Mushrooms under the spotlight
This is the season of mushroom hunting and foraging in Europe and North America. Not an activity for novices, only experts should ever pick mushrooms from nature, as some types are toxic and can be deadly poisonous. However, supermarkets and farmers markets are full of examples of this most versatile food ingredient, great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
‘Mushroom management’ famously keeps employees in the dark, but when it comes to the nutritional benefits of this fungi they are overdue the spotlight of attention.
Mushrooms are usually classified into food grouping systems as a vegetable, because of how they are usually used in cooking, but they are fungi, biologically distinct from plant- and animal-derived foods with a unique nutrient profile. Indeed, their nutrient and culinary characteristics have led some to suggest it may even be time to re-evaluate food groupings and health benefits in the context of 3 separate food kingdoms: plants/botany, animals/zoology, and fungi/mycology.
Ironically, people usually don’t consider mushrooms as part of a “healthy” meal. They are typically an accompaniment to a full English breakfast or to steak and chips. Yet they are as high in antioxidants as peppers, tomatoes, pumpkin and carrots. A source of vegetable protein, mushrooms are very low in carbohydrates, have little sodium and a good source of dietary fibre, which makes them a fantastic food for weight management and weight loss.
You can find a selection of mushroom recipes to download in Just Routine, but there are many ways to use this versatile and tasty ingredient. With their flavour intensifying when cooked, you can:
- roast them, which will bring out their natural sweetness
- stir-fry for a simple and quick meal
- grill, just brushing lightly with oil
- add to slow-cook stews and casseroles for depth of flavour
- or use them raw in salads or sandwiches as the ultimate nutritional boost
They are an excellent source of potassium, which can help lower elevated blood pressure, as well as a rich source of riboflavin, niacin and selenium. Selenium is an antioxidant that works with vitamin E to protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals and aids in boosting the immune system. Mushrooms are the only vegetable to contain vitamin D in edible form, which has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, with more research needed. They also contain calcium and iron.
Mushrooms are even said to protect the body from various cancer cell lines. According to a study they may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, however, further research is needed.
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