Still a bit of a mystery in the produce aisle, mushrooms are grouped with vegetables; however they are a type of fungus. Often, they are referred to as ‘the meat’ (because they lack seeds, leaves and roots) of the vegetable world. Once the white button mushroom sat alone in the produce case, now they are joined by the many more varieties including portabella, crimini and shiitake. And most grocery stores have entire sections dedicated to these varieties in whole, pieces and sliced formats.
In my recent blog What the Heck is Umami? I discuss the earthy flavour of mushrooms and how that flavour alone may inspire you to create more with mushrooms. Their nutritional attributes should not be underestimated! I first introduced mushrooms to my Grow with Nutrition readers in my blog Foods for Immune Health. Now, let’s expand on their health benefits.
My top three reasons why you should include more mushrooms…
Mushrooms are a good source of B vitamins. We need B vitamins for our nervous system and to assist in the breakdown of the macronutrients – proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid are found in mushrooms. Riboflavin helps maintain healthy red blood cells. Niacin promotes healthy skin and pantothenic acid helps with the production of certain hormones.
Mushrooms contain the micronutrient selenium.This is an important mineral for immune health. It works similar to antioxidants to protect the body from oxidative stress. Mushrooms are one of the richest non-meat source of selenium providing 18 µgm per 1 cup serving of crimini and ½ cup serving of shiitake.
Mushroom synthesize vitamin D similar to we (humans) do. Vitamin D is essential for bone health and is important for immune health. Mushrooms naturally contain ergosterol. Ergosterol is a principal sterol that, when exposed to UV light, undergoes photolysis to yield vitamin D2. Therefore, when exposed to UV light (artificial or sunlight) mushrooms produce vitamin D2. Growers can augment the amount by increasing the UV light exposure.
Research has shown that many mushrooms varieties (include white button) contribute to immune health. This study examined the relationship between a polyphenol-rich beverage (combination of green tea, grape seed and skin plus shiitake mushroom extract) and its influence on the common cold (1). The ninety-eight participants were randomly assigned to either consume the polyphenol-rich beverage or a placebo beverage twice a day for 10 days.
The results showed that there was a significant improvement in the common cold symptoms (general feeling of sickness, headache/joint aches, sore throat/difficulty swallowing, hoarseness/cough, and stuffy nose/sniffle) for the group that consumed the polyphenol-rich beverage than the placebo group. Also, at the end of the study, more participants from the polyphenol-rich beverage group were complaint free than the placebo group.
Now that you have the facts of why you should be eating more mushrooms, try this nutrient packed salad recipe from Mushrooms.ca. It includes three of my favourites – mushrooms, salmon and red onions. It is simple to make and looks wonderful on the plate!
- Schueltz K, Sass M, de With A, Graubaum H, Gruenwald J. Immune-modulating efficacy of a polyphenol-rich beverage on symptoms associated with the common cold: A double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled, multi-centric clinical study. British Journal of Nutrition. 2010; 104:1156-1164.