The Magic of Mushrooms

 
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Why should I eat more?

For centuries, traditional wisdom in Asia recognised that mushrooms had medicinal properties. Now modern scientific research is reporting promising findings for regular mushroom consumption. Benefits include better management of weight (appetite suppression and satiety), heart disease (blood pressure and cholesterol), Alzheimer’s disease and brain function, inflammatory diseases, and improved immunity (including the flu).

Nutrient highlights

Mushrooms boast B vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, biotin, pantothenic acid and folate, as well as the minerals selenium, copper and potassium. You can also buy certain mushrooms that are rich in vitamin D. But mushrooms have a low level of vitamin B12 providing only 2–4 per cent of your recommended daily need per serving.

What makes mushrooms important to seek out in the fight against chronic diseases are that they are very low in kilojoules, along with their useful fibre content, resistant starch (which is a 
prebiotic for intestinal health) and high antioxidant level. In a study of 30 common vegetables, mushrooms ranked in the top five foods for antioxidant activity! Indeed, mushrooms are one of the few nonanimal sources of a very important antioxidant for your body called ergothioneine.

How to enjoy mushrooms

Include just three button mushrooms a day (100 grams), on average, for a healthier life. Enjoy them in salads, on a BBQ, as a sandwich filling, in soups and stews, or to reduce or replace minced meat when making burgers or meatballs. While button mushrooms are more common in Western countries, varieties such as shiitake and maitake tend to be favoured in Asia, often in dried form. 

Since mushrooms are naturally rich in glutamates, you can use less salt and other flavour enhancers in your cooking. 

Store mushrooms in a paper bag in the refrigerator and before using them, wipe over with a damp cloth rather than peeling them.

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Sue Radd is one of Australia's leading nutritionists and health communicators. She also advises law firms, providing expert nutrition reports for use in court cases.