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Eat less by eating more mushrooms

You can argue that John Wooden created the greatest men’s college basketball dynasty of all time simply by stating that in one 12-year stretch, his UCLA Bruins won the NCAA Championship tournament, now better know as March Madness, 10 times. Between 1963 and 1975, UCLA won 335, lost 22, and finished the season either 30-0 or 29-1 seven times.

You can also argue that the “Wizard of Westwood” created the most succinct and spot-on definition of personal success of all time, too. “Success,” Wooden believes, “is peace of mind.”

While I’m no John Wooden nor even a warlock from Weissport, I do know the best gauge of success for this column. It’s when you gain peace of mind by using a piece of my advice.

What makes that success even greater, ironically, is if you don’t take my advice unconditionally, but alter it to suit your needs. Such alteration means you’ve embraced the concept that I preach is so important for those in the pursuit of optimal health and fitness.

The Snowflake Theory.

Quite simply, I’m not you and you’re not me, especially genetically. We’re as unique as snowflakes, hence the name of the theory and why a one-size-fits-all approach to diet or fitness - despite the claims in dozens of bestselling books - does not exist.

If we accept our genetic differences, however, I can learn from you and you can learn from me.

That’s why you sometimes read about what I eat and when I eat it. While I’m not expecting you to follow suit necessarily, I am hoping to intrigue you enough so that you experiment and discover a variation that works for you.

With that said, I’d like you to know why just about every single supper I eat and about half of my lunches contain at least 4 (and sometimes as many as 12) ounces of cooked mushrooms: They’re low in calories, especially filling, and loaded with antioxidants.

Depending on the type, 2 raw ounces - about the amount you’d probably add to a salad - contain between 12 and 18 calories. Add just 1 ounce of shredded mozzarella cheese to a salad, however, and you’ll get up to 67 more calories and 4.5 more grams of fat.

Add 1 ounce of slivered almonds, and you’ll consume at least 140 more calories and 13.6 more grams of fat.

Canned mushrooms are low in cals, too. The 8-ounce no-salt version I usually buy contains 45.

When I started adding that amount to one of my favorite lunches, a mixture of shirataki noodles and green beans, the meal seemed so much more filling that I wanted to know if mushrooms create such an effect. Research performed at the University of Minnesota and published in the October 2017 issue of Appetite suggests that is indeed the case.

In this study, lead author Joanne Slavin, Ph.D., and colleagues compared white button mushrooms and meat by feeding equal amounts in terms of calories and protein in meals to 32 participants over a 10-day-span. The mushroom-instead-of-meat meals led to “significantly less” hunger, greater fullness, and fewer cals being consumed in subsequent meals.

This study substantiates Johns Hopkins University research published in the December 2013 issue of Appetite using 73 obese adults. Those who regularly swapped one cup of white button mushrooms for a serving of red meat over the course of the year-long study lost an average of 7 pounds and 2.6 inches from their waists compared to those who didn’t.

In addition, the mushroom-swappers recorded lower body fat percentages, lower blood pressure readings, and fared better on tests designed to detect inflammation.

In an announcement of these findings prior to publication, Dr. Lawrence Cheskin of the Hopkins Weight Management Center explained that mushrooms were picked as the replacement for meat “because of their nutritional qualities ... essentially no calories and zero fat, plus several micronutrients.”

Among those micronutrients are two the body employs as antioxidants, glutathione and ergothioneine. Antioxidants counteract the free-radical damage that leads to aging and serious health problems like heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and some forms of cancer.

White button mushrooms - generally the least expensive of the 20 types commercially cultivated in the U.S. - have more antioxidants than tomatoes, green peppers, pumpkins, zucchini, carrots, or green beans based on the ORAC test.

Further work on the antioxidants in mushrooms performed at Penn State University and published in the November 2017 issue of Food Chemistry found that the levels of glutathione and ergothioneine in different types of mushrooms are quite different and that the white button mushrooms actually contain far less than many other types.

Despite that, only 5 white button mushrooms per day provide 3 milligrams of ergothioneine, an amount that seems to lower the risk of both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease based on a comparative study of eating habits in the U.S., France, and Italy.