Health & Wellness
For thousands of years, Eastern cultures have revered mushrooms’ health benefits. Often grouped with vegetables, mushrooms provide many of the nutritional attributes of produce, as well as attributes more commonly found in meat, beans or grains. Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free, gluten-free, and very low in sodium, yet they provide important nutrients, including selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D and more.
The focus on the nutritional value of brightly colored fruits and vegetables has unintentionally left mushrooms in the dark. Mushrooms provide a number of nutrients:
- Mushrooms are a good source of B vitamins, including riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid, which help to provide energy by breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates. B vitamins also play an important role in the nervous system.
- Pantothenic acid helps with the production of hormones and also plays an important role in the nervous system.
- Riboflavin helps maintain healthy red blood cells.
- Niacin promotes healthy skin and makes sure the digestive and nervous systems function properly.
- Beta-glucans are found in numerous mushroom species, have shown marked immunity-stimulating effects, contribute to resistance against allergies and may also participate in physiological processes related to the metabolism of fats and sugars in the human body. The beta-glucans contained in oyster, shiitake and split gill mushrooms are considered to be the most effective.
Antioxidants and Immunity:
Mushrooms are the leading source of the essential antioxidant selenium in the product aisle. Antioxidants, like selenium, protect body cells from damage that might lead to chronic diseases. They may help to strengthen the immune system as well. In addition, mushrooms provide ergothioneine, a naturally occurring antioxidant that may help protect the body’s cells.
Mushrooms are hearty and filling. Preliminary research suggests increasing intake of low-energy-density foods (meaning fewer calories given the volume of food), specifically mushrooms, in place of high-energy-density foods, like lean ground beef, can be an effective method for reducing daily energy and fat intake while still feeling full and satiated after the meal.
Umami and Sodium:
Umami is the fifth basic taste after sweet, salty, bitter and sour. Derived from the Japanese word umami, meaning “delicious”, umami (pronounced oo-MAH-mee) is described as a savory, brothy, rich or meaty taste sensation. It’s a satisfying sense of deep, complete flavor, balancing savory flavors and full-bodied taste with distinctive qualities of aroma and mouthfeel. The more umami present in food, the more flavorful it will be. All mushrooms are a rich source of umami and the darker the mushroom the more umami it contains.
Another interesting characteristic about umami is that it counterbalances saltiness and allows for less salt to be used in a meal, without compromising flavor. Cooking with umami-rich ingredients, like mushrooms, instead of salt to reduce the overall sodium in a dish.
When creating your meal to maximize vitamin D, consider mushrooms as they are the only source of vitamin D in the produce aisle and one of the few non-fortified food sources. The renowned, Dr. Oz recommends “you get insurance vitamin D from foods without the risk of sun exposure.”
NOTE: Information provided by the Mushroom Council at www.mushroominfo.com