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Mushrooms: A Fungi

Though mushrooms are often grouped with vegetables and fruits, they are actually fungi -- for that reason, they are in a class of their own, nutritionally speaking. Mushrooms do share some of the benefits of fruits and vegetables. They are low in calories, have no cholesterol and are virtually free of fat and sodium.

And that's not all. Mushrooms stand alone when it comes to some of the essential minerals and B-complex vitamins not easily found in produce. In addition, some contain substances that might prove to be useful in the treatment and prevention of serious diseases.

Mushrooms: Fat Free & Low in Calories

In general, mushrooms are fat free and very low in calories (1 cup weighs in at a mere 20 calories). They are rich in minerals like potassium, calcium, and selenium and contain some niacin and vitamin C. Japanese studies show that their high glutamic acid contgent may boost a body's immune function.

Mushrooms are good sources of three hardworking B-complex vitamins -- riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid. They are all found in every cell in our body, helping release energy from the fat, protein and carbohydrate in our food. In addition: Riboflavin promotes healthy skin and good vision.

Niacin helps make sure the digestive and nervous systems function as they should.

Pantothenic acid is involved in the production of hormones and also plays an important role in the nervous system.

Mushrooms Mushrooms are a particularly rich source of riboflavin. One portabella mushroom takes care of nearly one-third our daily value; a serving of white or crimini mushrooms supplies one-quarter of what we need daily. Vegetarians should also be aware that mushrooms are one of the best plant-based sources of niacin around.

Mushrooms go with just about anything, imparting their own flavor as well as taking on the flavors of other ingredients, so they are ideal for meatless recipes, from soups and appetizers to main courses and sandwiches. Their flavor intensifies during cooking and their unique texture holds up to a variety of cooking methods, including sauteing, grilling and stir-frying. Mushrooms are also an appealing addition to vegetable-based casseroles, stews or chilies.

Study Says...

Researchers from Slovakia have found that by feeding mice 5 percent of their diets in dried oyster mushrooms, they could reduce blood cholesterol by 45 percent. Even when the mice were given high cholesterol foods. Researchers didn't say how many mushrooms people have to eat to get the same effect. But experts agree that adding a couple of these meaty morsels to your plate each day can't hurt.

Popular Mushroom Picks

  1. White, or Button. The most popular variety in the U.S., this mushroom has a mild taste that blends well with most anything. Saute as a side dish, cook in pizza, pasta, burgers, soups and casseroles, or enjoy raw in salads.
  2. Crimini. Similar in appearance to white mushrooms, these have a tan-to-brown cap, firmer texture and deeper flavor. Slice them into stews, soups, pastas, stuffing, quesadillas, omelets and risottos.
  3. Portabella. A larger relative of crimini, these have tan or brown caps, measure up to six inches, and have a deep, meaty texture and flavor. Grill, broil and roast them as an entree (the perfect vegetarian meat alternative), side dish or appetizer.
  4. Enoki. These tiny, button-capped mushrooms with long spindly stems are mild tasting and crunchy. Try them raw in salads and sandwiches, stir them into soups, and stir-fry them with tofu and vegetables.
  5. Oyster. Delicately flavored with a velvety texture, oyster mushrooms can be gray, pale yellow or blue. Saute them with a small amount of butter and onions to bring out their flavor, or slice into pasta, soups or salads.
  6. Maitake. Often called "Hen of the Woods", these mushrooms are fan-shaped with a woodsy taste and aroma. Saute them as a side dish or use as an accompaniment for hearty entrees, soups and grain dishes.
  7. Shiitake. These tan-to-dark brown mushrooms have umbrella-shaped caps, and curved stems (remove the tough stems for better texture). With a meaty texture and rich flavor, shiitake are excellent in bold stir-fries, pastas, soups, entrees and grain dishes.

Serving Suggestions

Saute a big portobello in heart-healthy olive oil, and sub for meat in burgers or enchiladas. Or slice raw button mushrooms, and toss them with chopped parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil for a simple side dish.

The MLT Sandwich (mushrooms, lettuce and tomatoes)
Heat a large non-stick skillet coated with vegetable oil spray over medium heat. Add 8 ounces any sliced mushrooms; cook and stir ten minutes or until tender. Season with salt and black pepper. Meanwhile, microwave two slices bacon one to two minutes on high or until crispy. Let stand two minutes and crumble. Toast eight slices whole-wheat bread; spread one side with some low-fat mayonnaise. Top four of the slices with lettuce, sliced tomato and mushroom mixture; sprinkle with bacon. Top with remaining bread slices, halve sandwiches and serve. Serving Suggestion: Serve with potato wedges (frozen).

Roasted Mushrooms in Cream

2 pounds button mushrooms, halved and sliced
1 pound fresh shiitake mushroom, sliced
1/2 pound fresh oyster mushrooms, sliced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the mushrooms and salt on 2 baking pans, toss well and transfer to the oven. After 10 minutes, remove the pans from the oven, add the rosemary, and mix the mushrooms around. Return to the oven until just golden, about 10 additional minutes. Remove from the oven, add the cream, stir well, and serve. 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 102; Fat: 2.8g; Saturated Fat: 1.1g; Cholesterol: 5mg; Sodium: 1184mg; Carbohydrates: 13.5g; Dietary Fiber: 4.2g; Protein: 12.4g

Quick and Lean Chicken Mushroom Stroganoff Recipe Card

Quick and Lean Chicken Mushroom Stroganoff Recipe Card

Did You Know?

The Day of the Mushroom is April 16th.

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