This month’s topic is likely to cause some controversy for sure…is it a plant or not…is it gross or tasty…do they even have any nutritional value…ALL sorts of questions! So, let’s talk about mushrooms!
I will say right up front that I am not a mushroom expert, however I am a mushroom lover! Unlike many mushroom lovers, I am not one of those folks that looks forward to the hunt for the treasured morel. In fact, I have only been on one ‘hunt’ and came home with more stickers (and ticks) than mushrooms. I decided that I would gratefully accept any morels that anyone would be kind enough to share with me or, just stick to getting standard mushrooms from the store! For a detailed guide on edible and poisonous wild mushrooms, I encourage you to look up the Missouri Conservation Department’s publication at: https://bit.ly/3rySfV0
While attending a professional development conference about ten years ago, I went on a tour and learned about mushroom farming and was fascinated! Imagine my surprise when I looked at the label on the mushrooms that I bought in the grocery store and learned that many of them came from Missouri or Kansas. To learn more about mushroom production, this University of Missouri publication is a great reference: https://bit.ly/3SDMxNC
Although they are nutritionally considered a vegetable, mushrooms are a type of fungus that contain a substance called ergosterol, which has a similar chemical structure to cholesterol in animals. This unique substance can be transformed into vitamin D with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. Because most mushrooms are grown in dark, controlled environments, it requires intentional exposure to UV light, either by UV lamps or natural sunlight, for this vitamin conversion to occur. This type of vitamin D is called D2 (ergocalciferol), which is a common form found in supplements. The other main form of vitamin D is D3 (cholecalciferol), which is found primarily in animal foods. Your own exposure to sunlight-as little as 15 minutes per day- also stimulates your bodies own production of vitamin D. One of the key roles of vitamin D is to aid in the mineralization of calcium for strong, healthy bones. It is important to know that vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning that it is stored in the fat, so more isn’t necessarily better. It is a good idea to visit with your health care provider before considering vitamin D supplementation or supplementation of any vitamin for that matter.
Mushrooms are also good sources of B vitamins such as riboflavin and niacin, as well as minerals selenium, potassium, and copper. For centuries, mushrooms have been utilized for medicinal properties by ancient eastern practitioners. Substances found in mushrooms, such as polysaccharides, indoles, polyphenols, and carotenoids have shown antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer effects in both cellular and animal studies.
The most common mushroom is the white button mushroom, which has a mild flavor and is commonly used raw in salads or cooked into recipes. Other types of mushrooms that are available include: chanterelle, cremini (also known as baby bella), enoki, maitake, morel (the hunted treasure), oyster, porcini, portobello, and shiitake.
Mushroom lovers like me appreciate their ability to create savory rich flavors, known as umami, thanks to the presence of an amino acid called glutamate. Glutamates are commonly found in meat, and it is this rich flavor profile that makes the portobello mushroom a common substitute for meat. This umami flavor also enhances low-sodium cooking preparations, thus reducing the need for salt in many recipes. The rich flavor of mushrooms and caramelized onions make the perfect combination for this tasty, creamy risotto.
Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Risotto
(Makes four servings)
1 Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 cup short grain brown rice
¼ cup dry white wine
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup grated carrots
¼ cup grated reduced-fat parmesan cheese
Nutrition information: Calories: 222, Total Fat: 8.5g, Saturated Fat: 1.5g, Sodium: 208mg, Carbohydrates: 27.5g, Fiber: 5.5g, Protein: 8g
Recipe adapted from Seasonal and Simple, analyzed by verywellfit.com