Although it is hard saying goodbye to the summer sun, you just cannot deny the wonderful abundance of the fall harvest. Squash, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and of course, pumpkin, are all great but no food group is quite as diverse and nutritionally powerful as fungi – also known as your friendly neighborhood mushroom.
Mushrooms: The Secret Superfood
Mushrooms are one of the rare foods that contains vitamin D, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and niacin. Receiving vitamin D in much the same way as humans do, mushrooms absorb the sunlight through their skin. No other vegetables have this ability. For those unfamiliar with riboflavin and niacin, these are two vitamins are essential to our health. Niacin deficiencies can cause nausea, tiredness, and anemia.
Mushrooms also contain certain polysaccharides known to have anti-carcinogenic effects, meaning they help fight breast and prostate cancer. For diabetics, the natural insulin found in mushrooms break down sugar and starch from other foods and helps fight off infections. To top it all off, mushrooms also boost your immune system, promote bone health, reduce blood pressure and are more nutritionally dense than most fruits and vegetables!
Mushrooms > Meat
The soft, chewy texture is a great alternative to meat for many dishes like lasagna, burgers, and stir fry. And it contains many of the same nutrients as other lean proteins – iron, potassium and calcium – which means it strengthens your bones and increases cognitive function.
Here’s a quick look at the nutritional value of mushrooms compared to beef, chicken, and pork (per 100 grams):
portobello: 22 calories, 0.4g fat, 0mg cholesterol, 364mg potassium, 3.9g carb., 2.1g protein
ground beef: 332 calories, 30g fat, 78 mg cholesterol, 218mg potassium, 0g carb, 14g protein
chicken breast: 172 calories, 9g fat, 64mg cholesterol, 220 mg potassium, 0g carb., 21g protein
cooked bacon: 898 calories, 100g fat, 97mg cholesterol, 15mg potassium, 0g carb., 0.1g protein
(All chart information sourced from the USDA)
It is not hard to see the clear winner when it comes to your health! The portobello is lowest in calories, fat and cholesterol, and the highest in potassium and carbohydrates (due to its dietary fiber).
Many of you may be concerned about the protein level because it is a very important building-block for daily nutrition. Adult men and women need an estimated 40-60 grams per day. Mushrooms may not offer the best source of vegan protein when compared to meat, but all you need is to pair them with a protein-rich grain like quinoa (8 g per cup, cooked!), and you have already passed one-fourth of your daily requirement.
Mushrooms Shrink Your Muffintop
With the perfect balance of high dietary fiber, low fat and low calories, mushrooms fill up your stomach and satisfy your hunger without packing on the pounds. As shown above, one cup of raw mushrooms equates about 20 calories total! As long as you do not soak them in heavy oils, they will do wonders for your waistline.
Also, there are so many kinds you will never grow tired of. Chanterelle, crimini, morel and shiitake are just a few of the more popular ones. Plus, many different cultures use mushrooms in their recipes. Mushroom pizza, mushroom udon, mushroom sushi and mushroom panini are just a few examples, but the culinary possibilities are endless!
Forget about pumpkin spice this fall – okay, maybe not completely. Instead, sprinkle it over some mushrooms, add some olive oil, spinach, grains and a few other savory spices. Who knows what vegan deliciousness will result?