1 October 2008

Food of the Month with Catherine Saxelby

Want to lose weight? Add more mushrooms

Catherine Saxelby

Mushrooms add a rich deep savoury flavour for very few calories and are almost as indispensable as onions in cooking. Think of the difference mushrooms make to stroganoff, risotto, omelet, stir-fries, salads and of course stuffed mushrooms. It’s all due to their high content of glutamate, the naturally occurring version of the favour enhancer monosodium glutamate or MSG. They also have significant quantities of another key flavour compound, salicylate.

At only 23 calories (96 kJ) per 100 grams, mushrooms have what’s called a low ‘energy density’ – they means that they have few calories for their weight or their volume, a big plus these days when so many of our snack foods and take-aways have a high ‘energy density’.


When it comes to nutrition, there are even more bonuses. They have no fat but heaps of B vitamins, especially riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid, which, along with some vitamin D if they have been briefly exposed to sunlight, sets them apart from other vegetables. If they are grown on a compost of horse or chicken manure, they add some vitamin B12 which is often difficult for strict vegetarians to obtain. Being a fruit of a fungus and not a true vegetable, they have little vitamin C or beta-carotene, but are rich in the mineral potassium.

Watching your weight? A recent US study published in Appetite found mushrooms to be an ideal way to cut calories without losing out on flavour or a sense of fullness. You eat well and eat less!

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found they could drop the calorie content of a lunch meal by half if they substituted ground (minced) white button mushrooms for beef mince in familiar dishes like lasagna, ‘sloppy Joe’ (a kind of savoury mince) and ‘chili’ (as in con carne). When asked about palatability, appetite, satiation (post meal fullness) and satiety (general fullness), the study participants didn’t rate the mushroom meals any differently from the beef meals. And despite consuming fewer calories with the mushroom meals, they didn’t compensate by eating more later in the day.

Don’t know about you but I’d certainly be happy to double the amount of mushrooms I add and cut back on the meat or chicken or pasta – and save 20 g of fat and all those calories without feeling any pain. I wouldn’t want a dish composed entirely of mushrooms, but a 50:50 mix of beef and mushrooms in my beef casserole certainly sounds appealing.

Dietitian and popular nutrition communicator, Catherine Saxelby, is the author of Zest and Nutrition for Life


For more information on super foods and healthy eating, visit Catherine’s website: www.foodwatch.com.au


Anonymous said...

What about Quorn? Beeing funghi, is what's written in the article applicable? Thanks. Christina

Anonymous said...

Great article! The naturally occurring MSG was news to me... very interesting.

Being a big mushroom lover, I'm glad one of my favourite vegetables is also a crusader for maintaining my weight!

GI Group said...

It's likely that Quorn would have similar benefits as it is manufactured from mushroom mould, but it hasn't been put to the test so we can't say that all the nutritional and satiety benefits Catherine talks about in her article apply. For those who don't know about Quorn, here's what Kate Marsh says in The Low GI Vegetarian Cookbook:

'Mycoprotein (Quorn™)
Mycoprotein is manufactured from the mould, Fusarium venenatum, which is grown in large sterile fermentation tanks. Glucose is added (as a food for the fungus), as are various vitamins and minerals (to improve the product’s food value). After harvesting, it is heat treated and then mixed with egg white, which acts a binder (so it’s not suitable for vegans). Finally the product is textured to resemble meat and pressed into a mince or into chunks for home cooking (it can be grilled, sauteed, baked or added to casseroles) or used in ready-prepared meals. Marketed as Quorn™, it has a meat-like texture and is low in saturated fat and a good source of protein (100 grams or 3½ ounces supplies about 12 grams protein), fibre, iron and zinc. You can find it in health food stores and major supermarket chains mainly in the UK, Europe and more recently the US. It is not available in Australia or New Zealand where it’s still classified as a novel food and hasn’t yet been imported.'

Anonymous said...

I absolutely detest mushrooms,to the extent that the smell of them cooking turns my stomach!This has been happening since I was a small child.There is widely held assumption that everyone loves mushrooms.....
I would like nutritionists/dieticians/cooks to offer alternatives,as many many recipes contain mushrooms as the bulk ingredient and I am unable to use them.

GI Group said...

Not sure what on earth we can say to such a vehement ‘Mushroom Detester’. We do feel sorry that you can’t stand the smell or taste of mushrooms as there’s no real substitute for their flavour or their ability to add bulk to a meal with so few calories. We asked Catherine Saxelby to write about mushrooms because of the interesting research about them published in 'Appetite' which reported that they are an ideal way to cut calories without losing out on flavour or a sense of fullness. You eat well and eat less! We think you’ll find there are thousands of recipes out there that DO NOT contain mushrooms. Simply browse through any cookbook or search Google on the web and you’ll find ’em. Alternatively, give Quorn a go.