Mushrooms and Nutrition, Heart Disease in Women, and the Old Food Guide Pyramid

Q: Are mushrooms a good source of any nutrients?
Q: How do the new guidelines to lower heart disease in women compare to diet recommendations for lower cancer risk?
Q: Why was the old Food Guide Pyramid with different levels of food consumption replaced?


Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Are mushrooms a good source of any nutrients?
A: Mushrooms provide a variety of nutrients with few calories. A half-cup of mushroom pieces contains just 9 calories when raw or 21 calories when cooked without added fat. (Mushrooms shrink when cooked, so a half-cup cooked requires a lot more.) Mushrooms are a good source of the mineral selenium, which protects against cancer as an antioxidant and by promoting DNA repair. Mushrooms also contain other compounds that act as antioxidants and may lead to the lowering of estrogen levels in post-menopausal women. (High estrogen levels are linked with increased risk of breast cancer.) Much of the research on the healthful effects of mushrooms is still in preliminary stages but researchers suggest it holds promise. Many people trying to cut back on meat portions find that mushrooms in casseroles, stews and chilies add satisfying flavor and texture.

Q: How do the new guidelines to lower heart disease in women compare to diet recommendations for lower cancer risk?
A: Many of the steps to lower cancer risk are precisely those that protect against heart disease: avoidance of tobacco and second-hand smoke; limiting alcohol and sodium; weight control; physical activity 30 to 60 minutes daily; and a plant-based diet with fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which supply antioxidants and fiber. The new heart-focused recommendations call for at least two servings a week of oily fish, which supplies protective omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats may help protect against cancer too, but evidence is less clear for now. The American Heart Association guidelines emphasize a limit of no more than 7 percent saturated fat (found in high-fat meats and dairy products) to control blood cholesterol. Currently, there is not enough data to provide specific limits on saturated fats for lower cancer risk and thus, people are encouraged to follow the widely recommended limit to reduce heart disease of no more than 7 to 10 percent saturated fat.

Q: Why was the old Food Guide Pyramid with different levels of food consumption replaced?
A: The current federal food pyramid, called MyPyramid, was created to reflect the latest U.S. dietary guidelines and to address confusion over the “old” 1992 Food Guide Pyramid. The 1992 pyramid showed that food groups are needed in different proportions. The revised pyramid is intended to better clarify that within each food group some specific foods should be included more abundantly than others. In MyPyramid, each food group stripe is itself a pyramid. The wide section of the colored bands illustrates that it is best to eat more of some foods than others. Accompanying materials clarify that whole grains are important selections from the grain group; variety is important among vegetable selections; meat and dairy products should be lean; and preferred choices from all food groups are foods low in sugar, salt and saturated and trans fats. (Unfortunately, some feedback suggests that people do not understand this message from the graphic design.) The current pyramid diagram omits the former listing of recommended “servings” to convey the need for individual identification of optimal portions. A serving is a standard for comparison; a portion refers to how much you eat at a time. For example, the recommendation for at least five servings of vegetables from the former pyramid corresponds to two and a half cups of vegetables, but might be consumed in two or three hearty portions. Finally, the addition of a person climbing up the pyramid emphasizes the importance of daily physical activity.

Reprinted with permission from the American Institute for Cancer Research www.aicr.org

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  • Trevin Martin

    this was worthless

  • Md.Ali Azad

    I make impressed to mushroom & prepare a capsule named Mushvit.
    All please take 1/2 mushvit everyday.