What Public Policy Means to Me
As the 2018-2019 MAND fiscal year ends and the 2019-2020 year begins, I wanted to thank the MAND colleagues I have been fortunate to serve as MAND’s Director of Public Policy. I offer a hearty thank you to the outgoing members of the Public Policy Panel (PPP) for your service to our organization’s public policy and advocacy activities. I also want to acknowledge the new members of the PPP, those serving in elected positions and those joining our conference calls to learn ways to get more involved. One last note of appreciation: to the 2010-2011 MAND board of directors who created this position. It has been a honor to serve this organization and represent MAND to advocacy groups and policymakers these past eight years.
How did public policy become so important to me? I believe it began during my early career, working as an equity salesperson on Wall Street. Those years opened my eyes to how national and international economic policies, government agencies and financial institutions, corporate strategies and individuals’ actions all came together, how any one or combination of these entities could change the course of a company’s future. I learned as much as I could about a company and then developed my “sales pitch,” discussed its merits to the global economy and the individual investor in the company’s stock. I learned to distill the information to back up my position.
My dietetic internship at Yale-New Haven Hospital required us to attend the Academy’s Public Policy Workshop (PPW) in Washington, DC, where RDNs and interns from across the country learned about advocacy at the state and national level, so crucial to the health of our nation and our professional success. I saw the connection between the important work I would be doing as a dietitian and the benefits to my patients and to the economy as a whole. I ended up loving working directly with patients, in both the clinical and outpatient settings, but I also needed to do more, to show others how important and beneficial our profession is, and in such a diverse array of settings and capacities.
According to its website, “The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession through research, education and advocacy. Advocacy is critical to achieving the mission, vision, goals and strategies outlined in the Academy’s Strategic Plan Roadmap. Public policy significantly influences and forms the Academy’s public image and that of the dietetics profession.” We know how we can change the course of someone’s life – helping someone manage their diabetes, offering students grab-and-go breakfast or increasing access to healthy and affordable foods in foods deserts and swamps. Please think about how this applies to your work, and then consider discussing it with others. This is advocacy. Public policy involves your advocacy to spread the word of our important work. To learn more, visit https://www.eatrightpro.org/advocacy.
Sarah Conca, MPA, RDN, LDN is MAND’s Director of Public Policy and also works as Senior Nutritionist at Upham’s Corner Health Center in Dorchester.
A recent research study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease showed that those who consumed >2 portions of mushrooms per week had reduced odds of having mild cognitive impairment. The bioactive compounds in mushrooms have the potential to delay neurodegeneration according to the cross sectional data in this study.(4) Bioactive compounds are chemicals found in small amounts in plants that may promote health.
Mushrooms are regarded as a vegetable but they are actually a fungi. These fungi are fat free, cholesterol free, gluten free, low in sodium and low in cholesterol.
Health Components of Mushrooms
Consuming mushrooms that are enhanced with Vitamin D2 through UV light exposure is one strategy to increase Vitamin D intake which many fall short on. Optimum Vitamin D intake is essential for inflammation reduction, bone health, cell growth, in addition to neuromuscular and immune function. Crimini and portabella varieties contain higher levels of ergosterol; a precursor or pro Vitamin D2, which is converted to vitamin D upon exposure to UV light.(1) Salmon and cod liver oil are also great sources of Vitamin D.
Selenium is a trace element that serves as an antioxidant which may help reduce cognitive decline. The selenium content in mushrooms is variable due to the selenium content in the soil the mushrooms are grown in. As we age our selenium concentrations decrease. Some of the highest sources of selenium are seafood and organ meats. Brazil nuts are also high in selenium content.(3)
Ergothioneine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that acts as an antioxidant and has a unique role in the protection of mitochondria from oxidation. It is only obtained from dietary sources with mushrooms being a top source.(2) Depending on the variety, one serving of mushrooms can contain 2.4 to 4.9mg of ergothioneine. Mushrooms that contain the highest amounts of ergothioneine include King oyster, maitake, oyster, and shiitake varieties. It can also be found in black beans, red beans and oat bran.
