Mushrooms have been used for thousands of years both as food and for medicinal purposes. They are often classified as a vegetable or an herb, but they are actually fungi. While there are over 14,000 mushrooms, only about 3,000 are edible, about 700 have known medicinal properties, and less than one percent are recognized as poisonous.
Many people enjoy going to the woods to pick their own mushrooms. However, identifying mushrooms can be a real challenge. The colour, shape and size of the fruiting body can vary tremendously. It is important to properly identify the mushroom that is collected, so as to avoid a poisonous species.
The Pharaohs prized mushrooms as a delicacy, and the Greeks believed that mushrooms provided strength for warriors in battle. The Romans regarded mushrooms as a gift from God and served them only on festive occasions, while the Chinese treasured them as a health food.
Today, mushrooms are enjoyed for their flavor and texture. They can impart their own flavor to food or take on the flavor of other ingredients. Their flavor normally intensifies during cooking, and their texture holds up well to usual cooking methods, including stir-frying and sauteing.
It is popular to add mushrooms to soups, salads, and sandwiches, or to use them as an appetizer.
Mushrooms contain about 80 to 90 percent water, and are very low in calories (only 100 cal/oz). They have very little sodium and fat, and 8 to 10 percent of the dry weight is fiber. Hence, they are an ideal food for persons following a weight management program or a diet for hypertensives.
Nutritional Value of Mushrooms
100 grams of uncooked, white button mushrooms contain the following nutrients:
· Folate (Vitamin B9) - 16.0 mcg
· Niacin (Vitamin B3) - 3.6 mg
· Niacin (Vitamin B3) - 3.6 mg
· Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) - 1.5 mg
· Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) - 0.4 mg
· Thiamin (Vitamin B1) - 0.1 mg
· Vitamin B6 - 0.1 mg
· Copper - 0.3 mg
· Iron - 0.5 mg
· Magnesium - 9.0 mg
· Phosphorus - 86.0 mg
· Potassium - 318 mg
· Selenium - 9.3 mcg
· Zinc - 0.5 mg
Health & Nutritional Benefits of Eating Mushrooms
1. Mushrooms have very less calories and contain approximately 80 to 90 percent water. At the same time, they have low sodium, carbohydrate and fat content and high fiber content. This is the reason why mushrooms are considered good for those aiming for weight loss.
2. Mushrooms themselves provide you with lean proteins as they have zero cholesterol, fats and very low carbohydrates. The fiber and certain enzymes in them also help lower cholesterol level. Moreover, the high lean protein content in mushrooms helps burn cholesterol when they are digested.
3. Mushrooms are an excellent source of potassium. In fact, it is said that there is more potassium in a mushroom than a banana. Since potassium helps lower blood pressure and diminished the risk of stroke, mushrooms are recommended to people suffering from hypertension.
4. Mushrooms are rich in copper, a mineral that has cardio-protective properties. A single serving of mushrooms is said to provide about 20 to 40 precent of the daily needs of copper.
5. Mushrooms are believed to help fight against cancer. They are an excellent source of selenium, an antioxidant that works with vitamin E to protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals.
6. White button mushroom have been found to restrain the activity of aromatase, an enzyme involved in estrogen production, and 5-alpha-reductase, an enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT.
7. Researches have suggested that white button mushrooms can reduce the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer. In fact, extract of white button mushrooms has been found to help in diminishing cell proliferation as well as tumor size.
8. Ergothioneine, a powerful anti oxidant present in mushrooms is very effective in giving protection from free radicals as well as boosting up immunity. Mushrooms contain natural antibiotics (similar to penicillin, which itself is extracted from mushrooms) which inhibit microbial and other fungal infections. They also help heal ulcers and ulcerous wounds and protect them from infections. A good combination of vitamins A, B-Complex and C, found in mushrooms also strengthens immune system.
9. Being rich in fiber, protein and Vitamin B, mushrooms help maintain a healthy metabolism.
10. It has been found that mushroom extract helps stop migraine headaches and is beneficial for people suffering from mental illnesses, like obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Few Words of Caution:
Let me put it very straight without any word of condolence. Mushrooms can even kill! Most of the mushrooms are not edible, are highly poisonous and look strikingly similar to their edible counterparts. Even certain edible mushrooms can go poisonous depending upon the substance they grow on. Don’t ever try picking them up from woods unless you identify them very well. Do not trust on the unknown vendors too. Always trust sealed products from reputed companies or those which you grow yourself under controlled conditions after buying their seeds (called spawns) from trusted source. Because a single poisonous mushroom among others can send a whole lot of people to coma, induce severe poisoning symptoms, nausea, vomiting, convulsions, cramps, insanity or worst, can kill them. Avoid eating discoloured mushrooms or those which are different in colour than the characteristic colour of their species.