Mmmm… mushrooms. These edible fungi have been a part of the human diet since long – species have been found in association with 13,000-year-old archaeological sites in Chile.
Mushrooms pack a big nutritional punch as they contain protein, enzymes, B vitamins, and vitamin D2. The best part? They classify as a zero-calorie food that’s especially recommended for people with diabetes.
More than 98 percent of us consume just one type of mushroom – the common button mushroom and its relatives, the crimini and the portabello mushrooms. But there are other varieties of mushrooms that can help boost the nutrient content of your diet. If you can find them, try shiitake, oyster, chanterelle, reishi, Cordyceps, turkey tail, and Himematsutake varieties.
The FASEB Journal has published nine studies on mushrooms, detailing a wide variety of health benefits. These include:
- Better weight management: Those who like their meat red and can substitute it with white button mushrooms to enhance weight loss. A study showed greater weight loss for those who did this along with improvements in body composition, reduced waist circumference and ability to maintain weight loss.
- Enhanced immune system function: Mushrooms contain long chain polysaccharides, particularly alpha and beta glucan molecules, which have a beneficial effect on the immune system.
- Improved nutrition: A dietary analysis associated mushroom consumption with better diet quality and improved nutrition.
- Boost in metabolism. The body needs vitamin B to turn food (carbs) into fuel (glucose), to produce energy and metabolise fats and protein. Mushrooms are extremely rich in vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and vitamin B3 (niacin). A 100 gm of crimini has 44 per cent and 30 per cent of your daily recommended amount, respectively, white button have 36 and 30 per cent while oyster mushrooms have 32 and 39 per cent. Adding mushrooms to your diet can speed up your metabolism.
- Increased antioxidant levels. Most of us think bright and colourful vegetables when we think antioxidants, the substances that help fight free radicals that are the result of oxidation in our body. A study at Penn State University has showed that crimini and portobello mushrooms have antioxidant levels similar to red peppers.
- High on vitamin D. With most of us now being told to take vitamin D supplements, it’s time to think of a natural cure. Mushrooms are the only fruit or vegetable source of this critical vitamin. Like humans, mushrooms produce vitamin D when in sunlight. So start eating!
Those who stay away from mushrooms believing that they may be harmful should remember that of the over 10,000 species of mushrooms, only about 50 to 100 are toxic. Unless you pick a species in a forest and decide to cook it, there’s no risk.
However, there are many other types of mushrooms worthy of consideration if you want to improve your diet. I’ll review a few of my favourites below. Farrar’s focus has been on growing various gourmet mushroom species, particularly the wood decaying mushroom species, which differ greatly from your average button mushroom in terms of biology, nutrition and medicinal value.
Wondering how to incorporate more mushrooms into your diet? Try this low-fat creamy and velvety mushroom soup. Rich in flavour, it’s perfect for lunch with a sandwich on the side or makes a lovely first course for dinner.
3 tbsp flour
4 cups water
2 chicken bouillon cubes – optional
5 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced
8 oz baby bella, sliced
1 celery stalk
1 tbsp light butter (optional)
Directions: Place cold water and flour in a blender and blend until smooth; pour into a medium pot and set heat to medium. Add celery, mushrooms, chicken bouillon and butter and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove, blend until smooth, then return it to the pot and simmer a few minutes.
Calories: 65, fat: 2 g, carbohydrates: 11 gm, fibre: 1 gm, protein: 3 gm, sugar: 3 gm, sodium: 571 mg