Superfood: Mushrooms

Superfood: Mushrooms

All around New York City, we see mushrooms. On our pizza, in our grocery stores, even in some urban gardens. Mushrooms are often mistaken for vegetables when, in actuality, they belong to the fungi rather than the plant kingdom. They are the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus. Sounds tasty, right? Before you shy away from this delicious superfood, read all the reasons why you should make a point to include mushrooms in your diet. 

1. Mushrooms boost immunity and fight cancer; they specifically suppress breast and prostate cancer cells. 

2. Mushrooms are nutritional powerhouses. They are a good source of B-vitamins (riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and niacin), iron, selenium, and potassium, which improves heart health. Some mushroom varieties are even sources of vitamin D - the only source you’ll find in the produce aisle! 

3. Mushrooms contain high amounts of beta-glucans, keeping your immune cells prepped against disease. 

4. Mushrooms are naturally low in calories, low in carbohydrates, low in sodium and cholesterol free. They also have high water content (80-90%) and are high in fiber, which makes them a great diet food. 

5. The best news about mushrooms, however, is that they contain high concentrations of a powerful micronutrient called ergothioneine, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Ergothioneine contributes to immune support and is released from the mushroom cells upon cooking. 

6. Oh yeah, and did I mention mushrooms are delicious? They add a rich, earthy taste to every meal.  

Just a few of the 250 edible varieties of mushrooms: 

· White button mushrooms (of the Crimini mushroom family) contain more protein, potassium, copper selenium, and immune boosting benefits than their more exotic counterparts (I’m looking at you shiitake and maitake mushrooms). They represent 90% of the total mushrooms consumed in the United States!

· Maitake are best known for their cancer-fighting properties, specifically against leukemia, stomach, and bone cancers. In addition, the maitake mushroom has been used to lower blood pressure, lower blood lipids, and aid digestion by eliminating food stagnation. Raw maitake mushrooms are extremely rich in vitamin D – up to 940 international units (IU) per three-ounce serving!

· Morels contain protein, vitamin D (200 IU per three-ounce serving) and vitamin B that help the body maintain a healthy metabolism. They also have copper, selenium, and potassium.

· Oyster mushrooms are used to strengthen veins, relax tendons, and are rich in iron that helps build blood.

· Portabellas contain a wide variety of B complex vitamins. They’re also a great source of potassium – three ounces have more potassium than a banana! If barbecuing, expose the portabella to UV light. This will increase its vitamin D content up to 490 IU per three-ounce serving.

· Reishi mushrooms are particularly beneficial for individuals with asthma and other respiratory complaints. 

How to Choose and When
Look for dry mushrooms with smooth caps, firm grills, and a fresh aroma. While usually available year-round, mushrooms are at their peak in fall and winter. Lucky for us though, morels are one of spring’s best produce! 

Fresh? Dry? Canned?
To receive all the health benefits of mushrooms, fresh is definitely preferable to dried, while canned mushrooms usually have added sodium. 

How to Store
Store unwashed mushrooms in a paper bag in the main compartment of your refrigerator (avoid the crisper drawer, it adds too much moisture) or cover a tray with a paper towel. Do not soak in water as they are very absorbent and their flavor and texture are easily altered. They absorb odors and flavors like a sponge so avoid placing next to pungent foods. 

To Cook or Not to Cook?
Cooking releases Ergothioneine (the antioxidant mentioned above) and also removes agaritine, a compound that can be carcinogenic in extremely high doses. Not to mention most mushrooms are grown on manure. Need I say more? 

Below are some recipes to try out ranging from simple to advanced. Remember, mushrooms make great side dishes, can be added to pasta or omelets, and are also great additions to a salad! 

Written by Alanna Cabrero, MS. RD

Originally posted on NYHRC Tumblr 

Natural News. Mushrooms Cancer Food. 
American Cancer Society. Shiitake Mushroom.   
Agricultural Research Service. Researchers Study Benefits of White Button Mushrooms. 
Fresh Mushrooms. All About Vitamin D.

Edited by TCabrarr 

Photo courtesy of Edsel L