An Examination of the Benefits of Mushrooms, By Farihah Choudhury
Food as medicine
In the age of Berocca and paracetamol, the monumental advancement of pharmaceutical drugs in the 21st century has revolutionised the way we view and handle ill health.
Although Nobel Prize winning pills and potions have vastly improved healthcare in many ways and improved human longevity and vitality, the downside of our solutions being boiled down to a miraculous white pill is that we have become detached with the power of nature to cure ailments. Instead of looking at the cause of colds or headaches we are inclined to just take an ibuprofen and get on with our day to day lives. However, addressing the issue with every day, natural remedies may provide long term preventative solutions to aches and pains, and bring us back to the healing capacities of the world around us. One of these such naturally sourced solutions is the humble mushroom, which can be foraged or purchased widely, and have a unique flavour profile and texture that makes them great in a variety of dishes and have made them known as the “meat of the vegetable world”.
‘Mushroom’ is the common name of the most widely cultivated species, the white button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus), which is where the standard name derives from – but there are ‘mushrooms’ that do not fit the standard mushroom morphology, such as morels and puffballs. Over 20 species of mushrooms are commercially cultivated. Mushrooms are a widely foraged food as they grow extensively and are distinctive in appearance. They provide a special taste profile of ‘umami’ which can be described as not savoury, not sweet – but something in the middle, despite having very low sugar and sodium content, which makes them a fantastic flavour addition to meals without adding unhealthy levels of nutrients, whilst counting as one portion of your 5-a-day guideline.
Though raw mushrooms are 92% water, and not a good source of macronutrients in regular serving sizes (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) they provide a rich source of B vitamins B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin) and B5 (pantothenic acid). Mushrooms can also be a good source of Vitamin D2 though this depends on sunlight exposure during processing. A 100g serving also provides good amounts of potassium, phosphorus, copper, selenium and zinc. B vitamins are important for the energy release from food, and specifically B vitamins found in mushrooms are required for the normal functioning of the skin and nervous system. Mushrooms have been used medicinally for hundreds of years as they are thought to have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and other properties, but further evidence is needed to confirm these benefits.
Five ways to incorporate mushrooms into your diet
In a stir fry
Grilled stuffed Portobello mushrooms
Homemade mushroom burger-style patty
Used to bulk up mince, risotto, pasta
With scrambled tofu or eggs
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