By Janet Helm, MS, RD
Often overshadowed by brightly colored vegetables that boldly showcase their phytonutrients, the meager mushroom seems to pale in comparison. Yet, the mushroom’s reputation as a nutritional lightweight is beginning to change. Mushrooms contain surprising levels of nutrients including fiber, B vitamins and the minerals selenium, potassium and copper. Providing about 4 percent of the daily value per serving, mushrooms also are one of the only plant sources of vitamin D. And exposing them to ultraviolet light before harvesting can make their vitamin D content soar.
Scientists are unearthing more potential health benefits linked to mushrooms. Although many findings are based on animal or test-tube studies and have used extracts from mushrooms, results are intriguing. Emerging research suggests mushrooms may have the ability to enhance our immune system, fight infections and offer protection against diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.
Mushrooms can also help in weight loss: They are about 90 percent water, making them low in calories (20 per serving) and virtually fat free. Try using mushrooms in place of meat in lasagna, chili and other entrées.
Cooking With Mushrooms
By Sanna Delmonico, MS, RD, LD
Complex flavors and appealing textures make mushrooms a versatile ingredient. Add crunchy raw enokis to salads or soup. Stir-fry almost any fresh mushroom or sauté with garlic and toss with pasta. Top steaks, chicken and omelets with sautéed mushrooms. Creminis, which look like brown button mushrooms, may be oven roasted with a drizzle of olive oil and eaten hot, or allowed to cool and tossed into salads. Portabellas are large creminis, perfect for brushing with toasted sesame oil and soy sauce and grilling.
Choose firm and smooth mushrooms and store them for up to a week in the refrigerator in a paper bag. Since mushrooms can absorb water, opinions differ on whether to wash mushrooms or just brush off obvious dirt. Most chefs agree a quick rinse won’t make mushrooms soggy. Trim off the stem end before using.
Dried mushrooms, such as porcini and shiitake, add flavor to stocks, sauces and risotto. Just cover them with hot (not boiling) water and soak for 15 minutes before using.
Using Mushrooms in Food Service
By Alma Kay Nocchi, RD, LD
Mushrooms are showing up a lot on menus these days. Perhaps one reason is substituting mushrooms for more costly proteins offers a “value added” perception, achieves greater customer satisfaction and potentially increases profitability without adding calories or fat. Mushrooms also provide the “Umami” experience, thanks to the abundance of glutamate and ribonucleotide guanylate they contain. Their sublime taste, meaty texture and exotic flair make adding mushrooms a natural to increase excitement in your menus.
Mushrooms of all types are easy to work with if you know a few basics.
- Consider ordering pre-slicedmushrooms to save time and labor. The product is not compromised if used within a few days. Always store at 34-35 degrees.
- Use dried varieties of exoticmushrooms for specialty cooking.Morels, porcinis or other exotic blends offer the great flavor of fresh when rehydrated and also save time. Plus they have good shelf-lives for long term storage.
Top steaks and sandwiches with mushrooms for a visual impact of “more.”