by Tia

The world is in an obesity crisis. We’ve all heard the message … but how do we solve it, globally, in South Africa and very often, personally!

There’s much to think about on World Obesity Day coming up on March 4 but here’s the good news…. Research shows that eating fresh mushrooms can make a very positive contribution

Mushroom Proteins

According to a recent Thai study published in the US National Library of Medicine, “Edible mushroom proteins are high in quality, low in cost, widely available, and meet environmental and social requirements, making them suitable as sustainable alternative proteins.” Protein, of course, is key to staying fuller for longer.

Dietary fibre promotes good gut health

Mushrooms are also a rich source of dietary fibre. “Compared to other conventional sources of dietary fibre, such as cereals, legumes, fruits and vegetables, mushrooms are underutilised,” declares a study in the 2022 Journal of Future Foods. Not only does adequate dietary fibre promote good gut health, it is also associated with higher levels of satiety, which possibly prevents overeating.

High volume eating – the next big thing

In addition, mushrooms are the poster-child for high-volume eating since they are notably nutrient-dense while being very low in calories, meaning they contribute to optimum health and can be eaten in larger quantity at multiple meals to fill you up without filling you out.

With volume eating being a huge trend on social media, an article for Welltech verified by registered dietitian nutritionist Melissa Mitri, explains that “volume eating is more sustainable than typical dieting because it does not involve counting calories or macronutrients. Instead, the goal is to eat until you are full and satisfied with the foods that are high in volume and low in calories. 

“Volume eating may be more successful in weight loss over time because it is less intensive and restrictive than just eating higher-calorie foods in smaller amounts or in ‘moderation’.”  This is a real win for anyone trying to lose weight as it cuts down on incessant feelings of hunger.  

The low calorie appeal of mushrooms

Adding to their low calorie appeal, mushrooms are low in sodium, are fat- and cholesterol-free, and high in antioxidants. And when it comes to the bottom line, it helps that mushrooms are highly economical when compared to meat products and are a very accessible meat substitute. As an excellent source of both fibre and protein, mushrooms are particularly useful for plant-based diets.

Most doctors of nutrition and obesity are of the opinion that the best diet out there is “the one you can stick to!” So if you choose high volume, intermittent fasting, anti-inflammatory, vegan, keto, paleo, calorie-restricted, even carnivore, fresh mushrooms will have a beneficial place in your eating plan.

Why exactly is obesity a crisis that needs to be addressed?

In South Africa, around 31% of men and 68% of women are obese, and Julia Goedecke, a senior specialist for the Medical Research Council of South Africa, points out: “People don’t understand it; they see it as more of an aesthetic problem than a health problem.”

The health consequences of being overweight are what we really should concentrate on. Detailing why obesity matters, the Western Cape Government points out that obesity leads to negative heart health, stroke, cancer and diabetes risks and outcomes, and is also linked to issues like gallstones, sleep apnoea, arthritis and psychological problems such as poor self-esteem; all of which mean people are suffering through life rather than living it with vigour and exuberance.  

That’s a sobering reality! Now we are not trying to shame anyone struggling with their weight, nor are we proposing that an Insta-body is something anyone needs or should even aspire to. We stand with the WHO when it states that “people with obesity are constantly shamed and blamed because many – including doctors, policymakers, and others – do not fully understand the root causes of obesity, which are often a complex mixture of dietary, lifestyle, genetic, psychological, sociocultural, economic and environmental factors.”

What we suggest

We are simply of the opinion that eating fresh mushrooms, with all their provable health benefits, can help break cycles of unhealthy eating while delivering daily satisfaction to make the whole process of “being healthy” that little bit more easy to achieve – and swallow.

We’re suggesting swapping out a high calorie meal a couple of times a week with a mushrooms-rich alternative – or just lowering overall meat in a dish by swapping out half with finely chopped fresh mushroom. Try umami-forward Coconut Curry Portabello Ramen instead of your usual bredie, a lentil and mushroom burger as an alternative to that Friday night takeaway, or big brown mushroom steaks on the braai in place of beef. All delicious, all doable.

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