Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

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Are mushrooms the new meat?


How could I resist the headline: 7 simple weight-loss foods? Of course, we all know that there are no magical weight loss foods. Weight loss and management is all about the overall pattern of eating. Eating half a grapefruit before¬†every meal, eating eggs, or blueberries is not necessarily going to mean that you’ll lose weight.

The suggestion that bothered me the most was to swap out meat for mushrooms. I’ve got nothing against mushrooms (cooked, obviously). Nothing against meat either. Certainly, if you’re a frequent meat eater and you start replacing meat with mushrooms, you’re probably going to lose weight. However, mushrooms, despite their meaty texture are not nutritionally comparable to meat and the suggestion that they’re interchangeable concerns me. Go ahead and have a portabello burger or a mushroom¬†lasagne, but bear in mind that those mushrooms aren’t providing you with the protein, iron, vitamin B12, etc that meat does. Ensure that you include other sources of these nutrients in your diet as well as the mushrooms.


A lesson in food swaps and mushrooms

Still getting caught up on my reading! It’s not at all timely, but I couldn’t resist writing about an article on Healthy holiday food swaps.

As dietitians we’re always looking for ways to tweak foods and choices to improve nutrition and, for many clients, reduce calories. Even so, articles like this bother me. I can’t quite put my finger on it but I think it has something to do with the notion that we can’t be healthy without depriving ourselves. You don’t have to eat sweet potatoes instead of mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie instead of pecan pie if you don’t like those choices. If you’re preparing the recipe yourself you can always make adjustments to boost nutrition and reduce calories. If not, you can still enjoy the foods you like at Christmas dinner, just have small portions. I’m a firm believer that you should enjoy your food.

Aside from my overarching issues with these “eat this, don’t eat that” types of articles, I also have an issue with a couple of the facts provided. One is the comparison of pumpkin pie to pecan pie. Perhaps, on average, pecan pie is more calorific than pumpkin pie. However, the number of calories is going to vary depending on the recipe. Also, when they provide the calories per slice there’s no indication of how large a slice they’re talking about. You could significantly reduce the calories by having half a slice.

My other issue: mushrooms. Yes, mushrooms can be a source of vitamin D (they’re the only plant source). However, they’re not exactly an “excellent” source as the article states. There’s about 7 IU in 100 grams (more than a cup) of fresh white mushrooms. The current recommendation is for those between the ages of 1-70 to consume 600 IU a day. Apparently, the level of vitamin D in mushrooms can be increased to meet our needs by exposure to UV light (1). As far as I’m aware this has yet to become standard procedure. Something else that’s important to note: the form of vitamin D in mushrooms is D2, recommended supplements contain D3 and research indicates that this form is more readily converted in the human body (2). Mushroom haters rejoice, vegans take heed: you might not want to turn to mushrooms for your vitamin D needs just yet.