Fresh mushrooms a virtual powerhouse of goodness, says nutritionist

By Judy Creighton, The Canadian Press

Whether it is a meaty portobello, funnel-shaped oyster or lacy enoki, these and other varieties of fresh mushrooms are now considered superfoods.

“They are full of nutrients and are virtually fat-, cholesterol- and sodium-free,” says Toronto nutritionist Clare Jones, commenting on recent studies of the popular fungi.

“On top of that, they contain a lot of antioxidants and vitamins and are showing their value in preventing diseases like prostate and breast cancer, heart, diabetes and arthritis.”

Add in antioxidants, and the term l-ergothioneine pops up. It is an arthritis-fighting phytochemical that doesn’t break down when it’s heated, which means the body still gets the benefits it releases.

Jones says she was surprised to discover that mushrooms also contain natural vitamin D.
“It is becoming very important for us to increase our consumption of this vitamin,” she says. Mushrooms contain a compound called ergosterol that is turned into vitamin D in the body.

Jones says that other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals found in mushrooms include essential traces of iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper and selenium.

In fact, one portobello mushroom has more potassium than a banana, she points out.

Mushrooms contain no sodium, but are big on umami, which is an acid that rounds out other flavours to add taste satisfaction.

“You can also substitute mushrooms for protein, so there are a variety of reasons why they really fit the bill for consumers,” says Jones.

Are your children picky eaters who don’t like mushrooms? Jones says she hasn’t had a problem getting her kids to eat them. “I serve them along with other raw vegetables with their favourite dipping sauce,” she says.

Mushrooms are an economical food option, notes Jones. “Whether served as a side dish sauteed with a chicken breast or cooked on the grill with some pork, that is not expensive to do.”

From purchase to consumption, here are tips to handle mushrooms from “Get Fresh” by Toronto food writer Madeleine Greey.
  • Keep mushrooms in a vented paper bag and refrigerated for best results. Shiitake and oyster mushrooms should be stored in a container with a damp cloth on top to prevent them from drying out.
  • Most perishable are enoki, which last only a few days. White button, oyster, cremini and boletes stay fresh for up to a week, shiitake and portobello up to two weeks.
  • Do a nose check: if they smell sour, not earthy, their time is over. Mushrooms don’t freeze well.
  • Don’t drown your mushrooms when washing them. They soak up water like sponges which thins flavour and destroys nutrients. Instead, wipe them clean with a damp paper towel or mushroom brush.

posted by Brittany

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