Mushrooms, Mushrooms everywhere! Mushrooms have been used as food and medicines for thousands of years. Many people enjoy eating various types of mushrooms, in both raw and cooked forms. Most are grown in Chester County, PA, in the town of Kennett Square and its surrounding area, which is also known as “The Mushroom Capital of the World”. With lots of health benefits and a variety of ways to prepare them, it is easy to understand why so many chefs like to incorporate them into their tasty dishes.
Mushrooms contain between 80 and 90 percent water, are low in sodium, fat, and calories, are extremely nutrient dense, and are an excellent addition for people who are weight conscious. In addition, they contain no gluten, fat, nor cholesterol. They are chock-full of potassium, which helps to lower blood pressure and incidence of stroke. In fact, one medium sized portabella mushroom contains more potassium than a regular sized banana. They are also full of Vitamin B (great for the nervous and digestive systems), iron (good for Anemia and red blood cells), copper (helps makes red blood cells), and selenium, (good for prostate gland function and helps reduce prostate cancer).
Mushrooms are the only grown food that contains natural vitamin D, which aids in bone strengthening. Combined with calcium that is also found in mushrooms, they can help with joint pain and Osteoporosis. They also contain Beta-glucans, which help to stimulate the immune system and increase allergy resistance, and are found in many Shiitake and Oyster mushrooms. Mushrooms are also well known for containing Ergothioneine, a powerful antioxidant that strengthens the immune system. Ergothioneine is an amino acid that contains sulfur, which many people lack in their diet. Diabetics have shown improvement eating various types of mushrooms, because of the natural insulin and enzymes that they contain. Many species of mushrooms also help diabetics from infections to their limbs, as they are a natural antibiotic.
Below is a summary of some of the more common mushrooms:
- White Buttons: The most common of mushrooms in the US, research shows that they help with breast and prostate cancer, while consuming approximately 3.5 ounces per day. Good for weight loss.
- Crimini (precursor to Portabella): These brown mushrooms are similar in size to white buttons, and are firmer and possess an earthier flavor. They also help with breast and prostate cancers. Great for weight loss.
- Portabella: These large, brown, umbrella shaped mushrooms (the adult version of Crimini mushrooms) have a meatier flavor. Great for grilling and stuffing with artichoke, spinach, crab meat, and an “Italian” recipe of ground meat, tomato sauce, onions, peppers, and herbs. Also helps with weight loss.
- Shiitake: Have been used by many Asian cultures to care for colds and flu. Research shows that the extracts of this mushroom helps to fight infections, enhance the immune system, and help fight tumor growth and breast cancer. Eat 4-5 ounces per day. Excellent source of Vitamin D.
- Reishi: Looks like a wooden brown and white flower: Good for fighting bacterial and viral infections, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Maitake: Helps cleanse the body and stimulates the immune system.
- Oyster: Ongoing research shows promise of helping to defend against HIV. High in antioxidants
- Porcini: A meaty mushroom that looks similar to a portabella mushroom, it also has anti-inflammatory properties
Mushrooms are a versatile food that can be used in many soups, salads, sandwiches, appetizers, stews, nutraceuticals, supplements, and yes, even added to sports drinks! Only buy mushrooms from reputable vendors, as many mushrooms grown in the wild can be poisonous and contain toxic heavy metals.
Mushrooms are a delicious addition to people’s diets, and have many surprising health benefits. Research has shown they can help lower cholesterol levels, protect diabetics from infections, help prevent against breast and prostate cancer, help with weight loss, improve bone health, stimulate the immune system, reduce blood pressure, increase iron absorption, and are great suppliers of potassium, calcium, riboflavin, phosphorus, vitamin D, and selenium. Try using them in a variety of recipes today!