Mushrooms, Mushrooms, Mushrooms

Carol Bradley, PhD, RDN, LD, BCBA

Mushroom lovers rejoice! Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, and can be a satisfying substitute for higher-calorie ingredients. Mushrooms are unique for their umami content, meaning a “savory” or “meaty” taste. In addition, they are low in sodium, and their umami counterbalances saltiness so less salt can be used in a dish without compromising flavor. White button mushrooms (stir-fried with water) have more potassium per 100g serving than a banana; potassium helps control blood pressure. Potassium is one of four major nutrients that Americans don’t get enough of. Vitamin D is another.

Mushrooms stand out as the only source of vitamin D in fruits or vegetables and one of the few non-fortified food sources. Mushrooms naturally produce vitamin D following exposure to sunlight or a sunlamp: mushrooms’ plant sterol – ergosterol – converts to vitamin D when exposed to light. All mushrooms contain vitamin D, but growers also have the ability to increase D levels in mushrooms to a controlled amount by exposing them to ultraviolet (UV) light. Mushroom producers currently offer a variety of light-exposed mushrooms which can provide close to 400 IU of vitamin D per serving (approximately 4-5 white button or crimini mushrooms, or one portabella).

Mushrooms provide B vitamins including riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid, which help to provide energy by breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Mushrooms contain the antioxidants selenium and ergothioneine which help maintain the immune system.
Mushrooms are one of the most popular vegetables. More than 900 million pounds of mushrooms were grown in the U.S. last year. One retailer even has a large plant in Madisonville, Texas. Mushrooms come in so many shapes and variations in flavor. To learn more about all the varieties and how to use them, visit http://mushroominfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Mushroom-Varieties-Chart-2012-SR24.pdf

When choosing mushrooms, look for a dry, smooth texture. Mushrooms, just like any other vegetable, should be cleaned before consuming. If you see little specks on the surface, just wipe them with a dry cloth or soft mushroom brush. You can rinse them but rinsing makes them slippery and isn’t necessary.

Mushrooms are easy to prepare and add flavor and nutrients to just about any dish. Add meaty mushrooms to your favorite recipes for extra flavor and to make meals more filling. Sauté or grill extra mushrooms then use the leftovers throughout the week in pasta dishes, soups, sandwiches and salads. Prepare some sautéed mushrooms and freeze them – they’ll keep for up to one month, and can be used as a quick, nutritious addition to meals. For recipes for any meal of the day, visit http://mushroominfo.com/pasta-asparagus-creamy-mushroom-sauce/