The health benefits of mushrooms as a low-calorie food that pack a nutritional punch are many. One serving of a cup has 21 calories and is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, especially for vegetarians, because mushrooms contain more than the average amounts of protein and iron in the plant kingdom.
Mushrooms are the subject of serious research for their health benefits. Here’s why:
- Mushrooms are the only natural source of vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, and during winter months adding mushrooms to soups, stews, and stir-fry’s can counteract the normal decrease in sun exposure. The vitamin D in mushrooms is stable, maintaining their nutritional value whether eaten raw, cooked, or frozen as leftovers.
- Immunity– this is why mushrooms are getting the attention, especially in oncology research for their ability to inhibit cancer formation and growth. Mushrooms are made up of beta-glucans, which are cellular components that stimulate immune system to keep it going strong
- B-vitamins (especially pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and niacin – in fact one cup provides 20% daily value) help break down the carbohydrates and proteins you eat to provide more energy for your body, are important in maintaining a smoother nervous system, and help build healthier red blood cells
- Minerals mushrooms are high in: anti-oxidants selenium (37% daily value in a cup) and ergothioneine (15% daily value) protect cells from free-radical damage. Potassium (15% daily value) in mushrooms balances out other minerals we more commonly consume so that our fluid physiology can help the nerves and organs run as they’re supposed to, such has controlling blood pressure. Copper (25% daily value in a cup) helps build red blood cells so the body and is an important element for the skeletal and nervous systems. Iron (10% daily value in a cup) is also found in mushrooms.
Common types of mushrooms found in grocery stores and Asian markets are chanterelle, cremini, portabello, enoki, shitake, oyster, button, and porcini.
To store properly, put mushrooms in a paper bag in the refrigerator and allow there to be air circulation around the bag. They should last about 1 week.
Mushrooms aren’t meant to be washed. Instead, use a mushroom or vegetable brush to gently remove any dirt you see on the skin and chop off the end of the stem, and slice the rest.
Here’s a simple mushroom recipe that comes together quickly if you want to make that burger even better or, for a light supper as an open sandwich on toast.
1 cup mushrooms sliced ¼” or thinner
½ onion sliced thin
1 T olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar
- Heat the oil in a skillet
- Add the onions and cook until they are carmelized
- Add the mushrooms with a splash of water to get them going releasing their water, then add the balsamic vinegar
When the onions and mushrooms are nicely browned you’ll know they’re done: serve immediately.
Sneaking nutritional value into each meal is one simple way to stay ahead of the curve and avoid disease. Think of it as salt and pepper and a little more.
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