For being a fungus, there’s more to mushrooms than meets the eye. Mushrooms deserve to come out of the dark and onto your dinner plate as shining examples of food exhibiting antioxidant, antitumor, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.
If you’re the only source of mushrooms is what you order on pizza, it’s time to be open to other possibilities. Below are the best reasons to be bringing home more mushrooms next time you shop for groceries:
- Mushrooms are a rich source of selenium: Mushrooms are one of the richest sources of selenium you’ll find in the produce aisle. Selenium is a trace mineral and an essential component of various enzymes and proteins, called selenoproteins, that help make DNA and protect against cell damage and infections.
- Mushrooms provide vitamin D: Did you know that mushrooms are unique for being the only food in the produce aisle that is a source of vitamin D? Few foods naturally contain vitamin D but mushrooms do. Thanks to their ability to increase its vitamin D level through exposure to UV light or sunlight, mushrooms help us obtain this valuable nutrient important for building and maintaining strong bones and improving our immune function. Mushroom varieties such as crimini and portabella, have higher levels of the plant sterol, ergosterol, which converts vitamin D when exposed to UV light, thus have higher levels of the sunshine vitamin.
- Mushrooms are a source of an important antioxidant: You likely have never heard of ergothioneine but this antioxidant is found abundantly in mushrooms – very few other fruits or vegetables have it. Our bodies do not make ergothioneine so the only way to obtain it is from foods we eat. This antioxidant appears to protect blood cells that transport nutrients and oxygen to body cells. In addition, it also protects your artery linings from atherosclerosis.
- Mushrooms taste meaty: Not that mushrooms will ever replace meat, but the flavor of mushrooms is often referred to as “umami,” a Japanese word meaning “pleasant savory taste,” and is considered as the fifth taste sense. If you like a “meatier” tasting mushroom, choose portabella or cremini. Sometimes referred to as “the steak of the vegetarian world,” a grilled and marinated whole portabella mushroom can be served in place of a burger made from beef.
- Mushrooms are very low calorie: With only about 20 calories in a serving of five white button mushrooms or one whole portabella mushroom, this fungus may help with losing a few pounds. Better yet, mushrooms can satisfy your hunger pangs. When used in place of higher-calorie meat, mushrooms not only reduce calories and fat but one study found that they can be just as filling and satiating as animal-based proteins.
- Mushrooms are environmentally friendly: Mushrooms have an important role in our ecosystem and when grown for food especially in trays, are a very sustainable crop. That’s because this method of growing mushrooms requires less growing materials, no sunlight, farmland, or much water. Mushroom farming also emits much less carbon dioxide and if you decide to replace meat-based meals with an occasional mushroom-based meal, this helps out our environment even more.