Many children turn up their noses at the thought of eating them, they grow in the dirt, and technically are categorized as fungi. Despite the bad rap that these little (and sometimes big) pseudo-vegetables have built in the past, mushrooms pack a big health punch. Many people focus on getting enough fruits and vegetables in the diet in order to build a balanced healthy foundation, but mushrooms are often ignored in that category while other types of true fruits or veggies take the spotlight. Despite their usual lack of color, mushrooms are not only incredibly nutritious, they’re also delicious!
Mushrooms Are Packed With Nutrients
Rich in vitamin B and riboflavin, folate, thiamine, pantothenic acid, and niacin, mushrooms have a lot of essential vitamins and nutrients that can be very hard to obtain in other food consumption. Another plus is that when naturally grown, mushrooms are 100% vegan; acting as a great non-fortified source of vitamin D. Mushrooms also contain Beta-glucans, a type of fiber that studies have shown can help improve insulin resistance and blood cholesterol levels. Beta-glucans studies have also shown the ability to stimulate immune responses that fight cancer cells. Oriental medical practices have used mushrooms for years, and the Japanese have been using mushroom extracts since the 1980s to treat many different types of cancers as immunotherapy treatment. Additional studies need to be conducted to understand more about the different Beta-glucans in mushrooms due to the many varieties with distinct characteristics.
Mushrooms Contain High Amounts of Antioxidants
It’s no secret that what we put into our bodies affects everything we do and how we feel. Mass amounts of processed foods and environmental pollution place unhealthy and toxic elements into our bodies. In order to counteract these factors, antioxidants help to balance the body and allow for the best nutrients to be absorbed properly.
Mushrooms pack an incredible amount of antioxidants into each bite. Higher concentrations of antioxidants can be found in mushrooms than chicken livers and wheat germ, both of which had previously been believed to have the highest concentrations of the antioxidant ergothioneine. Also found in mushrooms are polyphenols, which have been proven to have positive effects on blood cholesterol. Common mushrooms such as portobello, crimini, and white button varieties may contain as many antioxidants as carrots, green beans, and red peppers.
The Power of Selenium
One portobello mushroom has enough selenium packed inside to provide 21% of your daily value. Selenium plays an important role in liver enzyme function and helps to detoxify the body. Not only that, it’s also blessed with anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce swelling and inflammation related to gout. Selenium can even help reduce blood pressure. It has also been found to reduce tumor growth rates in some studies.
Low Calorie, No Sugar, No Salt Substitute
According to a study by John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, when ground beef was swapped out for mushrooms in lasagna, sloppy joes, and chili, adults consumed 400 fewer calories per day. By replacing meat with mushrooms in one meal every week, researchers suggest that it is possible to lose up to five pounds in a year. One serving of mushrooms has approximately 20 calories and takes on the flavors of the other foods cooked with them, similar to tofu. Limit the amount of butter in the preparation and use them in stirfry, sauté on low heat, or garnish your salad with them. They naturally have low calories, no salt, and no sugar, which are three popular, hidden food additives that can lead to weight gain and other health problems like diabetes.
How to Buy and Cook Mushrooms
Now that we know more about these tasty fungi, it’s about time you started eating them more often! Yes, mushrooms hold a plethora of healthy nutrients for our bodies.
Many varieties of mushrooms exist globally, with the most popular being crimini, shitake, portobello, and white mushrooms. At your local grocery store, you should choose mushrooms that are firm, dry and unbruised. Store mushrooms in the refrigerator and do not wash or trim them until you are ready to cook and use. It is recommended that mushrooms be taken out of their original package if bought pre-packaged. Store them in a loose, closed paper bag wrapped in a damp cloth, or laid out in a glass container covered with a moist cloth. Avoid clumping or stacking the mushrooms. If mushrooms develop a slimy layer across the surface they are not fully fresh.
Portobello mushrooms are a great substitute for meat such as beef, able to be used in grilled vegetable sandwiches for their hearty flavor and size. Sautéing mushrooms with an onion can be a great way to create a snack or side dish to accompany the main entrée. Plenty of different preparation recipes provide more information on cooking with mushrooms. Visit this website for some mouth-watering options. Whole Foods also has a few tasty recipes that they suggest, featuring crimini mushrooms here.
Be Safe, Not Sorry
It may be tempting to go into your back yard and pick the mushrooms growing outside. However, uncultivated wild mushrooms can be very dangerous for consumption. Some mushrooms contain toxins that can cause severe illnesses and sometimes death. Therefore, it’s best to consume mushrooms only cultivated under appropriate conditions. If you do not know what type of mushroom it is, do not eat it!
As we have outlined above, adding mushrooms to one’s diet can be extremely beneficial. Mushrooms are often ignored or overlooked, but with the amount of nutrients they pack, they have earned their right to become the star of the show! Start cooking up some mushrooms today and reap the benefits right away.