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mushrooms & breast cancer

A snap from a recent  cooking class

A snap from a recent cooking class

Us dietitians tend to view nutrition claims with scepticism. That's just the way we have been trained. We want hardcore, quality evidence before we put our hands on our chests and shout from the rooftops that an eating pattern or food will benefit us. It's just the way we are. I guess it stops us from spreading BS about food and nutrition right?

Sometimes however I think we can be too sceptical, er on the side of caution, or forget the bigger picture of what we are all trying to achieve - we want everyone to be eating more fresh, minimally processed foods right? So anyway, when a deititian hears that MUSHROOMS may indeed kill breast cancer cells, may in fact reduce cognitive decline and risk of dementia, can provide 100% of our vitamin D needs and will likely improve blood glucose levels we automatically back up and think waaaaaaaaait-a-minute! What evidence is there for these claims?

Now I have been watching the mushroom scene for some time now (yes, I believe there is a scene). I have been following research from Australian Mushroom Growers, taking opportunities to listen to people speak about mushrooms, and passing on the messages by blowing peoples mind with my 'mushroom facts' during cooking classes (and I mean BLOWING. PEOPLES. MINDS).  

I went to another update on mushrooms last Saturday. This event was hosted by Australian Mushroom Growers and we were lucky enough to have a presentation on nutrition and mushrooms by renowned dietitian, Glen Cardwell and be treated to a cooking demonstration by the lovely Janelle Bloom. The research around mushrooms is quite compelling with us dietitians even having enough proof to promote them more and more. I really wanted to share my favourite pieces of information from the day to prompt you all to add more mushies to your diet.

Breast and prostrate cancer

Talking about breast cancer and mushrooms is on the top if my priority list. We all know someone who has been affected by breast cancer. Now I'm not going to tell you how you can cure breast cancer, but I'm going to share what we know. Three studies have found a link between eating mushrooms and reducing breast cancer risk by more than 50%. A meta-analysis (where studies are pulled together and reviewed) that looked at 10 observational studies states: 'The protective effects of mushroom intake on risk of breast cancer were consistently exhibited in premenopausal and postmenopausal women.' The protective effect was clear at 150g of mushrooms per week (that is the equivalent of 5 medium sized button mushrooms). Now these studies are OBSERVATIONAL (not experimental clinical trials) meaning researchers can't 100% put their hands on their chests and shout from the rooftops that mushrooms reduce breast cancer risk. But these studies are enough for me to encourage women to eat more mushrooms. Eating more vegetables is never a bad thing anyway! 

Other research shows that mushrooms can kill breast cancer cells AND contain compounds that can reduce breast and prostate cancer cell growth and proliferation. All of these findings have triggered further research to find out how these compounds in mushrooms actually act on cancer cells. FACINATING and EXCITING!

Other fun facts

I could honestly talk about the latest research all day so I encourage you to check out the Australian Mushroom Growers website for all of the info, but here are my fav fast facts:

  • Mushrooms can generate bioavailable vitamin D. This means your body will actually absorb and use the vitamin D, which is essential for bone health and other important body functions. This fact is important as it's really difficult to get vitamin D from others foods, and after winter (remember how much you hibernated), our vitamin D levels are generally low. Either look for vitamin D mushrooms in the supermarket (these are limited) or put your mushrooms in the midday sun for about an hour after you buy them. Just 100g a day (equivalent to 3 button mushrooms) will give you 100% of your vitamin D needs. 
  • Mushrooms can reduce plaque build up in the brain which will reduce cognitive decline.
  • Mushrooms have a savoury flavour called umami, coming from a high level of natural glutamates. When glutamates are high in a dish the amount of salt and fat can be dramatically reduced (by about 40%) without affecting the overall flavour of the dish - because flavour is important!
  • The mushroom is neither a plant or an animal - they really come from their own kingdom! 

Hopefully I have attracted you to the mushroom scene. If you come from a family who don't like mushrooms, Australian Mushroom Growers are working on a campaign to develop blended recipes using mushrooms and mince. We were lucky enough to taste some of these recipes on Saturday and they were delicious! 

Here are is a some snap from Saturday. 

Pork and mushroom sang choy bow made with 400g of blended mushrooms 

Pork and mushroom sang choy bow made with 400g of blended mushrooms 

We also walked away with a bag of mushrooms so this week I used them to make:

  • chicken, mushroom, leek and thyme risotto,
  • mushroom, thyme and goats cheese on toast and
  • salmon, dill and mushroom pie.

