What are Mushrooms?
Mushrooms are a cook’s most significant asset because they’re so quick and easy to prepare, and versatile.
Suitable for all types of cuisines at all times of the day, you can enjoy them sautéed on toast for breakfast, rolled in a wrap for lunch or barbecued with sausages for dinner.
Mushrooms are delicious cold or hot and are so good for you, too. Keep a bag in the fridge all the time, and a superb meal will only be minutes away.
When mushrooms are mentioned, we immediately think of great taste and texture.
But there’s more to mushrooms than the satisfaction of munching on some steak topped with sautéed white mushrooms or a meaty Portabella sandwich.
What the Science Says About Mushrooms
Mushrooms are not plants. They are fungi and are typically classified differently from plants and animals.
Mushrooms live on dead or decaying organic matter and contain no chlorophyll.
Simply put, they get their nutrition from metabolizing nonliving organic matter.
Mushrooms have a different nutritional profile from fruits and vegetables. We need lots of veggies to stay, but the evidence is mounting that eating mushrooms also offers unique health benefits.
In fact, some recent studies reveal that eating mushrooms daily is a healthy choice because they influence blood glucose, blood lipids, weight control, immunity and contribute many essential nutrients and antioxidants to our bodies.
So, instead of eating five servings of vegetables daily, try adding in a single meal of mushrooms for better health.
For thousands of years, eastern cultures have celebrated mushrooms for their health benefits.
But there are over 38,000 different types of mushrooms.
Some are superfoods while others are deadly poisons, so don’t go consuming just any mushroom unless it’s store bought or you know the species.
Once upon a time, the white button mushroom was pretty much the only fresh mushroom available.
Today, there are many new mushroom varieties on sale at your local greengrocer, farmers market, and supermarket.
From delicate white buttons to rich morels, all the fresh and dried mushroom varieties add unique flavor and texture to your meals.
Here are some of the common types of edible mushrooms:
Blewitt – mild earthy flavor
Blewitt mushrooms are also known as a blue leg mushroom.
They’re easily identified by their bluish streaked stem, combined with a smooth, light brown cap.
A pleasant aroma is released from the dense white flesh when cut.
Their earthy flavor is well suited to slow cooking in casseroles, stews, and soups.
Chanterelles – slight floral note and delicate texture
Chanterelles are favorite edible wild mushrooms in Europe and North America.
They’re a family of fungi, but the name often refers to golden or yellow chanterelle.
Chanterelles have a trumpet-shape and an intense apricot smell.
Soak for 15–20 minutes in warm water before using.
Porcini – slightly nutty and creamy
These are gathered in Europe during the northern autumn and sold dried. Porcini is one of the most popular of the cepe mushrooms.
Soak for 15 minutes in warm water.
Add to casseroles or stews at the start of the cooking process.
Button – subtle and earthy flavor
Button mushrooms are the youngest and generally (but not always) the smallest mushroom.
They have a firm, delicate texture and mild flavor that intensifies when cooked.
Suitable to eat raw or cooked, they’re great whole or sliced in salads, stir-fries, skewered and barbecued or directly served with dips.
Morels – super savory and delicious
These have a honeycomb-like caps and a spongy texture.
Rinse and wipe the dried morels before soaking for up to 20 minutes.
Morels have a rich, earthy flavor and are ideally used in slow-cooked meats and sauces.
Portobello – mild in flavor and meaty texture
Portobellos grow a little longer, so they open out flat, exposing their thick, dark, fragrant gills.
Rich, firm and flavorsome, portobello make a great burger, sandwich or pizza base, and are superb grilled, roasted or barbecued.
Enoki – great for soups and salads
These are cultivated in Australia now, as Japanese cultivators developed growing methods to produce this flower-like mushroom in bunches.
They are beige to white and have long stems that are edible and a small button cap.
When eaten raw, they have a crunchy texture and mild fruity taste.
Enoki is one of the essential ingredients in shabu, the famous Japanese hot pot.
Enjoy them raw in salads, sandwiches or rice paper rolls, or try adding them to soups, omelets or risottos just before serving.
