Dr Libby on mushrooms
Mushrooms are often grouped with vegetables and provide many of the same nutritional attributes, but they also contain those more commonly found in meat, beans or grains.
Mushrooms contain very little energy (calories), yet they provide important nutrients, including potassium, riboflavin, and niacin. More than 2500 different varieties of mushrooms grow in the wild, but until now most research has focused on the exotic types. There are many varieties of mushrooms commonly used in cooking including portobello, shiitake, and field mushrooms. The texture and taste of mushrooms means they’re a delicious alternative to meat if you’re trying to introduce more meat-free meals.
Mushrooms are a good source of dietary fibre as well as B vitamins. B vitamins help to provide energy by supporting the metabolising of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. B vitamins also play an important role in the activities of enzymes that regulate chemical reactions in the body. Mushrooms contain the essential minerals potassium, copper, and phosphorus. With more than 90 per cent water content, they also contribute to hydration.
The humble white button mushroom can also have significant health benefits. Researchers found that just a handful of mushrooms have approximately 12 times more of the powerful antioxidant, L-Ergothioneine than wheatgerm and approximately four times more than chicken liver, previously thought to be the best sources. L-Ergothioneine works on cell-damaging substances known as free radicals and protects the body’s DNA from damage. Shiitake mushrooms are thought to be the most beneficial in terms of their protective effects, with studies showing they support the anti-viral arm of the immune system.
Mushrooms are rich in disease-fighting phytochemicals, and eating them regularly has been linked to a lower risk of breast cancer in studies of Chinese and Korean women. Other antioxidant phytochemicals in portobello mushrooms include a group called polyphenols, which include carotenoids famous for their protective benefits. Like all fruits and vegetables, mushrooms are naturally gluten-free, and make a delicious and nutritious addition to a gluten-free diet.
Delicious in stir-fries, casseroles, soups, dips, or even as the main attraction they’re unbelievably versatile. Add them to casseroles to make them go further or use them in place of beef in some old classics and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Here is my recipe for mushroom soup - this twist on a classic soup could be just the ticket for an early spring lunch when the temperatures are still cool enough for our bodies to crave something warm and nourishing. This recipe uses the natural creaminess of cashews to achieve the divine texture that traditionally comes from the addition of large amounts of cream.