Q: Just how healthy are mushrooms, and what are some new ways to eat them?
A: Did you know there are more than 14,000 types of mushrooms worldwide—3,000 of which are edible? Yet this tasty class of fungus is often overlooked in modern cooking. Probably because, like you, people are unaware of the mushroom’s nutritional power! While we dietitians tend to encourage eating brightly colored fruits and vegetables, that should not be at the expense of mushrooms. They are high-water-content foods: 100 grams (just over 1 cup) of uncooked mushrooms contain only 22 calories and 3 grams each of protein and carbohydrate, making them a great weight-loss food. But even more importantly, mushrooms (even little white button mushrooms) contain key B vitamins, crucial to energy production and metabolism, and minerals to support immunity and enhance recovery. Other important nutrients found in mushrooms: riboflavin, integral in red blood cell formation; niacin, key for skin and digestion health; vitamin B5, needed for proper nervous system function; potassium, a key electrolyte; selenium, an immunity-supporting antioxidant; and phosphorus, which helps decrease muscle soreness and aids metabolism. And just in case you need one more reason to stock up on mushrooms: They also contain an important class of soluble fiber—beta glucans, which is a powerful, immunity-boosting, infection-fighting and allergen-reducing nutrient.
Here’s how I like to prepare them:
- Larger mushrooms can be lightly brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper and grilled to perfection.
- Diced mushrooms make great additions to omelets, soups and stir-fries.
- Sauté some mushrooms right after buying them, and add them to salads all week.
Lauren Antonucci, R.D., is a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, three-time Ironman finisher and the founding director of Nutrition Energy in New York City.
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