Mushrooms are neither a fruit nor a vegetable but are classified as a fungus. Mushrooms provide a variety of beneficial nutrients and are extremely versatile in the kitchen. There are over 70,000 types of mushrooms, but only around 250 species are edible.
Mushrooms provide fibre, protein, carbohydrate and are virtually fat free. In addition, mushrooms provide a variety of micronutrients, including: Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Iron, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Magnesium, Copper, Selenium, Phosphorus and Potassium. Interestingly, 90g of Portobello mushrooms provide more potassium than a banana.
Mushrooms also provide powerful phytonutrients called ergothioneine and polyphenols that act as antioxidants in the body to keep our body cells in tip top condition. Different varieties of mushrooms provide different levels of micronutrients. It is therefore best practice to incorporate a variety of mushrooms in your diet. Pair them with an array of colourful fruits and vegetables, in order to obtain an adequate amount of the different vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients you require.
Did you know that it is a good idea to tan your mushrooms? By exposing mushrooms to UV light after harvesting, you can increase the amount of Vitamin D in certain varieties of mushrooms. After sun exposure, it is estimated that shiitake and morel mushrooms can contribute up to 12% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamin D, whereas UV-treated portabello mushrooms provide approximately 52% or the RDA per 1 cup serving. Commercially raised mushrooms are now being grown with controlled UVB exposure so that they synthesize and thus contain more vitamin D than if grown in the wild. In fact, when grown with lots of UVB exposure, just 4-5 button or cremini mushrooms may contain as much as 400 IU of vitamin D. A serving of 90g maitake mushrooms provide 943 IU of vitamin D. This is an adequate amount considering that the RDA for vitamin D is 600 IU. The difference in variations of vitamin D content may be due to the disparities in natural light exposure during harvesting, the type of mushroom, its moisture content, the light’s wavelength and intensity and duration of UV light exposure. Mushrooms really are magic for one of the reasons that they are the only plant food known to contain vitamin D.
A few practical mushroom tips:
- Opt for fresh over canned mushrooms, to eliminate any added sodium.
- Store mushrooms unwashed in a paper bag or paper towel to prolong freshness.
- When choosing mushrooms, look for dry smooth caps, firm gills and fresh aroma.
- Mushrooms are porous, so try to avoid soaking them in water as this will alter their flavour and texture.
- Cooking unlocks some valuable nutrients found in mushrooms and since they are grown on manure, it may be safer to cook them.
Try this delicious soup recipe, loaded with “shroomy” goodness.
Creamy Mushroom Soup
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 punnet button mushrooms (250g), roughly chopped
2 large portobello mushrooms (about 300g), roughly chopped
1 punnet shimeji mushrooms (about 250g), roughly chopped
1 Tbs. dried thyme
1 vegetable stock cube mixed with 1L of boiling water
4 Tbs. plain, low fat yoghurt (more for garnish)
Salt and pepper to taste
Expose your mushrooms to sunshine for 15 minutes before cooking in order to increase the vitamin D content.
Place a pot over medium heat and add the olive oil, onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Cook until soft (about 10-15 minutes). Add the mushrooms, thyme and pepper. Cover the pot and leave for 10 minutes until the mushrooms are soft (stir every few minutes). Once the mushrooms are soft, add the prepared stock and bring to the boil, before reducing the heat and leaving to simmer for 25-30 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and add the yoghurt. Blend until smooth. (You can leave some chunky bits if you prefer). Stir through a spoon of yoghurt and top with toasted nuts before serving. Enjoy!