As a Clinical and Sports Dietitian, and Director of CANutrition, a specialist nutrition practice that provides dietetic advice to support cancer patients, my 20-year career has been dedicated to helping people progress their health, wellness and performance needs, using plant-based dietary approaches.
Plant-based diets, including the Mediterranean, DASH and MIND diets, have been widely researched as helping to reduce risks of cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. They are also associated with healthier body weights, as well as improved gut, brain and longer-term cognitive function.
One confusing aspect of plant-based eating that I often need to clarify, is that these ‘plant-forward’ diets aren’t exclusively tofu and beans, and it is still okay to include small serves of red and other meats. This is an enormous relief to many patients whose spaghetti Bolognese, burger and meatloaf recipes are hard-wired into them. Lean red meat in my patient’s diets also adds in good quality proteins, a more absorbable iron and other essential minerals. This is important when they are recovering from cancer treatment, training hard or trying to reduce fat, not muscle weight.
The Australian Heart Foundationand Cancer Council Australia also recommend that a wholefood type plant-based diet can include up to 350-400g of red meat a week. The current Australian Dietary Guidelines (2013) recommend small palm-sized portions (90-120g), included up to 2-3 times a week.
One of the easiest ways to adpot a plant-based approach to eating, is to use a mushroom blend when cooking minced meat meals. Substituting a portion of mince (beef, lamb, pork or chicken) in recipes, with an equivalent serve of mushrooms, will not only reduce the amount of meat in the meal, it will further enhance the taste, health and budget benefits too.
Here are 5 reasons why I recommend a mushroom + mince blend:
The Blend cooking method is easy to adopt.
When switching to a plant-based diet, it can be confusing not knowing what you can/can’t eat or learning new recipes to cook. The blend cooking method is a straight switch of ingredients, switching out some mince for mushrooms, so it is easy to adopt as it doesn’t require you to come up with a whole new repertoire of recipes. Using smaller serves of red meat and boosting the portion sizes with mushrooms, will also help your minced meals taste better, cost less to make, and be boosted with extra health benefits.
Healthier – with less fat and more nutrients.
Mushrooms have almost no kilojoules or calories compared to red meat, so substituting some mince for mushrooms significantly lowers the overall food kilojoules or calories that you are dishing up. Comparatively, mushrooms have 88% less calories than the same portion of lean red minced meat, which is good for the waistline.
- 100g of lean red mince* 710 kJ (169 calories)
- 100g of minced mushrooms 86 KJ (20 calories)
*Analysis 100g lean red mince Foodworks 10
In addition, to helping to reduce red meat intake and lower the fat content of your meals, a blend of mushrooms supercharges the nutritional value. Mushrooms have been found to be rich in an exciting type of fibres – beta-glucans. Beta-glucans have been shown to help reduce cholesterol levels This potential of beta-glucans in mushrooms is being investigated by CSIRO and it is likely that a blended meal of meat and mushrooms could be the next heart foundation favourite food
Mushrooms are also a very good source of vitamin D. Blending in a serve of mushrooms (exposed to sunlight for 15 minutes) into your spaghetti bolognaise is enough to meet your daily vitamin D requirements.
Blending mushrooms with mince ENHANCES the meaty flavour, while reducing the amount of salt needed.
There are not too many whole foods or ingredients that can be used to fill the shoes of the meaty type tastes in dishes like bolognaise, meat loaf, burgers and alike. Mushrooms however have an umami flavour, which results in their ability to mimic the taste of meat naturally.This was put to the test by the US Mushroom Council in a consumer acceptance study of both adults and children (eating blended beef burgers at school). A study from The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and University of California-Davis showed that a traditional mincemeat recipe (like a favourite burger) prepared with a mushroom and meat blend could enhance the overall flavour – due to double the impact of the umami flavour. This umami flavour was also proven to reduce the amount of salt need in dishes.In both research studies, participants did not notice any significant differences in the taste of their meals. Many participants found that mushrooms enhanced the overall taste of the meals, and that minced meat meals could substitute up to 70% mushrooms, in beef mince dishes like shepherd’s pie or chilli con carne, without changing the ‘meaty’ flavour.Reducing salt in the diet is key dietary recommendation that is aimed at helping improve heart health and lower the risks of high blood pressure and a stroke.
Fuller for longer.
Mushrooms are also proven to assist with satiety (feeling full) as they have unique with fibres that help you to feel fuller for longer. Mushrooms are rich in beta-glucans, which is a soluble type of fibre, and these types of fibres absorb water and swell in the gut. This helps to slow down the rate of digestion and how fast your food travels down through the digestive tract. Think about how long a whole food burger made with mushrooms and served with a salad will travel, compared to a fast-food version served with a soft drink. Incorporating mushrooms into your minced dishes means you will feel satisfied for longer, even though you have eaten less.
More cost-effective – extends portions and saves you money.
This is common sense. Typically, mushrooms cost less per kilo than lean red mince, which means you will save money. Bulking up your meals with blended mushrooms saves money too, as it’s easy to extend portion sizes. We like the idea of extending the meal so that you have one serve for dinner and another for the freezer or lunch tomorrow.
Since I have started working with the Australian Mushroom Growers Association, my husband tells everyone that he is sure that the sale of mushrooms has grown exponentially. I have always loved mushrooms, but I am still discovering lots of new and exciting health and tasty ways to use them. Using a blend of mushroom is one of the easiest cooking methods to adopt, plus it is a do-able way to be able to eat a plant-rich diet, as well smaller palm sized portions of meat. Mushrooms can also help to boost the taste, nutrients and the health benefits that can still be enjoyed from your family favourite meals.