I've been laboring all my life (or at least ever since I was cognizant of these things) under the mistaken idea that mushrooms are "empty calories". Now, it's obvious that they aren't high in calories and that they contain no fat, so I never felt guilty about indulging my fungi cravings, but today I decided (as I was preparing a yummy mushroom omelet for breakfast) to do a little digging... and mushrooms, it turns out are actually really good for you! (Really, do you have any idea how good it is to find out that one of my favorite foods is actually really healthy? You know, as long as you don't eat them deep friend with two tons of ranch dressing....ahem...)
"Pharaohs ate mushrooms as a delicacy, Greeks believed them to be a source of strength and Chinese regarded them as health food. There are over 14,000 types of mushrooms in the world, out of which about 3,000 are edible, about 700 have known medicinal properties and around 1400 have been recognized as poisonous."
"For thousands of years, Eastern cultures have revered mushrooms’ health benefits1. Often grouped with vegetables, mushrooms provide many of the nutritional attributes of produce, as well as attributes more commonly found in meat, beans or grains. Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free and very low in sodium, yet they provide several nutrients, including selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D and more. Read on to discover some of nature’s hidden treasures found in mushrooms:
•Mushrooms are a good source of B vitamins, including riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid, which help to provide energy by breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates2. B vitamins also play an important role in the nervous system.
◦Pantothenic acid helps with the production of hormones and also plays an important role in the nervous system2.
◦Riboflavin helps maintain healthy red blood cells2.
◦Niacin promotes healthy skin and makes sure the digestive and nervous systems function properly2.
•Mushrooms are also a source of important minerals:
◦Selenium is a mineral that works as an antioxidant to protect body cells from damage that might lead to heart disease, some cancers and other diseases of aging2. It also has been found to be important for the immune system and fertility in men3. Many foods of animal origin and grains are good sources of selenium, but mushrooms are among the richest sources of selenium in the produce aisle and provide 8-22 mcg per serving4. This is good news for vegetarians, whose sources of selenium are limited.
Antioxidants, like selenium, protect body cells from damage that might lead to chronic diseases. They help to strengthen the immune system, as well. In addition, mushrooms provide ergothioneine, a naturally occurring antioxidant that may help protect the body’s cells.
◦Ergothioneine is a naturally occurring antioxidant that also may help protect the body’s cells. Mushrooms provide 2.8-4.9 mg of ergothioneine per serving of white, portabella or crimini mushrooms5.
◦Copper helps make red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. Copper also helps keep bones and nerves healthy2.
◦Potassium is an important mineral many people do not get enough of. It aids in the maintenance of normal fluid and mineral balance, which helps control blood pressure. It also plays a role in making sure nerves and muscles, including the heart, function properly2. Mushrooms have 98-376 mg of potassium per 84 gram serving, which is 3-11 percent of the Daily Value4.
•Beta-glucans, found in numerous mushroom species, have shown marked immunity-stimulating effects, contribute to resistance against allergies and may also participate in physiological processes related to the metabolism of fats and sugars in the human body. The beta-glucans contained in oyster, shiitake and split gill mushrooms are considered to be the most effective.
Mushrooms provide a powerhouse of nutrients that may help protect against some cancers.
Preliminary research suggests increasing intake of low-energy-density foods (meaning few calories given the volume of food), specifically mushrooms, in place of high-energy-density foods, like lean ground beef, can be an effective method for reducing daily energy and fat intake while still feeling full and satiated after the meal."
(Copyright© Mushroom Council 2000-2010)
(Copyright© Mushroom Council 2000-2010)
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So in honor of this new revelation, we're eating more mushrooms, starting with home made Beef Stroganoff tonight! (I make mine with no fat yogurt in place of sour cream. Much healthier and mighty yummy, too.)