Mushrooms provide important variety, flavor and nutrition to any diet. All mushrooms share a broad nutrient outline but each individual species of mushroom brings its own distinct micro-nutrients as well. The wood-decomposing mushrooms as a group also have a slightly different nutritional profile than other mushrooms. This means that a diet containing a wider range of mushroom species will also have a greater number of different nutrients.
Mushrooms generally are a good source of dietary fiber, protein, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, phosphorous, potassium, copper and selenium. Edible mushrooms have been shown to improve the immune system, provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions and improve cardiovascular functions.
The most common commercially available mushrooms in the United State are white button mushrooms, Crimini mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms. Many other varieties of mushroom can be found in specialty food stores and various oriental markets. These other varieties are well worth seeking out for their unique flavors and textures.
It is easy to include mushrooms in a healthy diet. I enjoy raw button mushrooms sliced onto a salad or in a vegetable sandwich or wrap. Almost any variety of mushroom makes a welcome addition to a stir fry or soup. Many of my gravies and sauces feature at least one variety of mushroom and sometimes several varieties together. Mushrooms might be the main ingredient for a stuffing in fish, a pork roast or boneless turkey thighs. Zucchini and crookneck squash sauteed together with several types of mushrooms and fresh herbs make one of my favorite side dishes.
Mushrooms should be stored at 36-38 degrees. Storage at room temperature results in rapid drying, hardening and color change. Mushrooms also loose nutritional value when stored at room temperature.
Mushrooms retain much of their nutrition when dried. I often used dried black fungus and dried sliced shiitake mushrooms in soups and when cooking dried beans for richer flavor and added nutrition. Mushroom powder can easily be added to any sauce or gravy.
Don’t be afraid of the ‘shrooms! They offer too many health benefits to pass up. And as with any other healthy whole food, the more the merrier. The greater the variety of mushrooms in your diet, the greater the synergistic effect of those micro-nutrients will be on your health.