If there is one thing I miss about the Netherlands in autumn, it is the sight of the many mushrooms during our forest walks. Over here in the south of Spain it is so dry, that seeing mushrooms is pretty rare.
We never picked them, by the way. We have heard too many stories of people who got sick from mushrooms, so we would rather not take any risks. So how healthy are mushrooms, if you obviously have to be that careful?
Well, don’t worry. If you buy mushrooms in the store or if you pick them under the guidance of a renowned forager, there are a lot of health benefits to gain. If you have a guide, you’ll also make sure you are allowed to pick mushrooms in that area. In some countries, like the Netherlands, it’s forbidden by law to pick mushrooms in some places!
In the vegetables department
Although you will find mushrooms in the vegetables aisle, strictly spoken, they are not vegetables, but fungi. The Agaricus bisporus, better known as button or white mushroom, is the most well-known. All edible mushrooms contain a lot of useful nutrients and are popular with people who want to lose weight, because they have just a few calories.
Tom and I eat a lot of mushrooms when they are available. Yes, I know they are available in supermarkets all year round, but maybe you have read more articles from us and then you know that we are avid enthusiasts of organic produce. And that is only available during the season.
It might not be true, but it’s my impression that there is a greater variety of mushrooms in the organic shops. I see mainly the white mushroom in the supermarkets. We usually buy a mix of shiitake, oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus), chanterelles and chestnut mushrooms.
Shelf life of mushrooms
Mushrooms are vulnerable, so it’s best to consume them within 3 days of purchase. Keep them in the fridge in a paper bag. When you store them in a plastic container, make sure it’s not airtight. If you only have closed containers, leave the lid off and cover them with a thin foil with some holes in it.
Don’t store them together with onions or garlic, as they will absorb the taste. They also absorb moisture easily, so you can better clean them with a soft brush than with water.
There are several ways you can prepare mushrooms. You can bake, fry or cook them. They’re delicious as soup. The big ones, like the Portabellas aka Portobellos, can be stuffed with a choice of vegetarian or seafood filling.
They have a bit of an earthy taste, which you may or may not like, of course. If you don’t like their taste you can also eat them because of the health benefits. Mix them with a variety of vegetables to mask the taste and make use of their nutrients.
Some food agencies recommend not to eat raw mushrooms. They contain Agaritine. I was surprised by this warning, because Agaritine is found in Agaricus mushrooms, a wild kind, as far as I know. But if you want to be on the safe side and you like raw mushrooms, just eat a little bit.
Mushrooms contain vitamin B2, potassium, folic acid and fiber. Years ago there was an ad on the Dutch TV to praise the mushroom as a substitute for meat. I don’t know where they got that from. A meat substitute has to contain iron and vitamin B12, mushrooms don’t have that.
Several other vitamins and micronutrients are in the different kinds of mushrooms. White mushrooms and oyster mushrooms contain a lot of the vitamins B2 and B3. Most mushrooms have copper. Shiitakes have a lot of selenium, which serves our immune system.
How healthy are mushrooms? Here is a list:
1. Energy booster
Heightened energy comes from vitamins B and although in different compositions, mushrooms contain a lot of those. Copper also does wonders for our energy levels.
2. Good for the immune system
Micronutrients like selenium are great to enhance our immune system. Something Tom and I are more aware of since COVID arrived. Also, because mushrooms are fungi, they feed the beneficial bacteria in our intestines. 80% of our resistance is built up in our gut, making it all the more clear it’s wise to eat healthy food.
3. Great mood enhancer
4. Strong source for overall health
Portobellos contain as many antioxidants as red pepper. And antioxidants fight free radicals, which are damaging your cells. A delicious way to protect your cells!
5. Good for your heart
The fibers of mushrooms keep your heart healthy and improve your cholesterol levels. As well as the mineral potassium that mushrooms have in large quantities. In fact, portobellos contain as much potassium as bananas.
6. Great for weight loss
If you want to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight mushrooms are perfect. They have a high nutritional value and contain almost no calories. Because you get a lot of nutrients, you feel satiated for a long time and will be less likely to grab unhealthy snacks.
7. Takes care of the aging brain and body
There are studies that show mushrooms are fighting the negative effects of aging because of the antioxidants they contain. Eating at least 300 gr of mushrooms per week showed a significant positive effect in a control group.
Psychedelics, such as marijuana and some types of mushrooms, have long had a bad reputation. Nowadays there are more and more studies that these substances have healing qualities that no medicine can compete with, due to the absence of side effects.
Research has shown that the uplifting qualities of some mushrooms have a positive effect on the mood of cancer patients.
And there are more health claims for mushrooms. For instance, that they may reduce the risk of developing diabetes because of the fibers they contain.
All in all, mushrooms are a great food group to supplement your diet with.
Do you like mushrooms? And what kind do you eat the most? Tell me in the comment box.