Shiitake – savory and meaty
These mushrooms are derived from the ship tree hence the name.
Their broad, brown-to-black umbrella-shaped caps house fine tan gills underneath.
Their stems are slender and woody.
Fresh shiitake has a delicate earthy flavor that intensifies the longer they’re cooked.
Match shiitake with stronger flavored meats such as duck, venison or aged beef.
They’re known as the mushroom for longevity, due to their numerous medicinal properties.
Mushroom Calories/Carbs and Nutritional Value
The focus on the nutritional content of brightly colored fruits and vegetables has inadvertently left out mushrooms.
We are told all the time to eat more fruits and vegetables, but what about mushrooms?
Mushrooms offer the same amount of nutrients as many fruits and vegetables. Here are the essential nutrients:
The type of protein in mushrooms are unique. An example is lectins which have anti-cancer properties.
Other proteins found in fungi have been found to have both antibacterial and anti-viral properties.
Hydrophobins are another type of protein only found in mushrooms and help contribute to the texture of this superfood.
The fat level in mushrooms is almost non-existent.
Some fat can be found in the cell walls which is just enough to store the vitamin D that fungi naturally produce after exposure to sunlight.
The fats found in mushrooms are mostly the healthy unsaturated kind.
I’m sure you can tell already that the carbohydrate content of mushrooms is low.
What this means is that it does not affect blood sugar (glucose) levels.
One remarkable thing is that the carbs found in fungi are unique and also have anti-cancer properties.
The fiber in a mushroom includes glucans and chitins.
These are organic carbohydrate polymers that have been linked to several cancer treatments and can control blood cholesterol levels.
Glucans stimulate the phagocyte system which consumes alien cells in the body.
Mushrooms are deficient kilojoule foods and perfect for people who are trying to lose or control weight.
Mushrooms contain vitamins niacin and riboflavin which maintain red blood cells and healthy nerve function.
It is also necessary for the healthy growth and development of children.
Vitamin B12 and folate
Mushrooms contain vitamin B12 – a vitamin generally found in animal foods. The B12 in mushrooms are in a bio-available form.
Even though mushrooms provide vitamin B12, they are not loaded with the vitamin.
A serving provides no more than 5% of RDA for this vitamin.
Nevertheless, this still makes mushrooms the only non-animal food source that contains B12.
There is also a small amount of folate in mushrooms.
This is an essential vitamin for healthy immune function and blood cell formation.
One of the essential nutrients offered by this food is vitamin D. It produces this vitamin when it is exposed to sunlight.
Wild mushrooms generally produce 2-40 mcg of vitamin D in every 100-gram serving.
When compared to the 5-15 mcg needed daily, you’ll get all the vitamin D your body needs from a single meal.
Even after harvesting, exposing commercial mushrooms to sunlight will trigger the production of vitamin D.
Mushrooms also contain many minerals like potassium, copper, phosphorus, selenium, and others.
Also Read: 35 Powerful Cayenne Pepper Benefits and Uses
Mushroom Health Benefits
Fresh produce like mushrooms is essential for our overall health.
Sadly, fewer than 1 in 10 people eat enough of these types of foods for good health.
Mushrooms are an inexpensive and effective way to take better care of yourself.
For example, button mushrooms provide at least 25% of the essential nutrients niacin, riboflavin, biotin, selenium and copper.
Here are some mushroom health benefits you may not know about.
As the human population gets older and even more chubby, chances of diabetes will increase.
Diabetes is a health condition that can cause significant issues like loss of sight, cardiovascular disease, kidney issues, sensation problems damage and impotence.
Mushrooms supply many nutritional fibers, and they are a tasty way to control blood sugar.
The very low GI of mushrooms suggests that everyone, including people with diabetes, can eat them without any adverse effect on your blood glucose levels.
Because of the low carb content, consuming mushrooms will not affect your blood glucose levels.
Foods with a low energy density like fruits, vegetables, and mushrooms can fill people up, avoiding over-consumption.
Mushrooms are one of the lowest energy dense foods available and provide additional benefits for the weight watcher – it can reduce appetite in the short-term.