What's your favourite way to use mushrooms?

Don't forget to sign-up for regular blog and recipe updates using the link below. I promise no SPAM! 

Let's cook, eat & enjoy with Mary Wills

The Wholesome Collective is passionate about creating simple, wholesome recipes AND showing people through interactive groups and presentations just how easy it is to cook, eat & enjoy in a healthy way.

That is why we have recruited the skills and talents of the passionate and energetic Mary Wills! Mary is a Home Economist with a wealth of experience in the food industry and we just love her approach to food and cooking. From recipe writing for The Australian Women's Weekly to enabling people living with disabilities to independently cook, she has done it all! 

So you can all get to know her, I asked Mary a few questions about her career path, her inspirations in the kitchen and her food & cooking mantra.


KERRYN: Can you please tell us a little about your yourself, your profession, and your career so far. 

MARY: I am a Home Economist, which usually takes some explaining or people laugh, thinking I am saying that I am a house wife. The term Home Economist is quite old fashioned and yet we have such a vital role to play in the community. No, I am not a chef, I don't have commercial cooking skills. What is the difference you ask? A Home Economist works in the community educating people to increase their cooking skills in the home, developing recipes for books, magazines and publications, food styling for photography and working in the health system as assistants to Dietitians.

Mary's AMAZING seafood paella

Mary's AMAZING seafood paella

KERRYN: Do you have any career highlights that you want to share? 

MARY: I have been lucky enough to work at The Lodge in Canberra (home of Australia's Prime Minister) where I have served Prime Minister John Howard his dinner. I have worked alongside many celebrity food presenters to host fabulous cooking classes. But I think my most iconic moment as a Home Ec was to see my name in print as a contributor to many Australia's Women's Weekly cook books. I felt like I had really made it!

KERRYN: Why did you decide to work in the field of food and nutrition?

MARY: Mum may not be too happy with my answer. So sorry mum, I love you dearly. I never liked mum's cooking except for a few pieces of brilliance that I still use. I wanted to cook the meals myself and use foods that I read about in The Australian Women's Weekly cook books (the only resource I had!) Mum graciously handed over the kitchen to me with the proviso that I cleaned up...fair enough!

Mary's vegetarian chilli con carne with polenta dumplings!

Mary's vegetarian chilli con carne with polenta dumplings!

The love of nutrition came later as I studied Home Science at school. I was hooked but wanted to combine my love of cooking and nutrition and in the 80's, the answer was a Home Economics certificate.

KERRYN: Is there anything that continues to inspire or motivate you to work in this field?

MARY: I love the buzz of showing someone new ideas who takes that idea into their home and increases their skills. We all eat and we all have to prepare food to some degree. To have someone tell me that they find that task easier, more interesting or more enjoyable as a result of something I have shown them is such a thrill.

KERRYN: What is the best part of your job?

MARY: The retention of knowledge by people who have come to me. I have taught children who won't eat vegetables, I have taught 93 year olds new ideas, I have taught disabled people how to have confidence in the kitchen (best ever reward) and people who use my recipes in their weekly repertoire of meals. To feel you have helped or made a positive impact elates me.

KERRYN: What is a simple way to describe your food and cooking manta?

Keep it simple.

KERRYN: What are 5 must-have ingredients in the house at all times and why?

MARY: olive oil, lemons, parsley, Dijon mustard & lentils. I can cook it, flavour it and add a protein in a flash. SIMPLE!

KERRYN: What are the key things that you focus on in order to stay healthy and well?

MARY: Count my blessings every morning as I wake up...fair dinkum I really do. Make a choice, fresh or processed - fresh will win every time. That very simple philosophy will keep us healthy. ALSO, the sharing of food made with love cannot be over rated. 

You can see from this interview that Mary is the perfect fit for The Wholesome Collective. A food and nutrition consultancy that is passionate about enabling everyone to cook simple, heathy and delicious meals. If you are interested, we can tailor an interactive cooking presentation or hands on class for any group (whether that be a sporting club, school, workplace, private or community group). This option will show you how uncomplicated it is to prepare nourishing meals, using fresh and familiar foods that still taste great. 

If you would like to spend some time with myself and Mary as we teach you the foundations of nutrition and cooking please SAY HELLO and see how we can help you. 

Kerryn x