Have you ever considered mushrooms a health food? Well, we cannot blame you. Many see it as a minor vegetable with little nutritional value, not worth mentioning. The reasons for it: it is cheap, kind of unspectacular and not bright in color like we know of many other vegetables that are particularly good for us. The vibrant colors of for example purple kale and carrot almost speak to us about their health benefits, surely they must be good! Spinach and avocado are both expensive, so they must be good right? And foods like watercress or pak choy are so extra, if those are not packed with nutrients, I don’t know what is!
First of all, you are somehow a little right. Indeed, many foods that do not fall in the categories of being more expensive, extra or vibrant colored, are often not that spectacular in their nutritional value. Iceberg lettuce and cucumber for example. Both hold a high amount of water and certainly some vitamins and minerals, but not nearly as much as other vegetables. In the fruit category berries do much much better than simple apples. And in the root category, it’s not a secret that ginger has much more benefits than our own locally grown white onion. Somehow mushrooms got placed into the same category as cucumber, iceberg, onion and apples and it is time it gets out of there!
Even the simplest, most easily accessible and cheapest of them all, the white button mushroom, has a high nutritional value and lots of health benefits. It contains all essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein, a variety of minerals and a high dose of B vitamins which are especially important to have in your diet when you are a vegetarian or vegan. They are furthermore packed with minerals and antioxidants, that feed our cells and help keep us young internally and externally, and healthy.
Mushrooms are great for heart and blood health and as one of the only vegan foods, they contain natural, vegan vitamin D. Because all mushrooms are at least very slightly toxic (in a safe for consumption kind of way), they stimulate our immune system and keep it alert to detect intruders. In pregnant women mushrooms help keep the fetus healthy by providing folate.
But researchers found something even more spectacular than all of this. Just 3 white mushrooms a day were linked to a decreased chance of prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women. The results showed that the nutritional makeup of mushrooms helps to protect cells from DNA damage (a natural process that can result in cancer) and also inhibit tumor formation in cells that have already experienced DNA damage. That’s some great news for a few bucks!
Mushrooms can be eaten raw as well as fried, baked or cooked. Eaten raw their toxicity is a bit higher which does not make them unsuitable for consumption but you should not overdo it on the raw ones. Mushrooms cooked in water release a certain amount of vitamins into the water that gets drained. Unless you make soup of them and leave the water they were cooked in in the pot! For the best nutritional value, we advise you to shortly bake or fry them in a little oil which will help to absorb the vitamins.
You can also enjoy organic, baked in tamari sauce mushrooms at our bar. Not only do they add a delicious twist to each salad, you now know they will also keep you healthy and full of life. Are you giving mushrooms a try? We’d love to see you soon!
Written by Maritza Kolenbrander, Food Psychologist at Plantifulplan