WHAT are they? Mushrooms are the spore-bearing fruits of a fungus. They are not categorized as a plant because they do not undergo photosynthesis, yet they still boast nutritional benefits of their own. They can be found in virtually any habitat, especially where it is warm and wet.
Mushrooms pack the nutritional punch of both produce and certain meats, beans, and grains. They also have the unique ability to boost the immune system by increasing the body’s natural healing potential. Various mushrooms used medicinally in China and Japan for years have proven effective in fighting viruses and bacteria; eliminating high cholesterol, inflammation, and fatigue, battling tumors and cancer; and providing support to the lungs.
Mushrooms are an excellent source of potassium—a 3 oz portabella cap contains even more than a banana (over 400 mg)! Since potassium helps lower blood pressure, mushrooms are more valuable to those suffering from hypertension.
Mushrooms are rich in copper, a mineral that has cardio-protective properties. A single serving of mushrooms is said to provide 20 to 40 percent of the daily need for copper.
Mushrooms are believed to work against cancer. They are an excellent source of selenium, an antioxidant that compliments vitamin E, protecting against dangerous free radicals.
Keep your metabolism roaring by including mushrooms in your diet! They are loaded with fiber, protein, and vitamin B, which send your metabolism into overdrive as it works to break down these nutrients during digestion.
Types of Mushrooms
CORIOLUS: Known as “Krestin” in Japan, this mushroom is one of the most researched supplements for immune system health in the world.
CORDYCEPS: A diverse supplement that is used to provide energy, as well as support for issues relating to respiratory health, kidney health, and adrenal fatigue.
SHITAKE: This popular mushroom is high in antioxidants. Numerous studies find it to have anti-tumor, cholesterol-lowering, and virus-inhibiting effects. Shiitake mushrooms have been medically used for antibacterial, antitumor, antiviral; lowers cholesterol and enhances immunity.
MAITAKE: In Japanese tradition, these mushrooms are called the “dancing mushroom” and are used in a variety of soups and sauces. They help repair and restore the immune system and can be used to ease the side effects of cancer, HIV/AIDS, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrom (CFS). Maitake mushrooms have been medically used for antitumor, antiviral; lowers insulin levels and enhances immune activity.
REISHI: This mushroom may provide the widest variation of health benefits thanks to its plentiful supply of polysaccharides. In recent studies, Reishi mushrooms show promise for potential benefits in fighting cancer. Reishi mushrooms have been medically used for antifatigue, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant; lowers cholesterol, enhances immunity, and aids respiration. Topical form may cure skin rashes like poison ivy and treat some skin cancers.
ENOKI: Enoki mushrooms have been medically used for antitumor; lowers blood pressure and cholesterol.
OYSTER: Oyster mushrooms have been medically used for antitumor, antiviral; lowers cholesterol.
Cooking with Mushrooms
Couscous with Asparagus and Fresh Mushrooms
This one-dish meal is a lot like a risotto, only it takes less than half the time to prepare—and you don’t have to stand over the stove nursing it along.
- 4 quarts of water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
- 2 cups couscous
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, diced
- 1 medium shallot, diced
- 5 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms—any mix
- 1/2 pound asparagus
- 1/2 cup vegetable stock or bouillon
- 1/2 cup dry vermouth
- 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Boil water. Add salt and stir in couscous, boiling for 7 minutes or until it is almost ready. Drain and rinse in cold water.
Heat olive oil over high heat, then add 1 chopped garlic clove and l chopped shallot; stir for 20 seconds. Add 3 kinds of mushrooms—for example, white, shiitake, and morel. Stir for 1 minute until the mushrooms acquire a sheen, then add asparagus cut in 1-inch sections.
Stir for 30 seconds; add stock, vermouth, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook on high heat for 2 1/2 minutes.
These look beautiful cooked whole. But you can also slice them up and add them to rice or potatoes. In the summer, they taste great cooked on a grill.
- 2 large cloves garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- Generous 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried hot chilies or hot pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 pound portobello mushrooms
Purée first 4 ingredients together. Allow to sit for an hour. Remove the mushroom stems and clean the caps. (Reserve the stems for another use.)
Brush both sides of each mushroom cap with the purée and let sit for at least 15 minutes. In a medium sauté pan, grill over medium-high heat until browned on both sides. Reduce the heat and cook 4 minutes longer until tender. Season with salt and pepper.
Cheese and Mushroom Quesadillas
Perfect for lunch or dinner, these luscious quesadillas melt in your mouth. If you’re not crazy about spicy hot foods, cut down on the peppers or just leave them out.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound button, shiitake, oyster, crimini, or chanterelle mushrooms, sliced
- 2-3 serrano peppers or 1-2 jalapeños, seeded, thinly sliced
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 8 corn or flour tortillas
- 8 ounces Mexican melting cheese like quesillo, Monterey Jack, brick, or mild cheddar, shredded
- 1 cup salsa
Heat the oil in a skillet, add the mushrooms and peppers, stir, and cover. Stir and re-cover every minute for 5 minutes until the mushrooms have released their juice. Uncover and simmer briskly until the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Salt to taste and add cilantro.
Warm another skillet on medium heat. Turn the oven onto its lowest setting. Brush one side of a tortilla with oil and lay the oiled side down on the skillet. Spread the cheese, leaving a half-inch border. Spoon 3 tablespoons of the mushrooms down the center. When the cheese begins to melt, fold the tortilla in half. Flip every minute for about 5 minutes until the cheese is melted and the tortilla crisp. Keep warm in the oven while you make the rest. Serve with salsa.