Make your New Years resolutions a success: Ditch the detox diet and eat more mushrooms.
If you’re like most people, setting a new year’s resolution that involves health and wellness is something that was on top of your 2022 to-do list.
If you’ve found yourself failing at accomplishing these goals in the past, it may be time to move away from a detox type or other quick fix type dietary approaches, and instead embrace the steps needed to fill the fridge with real food and start eating in an intuitive way.
Detox and restrictive type diets simply don’t work, they are not sustainable and overlook the fact that your body’s liver, kidneys, skin and lungs are already doing the job needed to detox and eliminate waste on a continuous basis. Trying to shed weight quickly, via a drastic cut in your usual calories or kilojoules, will generally back-fire. As your body thinks you are starving or in a famine type scenario, it will try to fight back. This is done via slowdown in your metabolic rate (how fast you usually burn the food kilojoules or calories you eat). It also means any initial weight loss, will be regained a lot quicker and then a lot harder to take off the next time around. The bottom line is that you will go a lot further if you focus on habits that allow you to implement nutritious foods into your diet, rather than restricting and cutting out superfoods such as mushrooms.
Here are five sustainable ways that mushrooms can help your health goals.
1. Mushrooms can help you to reduce your overall food energy intakes (kilojoules) in a sustainable way
Cutting or overly restricting your daily kilojoule intakes by too much is more likely to lead to nagging hunger and increased sugar cravings, making it harder to resist and stick to your goals. A better way to reduce your food energy intake is to eat and substitute with healthy and lower energy dense or lower calorie content foods, also those with a lower GI (Glycaemic Index) - this is where the mushroom truly excels. Mushrooms are low GI and have been proven to help with satiety – so they can help you feel fuller for longer.
Mushrooms are almost kilojoule or calorie free, a handful of mushrooms only has around 35 kilojoules. This also makes them a great food to snack on.
2. Blend in or add extra mushrooms to cut down on red meat intakes and make it go further
A key recommendation for health is to cut down red meat intakes, with leading organisations including the Australian Heart Foundation and Cancer Council advising we eat no more than around 350-400g across the week.
Mushrooms can be used as a food that can boost and extend your favourite meat dishes further. For example, if you are having tacos or bolognaise for dinner, simply replace half of your minced beef with minced mushroom. Not only will your meal be even more delicious, but you’ll be also eating more of a plant-focused diet and working towards your goals without even noticing.
3. Mushrooms help boost and feed a healthy gut microbiome
The frontier of nutrition health is now geared towards how your diet can promote the health of your gut microbiome. The gut microbiome has been described as our body's second brain, in that it has a real hand in affecting how we feel and our ability to maintain a healthy weight.
Research has found that if you feed your gut bacteria or microbiome with healthy and higher fibre foods, it is likely that the bacteria who thrive on the nutrients in these types of foods will directly feed back to the brain and by default you will start to prefer their healthier food preferences. If on the other hand you eat higher fat, sugary and more fast foods, then the not-so-good bacteria are more likely to take charge and you will crave more of the higher sugar, processed and fatty food options.
While this does sound like big brother is taking control of your body, it is one reason why some people feel as if they are addicted to sugar.
Mushrooms have been shown as able to help boost our healthier food eating types of bacteria. They contain a unique type of prebiotic fibre called chitin which is only found in mushrooms, crustaceans, and insects. Prebiotic fibres act like a fertiliser to the good bacteria colonies, helping them to grow and flourish.
Furthermore, mushrooms also contain high levels of potassium which can help stimulate the growth of new healthy bacteria in the gut, whilst also benefiting the pre-existing bacteria in the process.
4. Mushrooms are rich in key antioxidants needed to help our immune systems fight
It would be nice to be able to look forward to pursuing your 2022 health goals without having to mention COVID-19, but with it still raging in the community, it continues to be as important as ever to eat foods that are able to support our immune system and help arm our body to fight against COVID, as well as common colds and flu.
In addition to being the sunshine food and able to meet our daily recommended requirements for vitamin D, mushrooms have also been found to contain an incredibly unique and potent source of a sulphur-containing amino acid ergothioneine. Ergothioneine is being touted as having many possible benefits in human health that include helping with the immune system, cognitive function, inflammation and helping to protect the skin, the heart and the brain from the effects of ageing.
It is also in the research spotlight at the moment as casual observations noted that lower levels in the body could be associated with higher rates of COVID-19 hospital admissions and complications.
5. Mushrooms are a healthy heart food and may help to lower cholesterol
With so much focus on COVID, it can be easy to overlook that heart disease is still Australia’s number one cause of health problems and premature deaths. Reducing your dietary risk factors for heart disease means keeping your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol in check. Again, mushrooms are a food that is low in kilojoules, they are fat free (no saturated fat or cholesterol) and because of its umami type flavours they are an ideal substitute to adding salt into your soups, stews and minced dishes etc. Lower salt intakes have been shown to help reduce blood pressure levels.
Mushrooms are also particularly high in beta-glucans. We know the beta-glucans found in oats are proven to lower our cholesterol, and an Australian study is currently underway, conducted by the CSIRO, which could prove that eating the humble Australian mushroom could do the same.
Mushrooms are the perfect health partner to red meat. Meat is higher in saturated fat, meaning consuming too much of it can contribute to increases in the bad types of cholesterol in the body. Mushrooms are a great way to reduce the overall amount of meat that you normally serve up.
Try these great meat-free mushroom recipes to help boost the health of your gut.
Note: the information in this article is meant as general information only. For specific, personal advice on any medical condition, please see your doctor.
AMGA Dietitian - Jane Freeman
Jane is an internationally regarded and experienced dietitian and nutritionist, is an IOC (International Olympic Committee) qualified sports nutritionist, Leiths qualified cook and an award-winning author.
As a practicing dietitian and director for CANutriton, a cancer specialist nutrition practice in Sydney, Jane is big mushroom lover and passionate about delivering practical nutrition advice that is easy to understand and adopt.
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