The Misunderstood Mushroom

beta-glucan in mushrooms, functional mushrooms, mushroom health benefits, mushrooms, vitamins and minerals in mushrooms -

The Misunderstood Mushroom

Remember high school? Whether you were popular, a good student or a jock, there was probably at least one nerdy kid that everyone overlooked. He was likely smart, always with his nose in a book. He never talked in class, unless the teacher called on him, and you could usually find him in the library.

In the movies, this would be the guy (or girl) who shows up at the 20-year high school reunion fabulously wealthy because of his amazing invention or the tech startup he sold for billions.

In the natural world, mushrooms are that guy.

Think about it. Mushrooms don’t like to draw attention to themselves. They usually hang out in shady, out of the way places. They’re quiet and unassuming, all the while hiding immense treasure.

Mushrooms are, well, nature’s rock star.

To begin with, many of them are a great food source. There are hundreds of thousands of mushrooms species. Of those, only about two dozen are commonly cultivated. Ask most people about mushrooms, and they generally know only about the white button mushrooms found on pizza. There are many gourmet mushrooms that provide a perfect source of protein. And they taste great!

Let’s talk about the nutritional benefits of mushrooms.

Mushrooms are a great source of vitamins. They contain many of the B vitamins that are often added to processed foods, vitamins such as riboflavin (B2), folate (B9), thiamine (B1), pantothenic acid (B5), and niacin B3). They also contain vitamin C and vitamin D. You probably know that most of us are deficient in vitamin D. What you might not know is that if you place mushrooms in the sun, it will significantly increase the level of vitamin D that we can then absorb when we eat the mushrooms.

Mushrooms are high in antioxidants which can help rid the body of free radicals. The beta-glucan fibers found in the cell walls of mushrooms stimulate the immune system to fight cancer cells and prevent tumors from forming. By consuming just 3 grams of beta-glucans a day you can lower your blood cholesterol levels by 5 percent. There have also been recent studies that point to beta-glucans improving insulin resistance and blood cholesterol levels. If this turns out to be the case, mushrooms could help lower the risk of obesity.

What about important minerals? Mushrooms contain selenium, potassium, copper, iron, and phosphorus. They’re an ideal food for anyone choosing a vegetarian or vegan diet. They are naturally low in calories, fat, and cholesterol.

So, adding mushrooms to your diet is a smart thing to do. You’ll benefit from the vitamins, minerals and other supportive compounds. From this perspective, mushrooms can be considered a functional food, they provide a positive effect on our health beyond basic nutrition.

But what if you don’t like to eat mushrooms? How can you gain the benefits? One of the easiest things to do is take a mushroom tincture. With tinctures, you get all the benefits of a mound of mushrooms in just a few drops that can be added to any beverage.

Or you could try a new mushroom recipe!

Mushroom Bacon

(4 servings)

  • About a pound of King Oyster mushrooms, sliced lengthwise (approximately ⅛ inch thick)
  • Smoked salt or Himalayan pink salt
  • Black pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Smoked paprika
  • Butter

Directions: Slice the mushrooms lengthwise, like strips of bacon. Pre-heat a large frying pan to medium. Place mushroom slices in a single layer in the pan with a small amount of water or stock, just enough to keep them from sticking. Sprinkle all seasoning, except paprika, on both sides, to taste; season each slice evenly. Cook approximately 15 minutes, turning frequently until slices begin to brown and reduce in size. Add more liquid to keep mushroom slices from sticking. Once they begin to brown, add about a tablespoon of butter to finish. Sprinkle with paprika and cook until your desired crispness. These are great with eggs or in any dish that calls for bacon.

Next time, we’ll talk about how mushrooms could replace plastic!

Photo by Andrew Ridley on Unsplash

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