Incorporating Mushrooms Into a Healthy Diet
With a focus on nutrition as it relates to brain health; one should focus on eating a nutrient dense diet consisting of a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts/seeds, healthy fats (avocados, olive oil), lean meats, eggs and dairy. There has been a shift towards plant based diets by making half your plate fruits and vegetables. Just recently, the Produce for Better Health Foundation launched the Have A Plant campaign.(5) This campaign looks at helping consumers to connect eating fruits and vegetables with feeling happier and healthier.
A great way to incorporate mushrooms that is trending is to blend them with beef, turkey or chicken for added nutrients and less meat intake. This “better for you blend” will add nutrients (Vitamin D, B Vitamins, Potassium, antioxidants) and decrease calories, fat, sodium. It will also enhance flavor, extend portions (leftovers) and save on costs. The Umami flavor of mushrooms is due to Glutamate and certain 5′-ribonucleotides chemicals.(2) For added nutrients and flavor try adding mushrooms to stir-frys, burgers, meatloaf, meatballs, tacos, omelettes, pizza, and pasta sauce. Mushroom extract is being added to coffee and Trader Joe’s has a new spice that is mushroom based; Multipurpose Umami Seasoning Blend. There are a multitude of health benefits that mushrooms provide including; antioxidant activity, immunity enhancement, anti-cancer properties, weight management and the reduction of sodium and saturated fat intake. The mushroom trend will continue to expand in 2019 according to the Mushroom Council.(1)
Mushroom Lentil Meatballs
Recipe courtesy of Amari from Eat Chic Chicago.
These vegan mushroom lentil meatballs are perfect for a party appetizer, paired with pasta for a simple dinner or as a meatball sub for a tasty summer lunch.
Yield: 6 (4 meatballs/serving)
1/2 cup dried brown or green lentils
1 bay leaf
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
8 ounces baby bella or crimini mushroom
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup cannellini beans (or other white bean)
1/2 cup parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon coconut aminos (or tamari or soy sauce)
1 Preheat oven to 400*F.
2 In a medium sauce pan, combine lentils, bay leaf, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 10-12 minutes or until nearly all the liquid is absorbed. Remove bay leaf and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
3 In a small bowl, combine ground flaxseed and 1/4 cup warm water. Stir and set aside to gel and form 2 flax eggs.
4 In a food processor, combine mushrooms, oats, beans, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes, thyme, and rosemary. Add lentils and flax eggs and pulse until mixture is combined and well chopped.
5 In empty saucepan, combine olive oil, onions, salt and pepper. Cook on medium-high heat until translucent and beginning to caramelize (about 8-10 minutes). Add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add vinegar and coconut aminos and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.
6 In a large bowl, combine lentil mixture and onions. Let cool for a few minutes before handling.
7 Roll mixture into golf ball-sized meatballs and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Continue until all mixture is used up. Recipe makes 2 dozen meatballs.
8 Bake for 25-30 minutes or until meatballs are a deep golden brown and the inside is cooked through.
Calories: 156, Fat: 5 grams, Carbohydrates: 25 grams, Protein: 8 grams
1. https://www.mushroomcouncil.comMushroom Council, official site, accessed April 11, 2019
2. Mary Jo Feeney, Johanna Dwyer, Clare M. Hasler-Lewis, John A. Milner, et.al. Mushrooms and Health Summit Proceedings, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 144, Issue 7, July 2014, Pages 1128S–1136S, https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.114.190728
3. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Selenium-HealthProfessional/National Institute of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements Selenium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals, accessed April 11, 2019
4. Feng,Lei, Cheah,Irwin Kee-Mun, Ng, Maise Mei-Xi et.al. The Association between Mushroom Consumption and Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Community-Based Cross-Sectional Study in Singapore, The Journal of Alzheimer’s, vol. 68, no. 1, March 2019, pp. 197-203, https://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-alzheimers-disease/jad180
5. https://fruitsandveggies.org/join-the-movement/ Fruit and Veggies, official site, accessed April 25, 2019
Jody Bergeron, RN, BSN, MS, CEN, works in critical care for Cape Cod Healthcare. She obtained her Master’s in Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport and was enrolled at the University of Alabama’s College of Human Environmental Sciences Online Dietetics program. She has 30 years of experience working in healthcare with the past 20 years in critical care nursing. She served 9 years in the Army Reserve as a military officer in a Combat Support Hospital as a critical care RN. During her service she was in charge of the weight control program. Instagram: @jody_bergeron Twitter: @BergeronJodyA
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