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The M Plan: The nutritional benefits of adding mushrooms to your diet

September 05, 2013

What woman doesn’t want to shave inches from problem areas, like the belly, hips, thighs, waist, and upper arms, without shrinking their bust?! Well, The M Plan, a mushroom-rich diet, claims just that. Supporters say that replacing one regular lunchtime snack or dinner with a mushroom dish for 14 days has helped them achieve this goal.

It is hard for me to believe that one particular food can target weight loss in a specific area of the body. However, there are a lot of health benefits to mushrooms, so I would not discourage people from including them in their diet. On the Glycemic Index Scale (0 to 100), mushrooms come in at a 10. This makes them a “low glycemic index” food, meaning their slow digestion and absorption produces a gradual rise in blood sugar and insulin levels, releasing energy in a uniform way. Low glycemic index diets have been known to improve both glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes.

A surprising source of protein

Mushrooms actually have a lot of “bang for your buck” when it comes to protein content. For a five ounce grilled Portabella mushroom, you get about five grams of protein and four grams of fiber, for only 40 calories, and no cholesterol! Their high protein content and rich, hearty flavor make them a great replacement for some meat in hamburgers, meatloaf and casseroles. Their fibers will also help make you feel fuller longer, reducing your overall calorie intake. Diets high in fiber have also been proven to decrease your risk for colon cancer and high cholesterol.

Mushrooms aid in Vitamin D absorption

Did you know that this fungus is actually one of the few food sources to naturally contain ergosterol, the precursor to vitamin D? Some growers have been treating mushrooms with UV light to increase the conversion of ergosterol to ergocalciferol (vitamin D2). Because the vitamin D group is fat-soluble, cooking mushrooms with a healthy fat, such as olive oil, will enhance its absorption. Research has been showing us that many Americans are vitamin D deficient, associated with increased risks of viral infections, bone diseases (osteomalacia, osteoporosis and rickets), muscle aches, weakness and twitching. However, cancer risk and vitamin D status is somewhat controversial. The American Cancer Society states:

“Well-designed clinical trials are needed to confirm whether low levels of vitamin D raise cancer risk and to find out if taking more vitamin D (with or without extra calcium) reduces cancer risk. Until such studies are completed, it is too early to advise people to take vitamin D supplements for cancer prevention alone.”

Mushrooms as a mineral source

Mushrooms have also been known to contain a great amount of minerals, including: copper, selenium, phosphorus and potassium. Copper is required for iron absorption in the digestive tract, and helps to regulate blood pressure and heart rate. Selenium and copper can act as antioxidants and may have a role in cancer prevention; however, more extensive human studies are required. Both phosphorus and potassium assist with muscle contraction, heart rhythm, kidney function and nerve signals.

So, I challenge you to have a “Mushroom Monday” with your family. Shiitake, crimini, oyster, porcini, portabella…. Whichever you choose, they can benefit your health. I just can’t guarantee the edible ones will be magic and melt away your trouble areas!