In a research study, when meat dishes were substituted with button mushrooms, the satiety of the meal was enhanced.
Even though the mushroom dish was 100 calories less than the meat dish, consumers ate 1555 fewer calories each day over four days.
From this study, you can see that mushrooms have a powerful ability to increase the satiety of a meal and is ideally suited for weight control because it is filling, low in fat, low in kilojoules and low in energy density.
Boost Immune System
Mushrooms offer so many nutritional and antioxidant benefits and have a significant effect on the broader human physiology.
Preliminary reports indicate that mushrooms do indeed boost immune function.
Many of these studies have focused on exotic mushrooms, but a recent paper found that white button mushrooms enhanced the action of natural killer cells in mice.
They reduced the severity of arthritis in mice and stimulated the production of antimicrobial peptides.
Another report from Pennsylvania State University showed that mushroom extracts given to mice decreased inflammation and increased the immune response.
The mushroom has been linked to cancer prevention for some time. Mushrooms contain compounds that suppress two enzymes called aromatase and 5-alpha-reductase.
Aromatase converts androgen to estrogen, which in turn can promote the development of breast cancer, especially in post-menopausal women. Currently, aromatase inhibitors are being used in the treatment of estrogen-dependent breast cancer.
Aromatase has also been found in other diseases, such as ovarian, uterine and prostate cancers and there is speculation that aromatase inhibitors may have a significant role in preventing such diseases.
The enzyme 5-alpha-reductase converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone and is thought to play a role in the development of prostate cancer and benign prostate enlargement.
Research on animal cells in vivo suggests that mushrooms could have a role in protecting men against prostate cancer.
The same team found that button mushrooms reduced prostate tumor size and tumor proliferation, and increased tumor cell death, in mice.
Like most people, you probably eat mushrooms only for enjoyment and not to protect your health.
Overwhelming research now shows that fungi affect bone health.
Mushrooms are a source of critical bone-healthy nutrients like vitamin D. Calcium, and vitamin D go hand in hand, and if you eat enough calcium, but not enough vitamin D, your body won’t be able to absorb calcium.
This is where mushrooms become very helpful.
A single serving of 4-5 white button mushrooms will provide you with 15 IU.
Regular bowel movement
A serving of mushroom delivers about 1.5g of fiber, which is about 5-6% of the daily fiber needs of adults.
When mushrooms are cooked and lose some water, the fiber content increases to 2.7g per 100g serve, which is 10% of our daily fiber needs.
The fiber in mushrooms is substantially insoluble and can help to keep bowels regular.
Mushrooms have a rich, savory flavor, much loved by chefs and cooks all over the world. What is it that makes this food so tasty?
The natural glutamates in mushrooms give them a deeper flavor, making them a favorite with meat lovers and vegetarians alike.
Just in case you didn’t know, glutamate is an amino acid that is available in all foods that contain protein.
It is also produced naturally by the body especially in the brain and muscles.
Glutamates are used as a neurotransmitter by half of the nerve cells.
The level of glutamate in mushrooms will increase as the fungus grows from a button to a flat mushroom.
This glutamate is what is responsible for the flavor we all love.
When excess glutamate is added to food, the salt content is reduced by up to 40% without affecting the taste of the food.
Please don’t confuse the natural free glutamates in mushrooms with the monosodium glutamate (MSG) usually added to foods as a flavor enhancer.
Also Read: 15 Oregano Oil Benefits and Uses
Gout is a type of arthritis that is characterized by high levels of uric acid in the blood.
It occurs more in men than in women, and when uric acid is high in the body, it can promote the production of sodium urate crystals in joints, resulting in severe pain.
Uricosuric drugs are the most common and effective treatment for gout. They increase the secretion of uric acid in the kidney, and when you modify your diet by adding mushrooms, you can lower the risk of gout.
This is because mushrooms have low purine content which can lower the risk of gout.
Mushrooms are ideally suited for weight loss because it is low in kilojoules, low in fat, and with a low energy density.
This makes fungi ideal for everyone, including people who have obesity.
