The reputation of mushrooms has varied over the decades. There are many varieties of this curious delight from the most common button mushroom to the more exotic Brazilian blazei or the Japanese nameko. They can be delicious, nutritious, deadly, magical, toxic – and very mysterious.
With their meaty texture and filling density, it’s no wonder mushrooms are a hit in most people’s kitchen, especially those who like a meat substitute. While mushrooms are often put in the vegetable category, they are actually a microorganism fungus containing various proteins and minerals which are good for us nutritionally and medicinally.
For centuries, little was known about mushrooms. The Eastern half of the world cherished them, while the Western world feared them. This all changed when the French introduced mushrooms and other fungi into their haute cuisine led by the crown jewel of the fungi world, the truffle. By the late 19th century, Americans were cooking up a storm. In fact, one of the first English language cookbooks was called One Hundred Mushroom Receipts by Kate Sargeant (1899). Of course, Americans did not leave the trend there; they created clubs dedicated to foraging, identifying and experimenting with the vast array of fungi.
Today, mushrooms are being touted as a superfood and can be found in many different forms from powders to add in your shakes (to help build immunity) to beauty products, and from capsules of rare varieties to those found at your local grocery store. Big pharma and cosmetic companies throughout the world are conducting research on mushrooms and their many health benefits. Not only is this phenomenon providing nourishment for our bodies, research shows it is also great for the environment; the cultivation process helps in cleaning polluted soil and restoring habitats near polluting factories. Mushrooms are also being researched as a potential source of fuel and as a more eco-friendly alternative to plastics and Styrofoam.
Here are some nutritional facts about the magnificent mushroom: a good source of vitamin D (great for you vegans out there), they also contain many antioxidants and B-vitamins and are a great source of minerals such as selenium, copper, potassium, beta-glucans and polyphenols. They also provide a healthy dose of daily fiber and can act as a prebiotic for the growth of probiotic gut organisms.
A little warning to you all… Make sure mushrooms are safe to ingest before you consume them. Do your research and remember, it’s all about maintaining a balanced diet. To learn more about mushrooms, I recommend Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World by Paul Stamets.
Dipika is a holistic health coach who empowers clients to activate balanced lifestyle of the mind, body and soul. She can be reached at [email protected] or visit www.loveyourlifehealthy.com.