Fall is mushroom season here in North Carolina. With an on-campus job at a local college, one of the benefits is that I get to enjoy the meals at the cafeteria. This isn’t your typical school cafeteria with lumpy gravy and boxed mashed potatoes. No – we get organic, free range Asian chicken, pesto mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables with shiitake mushrooms grown right here on the farm at the school. Do you know how good mushrooms really are for you?
16 Benefits of Mushrooms
1. They contain no sugar.
2. They have no sodium.
3. They have no fat, and therefore, no cholesterol.
4. The have no gluten.
5. Five medium mushrooms, buttons in this case, have only 20 calories.
6. The same amount has over 300 mg of potassium.
7. They also have other nutrients, including 3 grams of protein, 15% niacin, 8% phosphorus, 15% copper and B vitamins such as riboflavin. They also have Vitamin D, selenium phenols and iron.
8. They can be used as a substitute for meat. Like tofu, they tend to take on the flavor of what they are cooked with. They can be roasted, broiled, boiled, baked, stuffed, fried, deep-fried and much more.
9. Perhaps the most exciting attribute of mushrooms is that they have polysaccharides. These are tough cancer fighters. They have been shown to kill cancer cells of many types. I’ve told the story of my Border Collie, Joker, many times. A few years ago he developed cancer on his nose, something I hear is common to the breed. The vet said he’d have to have surgery or he wouldn’t make it more than a few months. He was about 9 years old at the time. I couldn’t afford the surgery, so I started looking online for a natural cure. I also talked to a vet that specialized in cancer. She said to try a mushroom complex. I found one at a local health food store that had shiitake, maitake, cordyceps and chaga. After a month of taking the capsules, the lump started to diminish and after three months it was gone. It was so completely dissolved that the vet was astounded and wanted to know who did such a great job on the surgery! Cancer has resurfaced two more times in other places and today Joker is once again cancer free at 13 years of age. This is not to say that it will work every time with every type of cancer, but I would certainly give it a try.
10. Along with the anti-cancer activity, mushrooms contain other powerful antioxidants. These protect your cells from damage.
11. They are great for stimulating the immune system. Oyster mushrooms and shiitakes contain beta-glucans. They are also very anti-viral.
12. They are good food to eat when trying to lose weight naturally. In addition to having the above mentioned nutrients, they are hearty and filling. They comprise the “umami” aspect of Japanese cooking – the rich, savory meaty aspect of the palate.
13. Reishi mushrooms have been found to be anti-viral, anti-bacterial, good for lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, and helping with men’s prostate and urinary problems. They are a very hard, woody mushroom, so boiling in water is a good way to extract the usable compounds. Clean a few reishi mushrooms and cover with water. Simmer for 30 minutes or so and strain. You can freeze the mushrooms to extract more later. This can be done up to three times and you’ll still get the same benefits. Add carrots, onions and leeks to the broth and then whatever else you may wish. Let it simmer a while to incorporate all the ingredients. Eat warm.
14. Many mushrooms are medicinal in nature. They have been used for anti-depressants, to treat Hepatitis B, cholesterol, hypoglycemia, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and to protect the liver and kidneys.
15. Some mushrooms can’t be mistaken for others. Morels, reishi and chaga are easy to recognize. If you’re not sure about a mushroom, don’t eat it!
16. Mushrooms are versatile. They adapt to many situations and can be grown easily. You can buy mushroom logs already “seeded” with spores, or you can buy the plugs of spores to put in your own logs.
Even button mushrooms have some value. I prefer portobellos for the flavor and the ability to stand up to cooking. If I find a sale, I buy a lot at one time. But you need to use them right away because they can start to go bad quickly. Don’t wash them until you’re ready to use them as they will absorb water like a sponge. Then just brush off the dirt. Here’s my recipe for fried mushrooms:
Easy Fried Mushrooms
- olive oil, coconut oil, or other cooking oil of your choice (find coconut oil here)
- sea salt (find it here)
- Heat a pan with oil.
- Clean mushrooms. Slice and add to the pan.
- On medium high heat, stir the mushrooms every few minutes.
- Do not add salt until they are nearly cooked. They will release too much water making them mushy.
- When they are done, finish with a bit of butter.
You can freeze them after they cool. I put them in zip-top plastic bags and put them in the freezer. Then when I need some, I break off what I need and toss them into soup, stew or spaghetti sauce.
Keep in mind…
Wild mushrooms can be dangerous. Take an experienced guide with you or use only those from reputable sources. If you have any doubts, leave them alone!
photo credit to Janet Ramsden