A single serving (100g) of mushrooms or 3 button mushrooms contains only 25 calories.
As a low energy dense food, mushrooms are flat in fat and high in water, just like many fruits and vegetables.
They also contain a variety of nutrients – more than what is found in plants.
As you already know, there is practically no fat in mushrooms.
Like other plant foods, mushrooms are cholesterol-free, low in sodium and kilojoules.
This is an excellent food for lowering cholesterol which improving heart health.
Coeliacs and Gluten Intolerant
We all know that nutrition can get a bit confusing sometimes.
There is a lot of conflicting information out there about what is right and what is not.
It gets even more confusing when words like gluten and glutamate are used.
Gluten and glutamate are very different food components.
Mushrooms have a lot of one and none of the other.
There is abundant flavorsome, natural glutamate in mushrooms, and no gluten.
Being gluten free makes mushrooms a good choice in a gluten-free diet.
Anemic patients usually have a low level of irons in their blood, which results in tiredness, headaches, decreased neural functions, and digestive problems.
Mushrooms are an excellent source of iron, and the body can absorb more than 90% of this iron content.
This will help promote the development of red blood cells and keep you healthy and functioning at your highest potential.
Mushrooms provide the body with lean proteins because it has no cholesterol or fat and contains low carbs.
Specific enzymes and the fiber in mushrooms help reduce cholesterol levels.
Furthermore, the high lean protein value found in fungi aids in burning cholesterol when it is digested.
Balancing cholesterol levels between LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol) is necessary for preventing different cardiovascular diseases like heart attack, atherosclerosis, and stroke.
Tips For Storing and Preparing Mushrooms
Also Read: 25 Ketosis Diet Plan Benefits and Food List
Mushrooms are best stored in brown paper bags, in the crisper section of the fridge.
You’ll usually find brown paper bags on hand when buying mushrooms; if not, use paper lunch bags.
If your truffles are packaged in plastic, transfer to a paper bag when storing.
To decrease the accumulation of moisture that causes mushrooms to sweat and deteriorate fast, ensure not to wash them before storing.
Always store mushrooms in material that allows them to breathe, but not dry out.
A cloth bag, clean tea towel or a ceramic bowl lined with a paper towel are alternate ways to store your mushrooms.
How to Prepare Mushrooms
Mushrooms are great with almost any mushroom recipes.
They are easy to sauté and add a delicious taste, texture, and nutrients to any meal.
From salads and appetizers to sides and main dishes, mushrooms can be enjoyed in many ways. Here are tips to help store and prepare mushrooms.
Step 1: Cleaning
If you’re eating mushrooms raw, wipe them over with a clean, damp paper towel, or you can rinse them under cold running water and pat them dry with a paper towel.
Don’t allow mushrooms to soak in water or the will bloat.
Step 2: Preparing
Mushrooms can be sliced into thick or thin layers and cut into quarters or chopped finely.
If the recipe calls for caps only, twist the stem or separate them with the tip of your knife.
This requirement is rare, since the stem is an excellent source of flavor and nutrients, and provides the unique mushroom shape.
To make the most of it, sometimes you can chop the stems and add it to the dish you’re making, or freeze it for future use in soups, casserole, pies or homemade stock.
Step 3: Cook… or eat!
From stir-fried and salads to pasta and barbecue meals, there’s something to tickle everyone’s taste buds!
Please note that mushrooms can be very dangerous! Most species are not edible and are deadly poisonous.
They look strikingly similar to other edible fungi.
So like I mentioned earlier, don’t try picking them for consumption unless you are trained in identifying different mushroom species.
Many mushrooms that are selected in the wild contain heavy metals because they absorb the qualities of any matter they grow on and can also provide air and water pollutants.
Also, I must stress that buying mushrooms from unknown street vendors is a bad idea.
The only trust sealed products purchased from reputable companies or shops.
A single poisonous mushroom can threaten the health and life of those who consume it and result in comas, vomiting, nausea, cramps, convulsions, and even insanity.
Always avoid discolored mushrooms or those that are a different color from what is typically acceptable.