I know, I know, that title was corny, but I had to do it because I do think eating mushrooms or any other healthy food is fun. Probably the last thing you would think concerning mushrooms is that they’re fun to eat, but hear me out. I guess I should start by defining “fun” for the purposes of this article. For me, food is more enjoyable/fun when it’s as nutritious as it is delicious. When I can feel good about what I’m eating because I know it’s doing amazing things in my body like boosting my immunity and preventing disease, that makes mealtime more fun and satisfying. Mushrooms are so packed with nutrients that they absolutely fit the definition of a fun food.
For many, the fact that a food is labeled “healthy” is all they need to hear to know they don’t like it, whether they’ve tried it or not. In that regard, many adults aren’t much more mature at the dinner table than the toddlers in their family. If this describes you, I encourage you to go back and reread my previous post about kiddie menus and the “Tiny Tastes” program and how it can help people learn to like vegetables. The Tiny Tastes program is for children, but since many of us were not taught as children to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, I think it could help adults as well. We know we need to eat more fruits and vegetables, but we don’t know how since we don’t like them. That’s where Tiny Tastes can help you design a program that would work for you. As a society, we’ve become addicted to fast, greasy, sugary, salty, and processed foods devoid of nutrients and fiber, and those foods are crowding out the healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and mushrooms in our diet.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, only about 1 in 10 Americans get the daily recommended intake of fruits and vegetables. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables helps reduce our risk of developing chronic diseases such as type-2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and obesity. When 7 out of the top 10 leading causes of death are chronic diseases, we need to grow up and start eating our vegetables.
I know, I know, mushrooms aren’t a fruit or a vegetable, so why am I nagging you about eating them? While it’s true mushrooms are not classified as a fruit or a vegetable, they are a type of food you could include in your diet that, like fruits and vegetables, offers many health benefits. Below are just a few things mushrooms can do for you.
Mushrooms have been shown to:
- Have anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties
- Protect kidneys and liver (Reishi Mushrooms)
- Improve glucose regulation which could help with diabetes and other metabolic diseases
- Slow the growth of cancerous tumors, regulate tumor genes, decrease tumoral angioneogenesis (growth of new blood vessels that feed the tumor), and increase malignant-cell phagocytosis (the good guys eat the bad guys)
- Increase exercise endurance
- Decrease VLDL and HDL cholesterol and decrease blood pressure (Shiitake)
- Support immune function
Of course, the above list doesn’t include all the good things mushrooms can do for you, but you get the picture. They are definitely something you want to include in your diet along with a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Just because you tried them before and didn’t like them, doesn’t mean you can’t ever like them. With many foods, it takes repeated exposure before you start to like them.
I suggest making just small amounts of whatever food it is that you’re trying to incorporate into your diet. That way, you don’t feel like you’re wasting a lot of food and money when you throw away what you don’t eat. So again, make small amounts. You can search the internet for recipes or ask friends for recommendations. Don’t give up after one dish is not a success. Try many different recipes. Go for the recipes that have other ingredients you find appealing, and remember it’s not just one food that’s going to make or break your diet. For instance, you can’t just eat an apple a day and expect to keep the doctor away when the rest of your diet is filled with fat, sugar, salt, and chemically-laden processed foods. No one “superfood” is going to save you, no matter how great that food is. You must have an overall healthy dietary pattern.
I challenge each of you to begin incorporating more healthy, WHOLE foods into your diet. Let these healthier options begin to crowd out the ones that are currently draining your health and vitality. I was about to say, “that are stealing your health and vitality,” but that would be incorrect. With our poor food choices, many of us have been GIVING away our health and vitality. Let’s make a change. We can do better.
1 Corinthians 13:11 has some good advice that would apply when it comes to eating a healthier diet, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
If we want to live a vibrant and healthy life for many years to come, it is imperative that we stop acting childish when it comes to eating healthy food. We know everything we put into our mouths affects our bodies, and it’s time to stop pretending we don’t know how we got where we are. It’s not about how many years we’ve lived, it’s about what we’ve done during those years. No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to make a change. Change is hard, but as grown-ups, it’s our job to face our challenges head-on and make the best choices we can and stop putting off changing until tomorrow…or next Monday….or next month…or next year. There’s no better time than today to start. Start today to incorporate more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and of course, mushrooms into your diet. It’s the best gift you can give yourself all year long. Have a great week!