All mighty mushrooms
This article was originally published in February 2015
Mushrooms offer impressive health benefits whether they are fresh, dried or even found in a supplement. They’re versatile in the kitchen, and their health benefits are actually enhanced with cooking as the nutrients become more readily available with light cooking, such as sautéing, roasting or simmering. Get mushroom recipes »
Shiitake, maitake, lion’s mane and other exotic mushrooms have been extensively researched and are commonly found in immune-boosting supplements. But now we are learning that even the common white button, crimini and portobello mushrooms provide similar nutritional benefits.
All mushrooms offer a wide variety of antioxidants; this includes antioxidants not found in other foods, such as ergothioneine (nicknamed the “master antioxidant”). Mushrooms also contain many “traditional” nutrients, including B vitamins, the special fatty acid CLA, and the essential minerals selenium, copper, zinc and manganese.
5 more reasons to love mushrooms
1. Vitamin D
Mushrooms are the only vegan dietary source of vitamin D. Approximately half of Americans are insufficient in this vitamin, which is found in significant amounts only in seafood, dairy and eggs (and fortified foods). You even can enhance the vitamin D content of mushrooms by placing them in the sunlight or under a UV light.
2. Local, local, local
Local organic mushrooms are available year-round in the Pacific Northwest, as they thrive in our moist Northwest climate. PCC offers a variety of organic mushrooms year-round, including exotic seasonal mushrooms such as oyster, chanterelle and maitake — also known as the “dancing mushroom” because people dance for joy when they find one of these beauties in the woods.
3. Food for your immune system
All mushrooms contain polysaccharides that support immunity. Mushrooms are “immune modulators” because they can pump up a sluggish immune system as well as turn down an overactive immune response (as found in autoimmune conditions).
4. Heart healthy
The polysaccharides in mushrooms have the ability to lower cholesterol levels, and like many other produce items, mushrooms help manage chronic inflammation. The savory flavors and moist textures in mushrooms make them excellent substitutes for meats. Tip: Try mixing in diced mushrooms with your ground beef to give your cooking a veggie boost. Researchers have found you can substitute up to 50 percent of your ground meats with mushrooms, and people actually prefer the taste of mushroom-enhanced burgers.
5. They’re umami!
Mushrooms (especially dried mushrooms) are a natural source of glutamate, the protein responsible for the delicious taste found in savory foods like soy sauce, dried cheeses and seafood. The process of drying mushrooms greatly enhances the presence of umami-rich glutamate.