 carbohydrate-rich foods were plotted on two dimensional axes, arranged into four carbohydrate quality quadrants. The classifications of foods and groups of foods were then assessed against Australian and American dietary guidelines' recommendations.Results:The model showed considerable capacity to discriminate between the nutritional qualities of carbohydrate-rich foods. In general, the ranking of foods was consistent with dietary guidelines' recommendations with most core foods including dairy products, legumes, starchy vegetables, breads and breakfast cereals falling into the two highest quality categories. Non-core foods such as biscuits, donuts, pastries, sweets and soft drinks fell into the lowest quality category. There were two points of inconsistency between the model and the dietary guidelines, in relation to some fruits and cereals. Nutrient density scores for fruits varied widely. Many cereal foods, including rice and pasta, fell in the lower quality categories and were ranked similarly to biscuits and pastries. Total sugar content was a minor discriminator of nutritional quality using this model.Conclusions:Ranking the nutritional quality of carbohydrate-rich foods using this model suggests that dietary recommendations for cereal foods in dietary guidelines and food guides may need to be reconsidered. More emphasis may need to be placed on nutrient density and less on sugar content.

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