Tag Archive for: Healthy Eating

Healthy Garlic Mushroom Quinoa

Healthy Garlic Mushroom Quinoa from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan


  1. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium high heat.
  2. Add garlic, mushrooms, thyme, salt and pepper, and cooking, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Stir in cooked quinoa until well combined
  4. Garnish with parmesan and serve

History of Mushrooms

Sometimes categorized as a vegetable, mushrooms are a member of the fungus family of organisms that also includes truffles and the microorganisms of molds and yeasts. For centuries during the early times of mushroom consumption, generally people of the Eastern portion of the world ate mushrooms, while the people of the Western portion of the world did not. And mushrooms have not only been eaten for their flavor but have also been used for their hallucinogenic effects in spiritual and religious ceremonies by the Vikings, Siberian shamans, and in ancient Mexico. The native people of Mexico used them to generate hallucinations that they deemed as visions of the future. The people of France are known in history for introducing mushrooms into Western cuisine. As for the U.S., Americans began serving mushrooms in cuisine in the late 1800s.

Medical Properties of Mushrooms

In addition to their use in Eastern cuisine, mushrooms have been part of Eastern medicine for thousands of years. The reishi mushroom has gained popularity in recent years for its medicinal properties, which may include aiding in weight loss, improving sleep, lessening depression and anxiety, fighting cancer, boosting the immune system, improving focus, and even promoting healing. Studies on chaga mushrooms show that they may help in lowering cholesterol levels, decreasing inflammation in the body, and fighting against oxidative that causes skin aging. Shiitake mushrooms are known for their ability to lower cholesterol, and phytonutrients help prevent plaque buildup in the arteries and aid in maintaining healthy circulation and blood pressure in the body. Lion’s mane mushrooms are known for their ability to boost production of myelin and the bioprotein nerve growth factor that are vital to brain function, and consumption has been shown to alleviate irritability and anxiety and to improve concentration, mental clarity, cognition, and memory. Mushrooms also supply potassium, protein, and polysaccharides, which boost immune function in the body.

Surprising Facts About Mushrooms

Due to their meaty consistency, vegetarians use portobello mushrooms as a replacement for meat. Recent research has utilized mushrooms in varied and surprising ways. Mighty mushrooms are used to turn waste from crops into bioethanol and to clean up toxic waste and oil spills. Materials made from mushrooms have been used as replacements for leather, foam, polystyrene, and building materials. A mushroom has even been discovered that can break down plastics in weeks instead of years.

See all recipes from the Cook & Learn series here.

Nourishing Your Body and Mind: Nutritional Advice For Cancer Survivors

There are few things more confusing to those of us who have had a cancer diagnosis than dietary advice. From conflicting recommendations from well-meaning friends to advice in magazine articles and online blogs, we can easily become overwhelmed with mixed messages.

To bring more clarity to bear on the topic I spoke with registered dietitian Cathy Leman, who is also a survivor of ER/PR+ breast cancer. In this interview Cathy separates dietary fact from fiction and offers some evidence-based tips for eating a nutritionally balanced diet which nourishes body and mind.

Q: One of the most confusing things, particularly for patients who have hormonally driven cancer, is conflicting advice about consuming phytoestrogen foods (such as soy products). What is the latest scientific evidence on this often perplexing subject?

A: This is a topic where it’s critical to know the facts! There are four main classes of phytoestrogens, of which isoflavones, the phytoestrogen found in soy, is one. Within these classes there are analogs (relating to) and derivatives (derived from). It’s common to consider the term phytoestrogen as “one thing”, as well as view the impact of eating phytoestrogen foods to be the same for everyone.

Phytoestrogen means “plant estrogen” (phyto = plant). Plant estrogens are similar to, but not the same thing as the human estrogen we produce in our bodies, called “endogenous estrogen” (endogenous = produced from within). Research on phytoestrogens and hormone-receptor positive breast cancer is ongoing, yet current data generally supports the safety of eating phytoestrogen foods for the general population, women with benign breast disorders, those at risk, and even in survivors of breast cancer.

Scientific literature reports both benefits and risks, yet the unfavorable effects have been mainly suggested based on data from in vitro, animal or epidemiological studies. Clinical studies often report the absence of unfavorable effects.

Another consideration is that the metabolism of phytoestrogens is highly variable among individuals. Differences in gut microflora, use of antimicrobials, intestinal transit time and genetic variation all play a role.

Take home message: further studies are needed, we don’t yet have conclusive results, there are no recommendations to exclude phytoestrogen foods from the diet.

Q: We hear a lot of talk about adding nutritional supplements to our diet. Are these a good idea?

A: Food first! That’s my professional philosophy, and the science supports. There is room for supplementation, yet not just for the sake of supplementing. Diet is the star, supplements, as their name suggests, take the supportive role.

Q: Do you have any tips for cancer patients who are currently in treatment and may lack motivation to cook healthy meals because of taste changes, nausea or fatigue?

A: My expertise is in working with post-treatment survivors, so I always suggest cancer patients seek the guidance of an oncology dietitian for targeted advice to manage these side effects.

Q: Cancer doesn’t just affect our bodies, our emotional and mental health can also suffer too. What’s the role of diet in improving our overall well-being?

A: When we eat well, it helps us feel we’re doing what we can to be well, and it’s empowering to know you’re taking charge of your health. Also, when one improves their diet, other healthy habits tend to follow, such as getting regular physical activity, prioritizing sleep and managing stress. Also, our bodies and minds require certain nutrients for repair and to aid in transport and storage of the building blocks necessary for overall good health.

Q: For those of us diagnosed with breast cancer we run a real risk of treatment induced osteoporosis (loss of bone density). What advice can you offer us to minimize the impact of treatment on our bone health?

A: There’s much to consider with regard to osteoporosis risk. For example, dietary pattern, exercise type and frequency, calcium absorption rates, minerals and other compounds that impact absorption, and genetic risk factors (that’s not an exhaustive list!). I recommend working with a dietitian to asses individual risk and develop a plan to address any areas of deficiency.

Q: Finally Cathy, for readers who may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of overhauling our diet, what’s the one thing we can do right away that can start to move us in the right direction?

A: Abandon the idea of overhauling your diet. Instead, consider making small, incremental, sustainable habit changes over time.

About Cathy Leman

Cathy Leman helps survivors of hormone-positive breast cancer rebuild trust with food and their body, end food fear, confusion, and overwhelm, eat without stress and guilt, and gain peace of mind and confidence about nutrition, exercise and well-being, so they can rebuild their health after treatment.

Cathy is a registered dietitian, nutrition therapist and coach, personal trainer, speaker, and a survivor of hormone-positive breast cancer. Learn more Cathy and REBUILD, her private coaching program here: www.cathyleman.com

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