Culinary Mushroom Magic: Delicate Powerhouses of Nutrition and Medicine

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by Case Adams

Today, fungi cuisine in the West is typically limited to Agaracus bisporus—the relatively mild button mushroom, which matures into the acclaimed portobello. But digging deeper into available options reveals chanterelle (Cantharellus sp.), oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus), morel (Morchella sp.) and shiitake (Lentinula edodes) species. These culinary mushrooms provide a virtuosity of delicate flavors harboring nutritional and medicinal benefits, according to those that study them. 

University of California-Berkeley research scientist and Mycologist Christopher Hobbs, Ph.D., explains that shiitake and oyster mushrooms follow the button as the most widely cultivated around the world. “They come in many colors, varieties and species and are typically the most easily digested and utilized of all mushrooms,” he notes.

“Mushrooms are an amazing health food,” says Hobbs. “Most edible fungi are high in fiber, good-quality protein, key vitamins, micronutrients, phosphorous and potassium, and low in fat and calories. It’s one of nature’s perfect diet foods.” As protein powerhouses, portobello and other button mushrooms, shiitake and oyster varieties all deliver between 30 and 35 percent protein by weight.

The fiber content can range from 20 grams per 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) in the case of portobello to a lofty 48 grams per 100 grams in the Phoenix oyster mushroom.

Mushrooms also supply potent B vitamins. One hundred grams (about 3.5 ounces) of portobello contains more than four milligrams (mg) of riboflavin (B2), 69 mg niacin (B3) and 12 mg pantothenic acid (B5). Shiitake’s comparable numbers are three, 106 and 17 while pink oyster delivers 2.45, 66 and 33 mg of the three nutrients. Thus, they deliver significantly more than recommended daily allowances (RDA)—for example, niacin’s adult RDA ranges from 14 to 16 mg and riboflavin’s is just 1.1 to 1.3 mg.

Mushrooms also present one of the few food sources of vitamin D—primarily D2—but some also contain small amounts of vitamin D3, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture research. Also, their D2 levels spike dramatically when sun-dried spore-side-up, confirmed in research by internationally recognized Mycologist Paul Stamets.

Mushrooms contain important minerals, too. Portobello contains 4,500 mg, oyster 4,500 mg and shiitake 2,700 mg of potassium per 100 grams, all with low sodium levels. Plus, they deliver usable amounts of copper, zinc and selenium.

Beyond the nutrient numbers lies mushrooms’ bonus round: They contain special complex polysaccharides—longchain molecules within cell walls—that have been the subject of intense research at leading institutions around the world, including Harvard, Yale and the University of California. Mushrooms’ (1-3)-beta-glucan complexes have been shown to inhibit many cancers and suggest potential solutions for diabetes, heart disease and immune-related conditions.

Stamets explains that mushrooms also contain sterols, shown to benefit cardiovascular health. “Shiitake and other mushrooms like reishi have cholesterol-normalizing effects,” adds Hobbs. Can we take these benefits back to the kitchen? “Most mushrooms have to be cooked to release their health-giving benefits,” explains Hobbs. Stamets concurs: “Cooking liberates mushroom nutrients from their matrix of cells. They are tenderized upon heating, making their nutrients bioavailable for digestion.”

Case Adams is a California naturopath and author of 25 books on natural healing. Learn more at CaseAdams.com.


 

My Tacos

by Cate Moss

Makes a healthy filling for tacos and enchiladas, or crumble as a topper on deluxe nachos. They taste as good as they smell, and like chili they taste almost better as leftovers.

Fills 12 large tacos, or more paired with fillings such as chopped leafy lettuce or guacamole.

1-2 cups of chopped stropharia, shiitake or maitake mushrooms

1 cup crumbled tempeh or other healthful protein source

¼ cup chopped onions

½ cup sunflower seeds or chopped almonds

¼ cup sesame seeds 1 cup corn 1 chopped sweet pepper (add hot peppers if desired)

1 small handful of chopped olives 4 shakes of soy sauce

1 Tbsp spiced hot chocolate 2 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp ground cumin

¼ cup nutritional yeast

2 cloves of chopped garlic 

1 cup broth or water

Sauté mushrooms, protein and onions until crispy (uncrowded in the pan). Then add remaining ingredients and braise on low heat. Allow mixture to cook down to desired consistency.


 

Posted in: Healthbrief, National
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