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The Magic of Mushrooms

By December 12, 2011Vegetables

On my trip to San Francisco at Thanksgiving I encountered a
store with an incredible variety of fresh and dried mushrooms. I find mushrooms
to be magical, no, not those kind, just the wonderful culinary and medicinal ones
look and taste magical to me.  I was so excited to be able to try a few different types.  Below a recipe for Maitake which are commonly found in the farmers market and Whole Foods market here in NY.

The holiday is the perfect time to splurge for the more expensive varieties.  You deserve it.  When you serve exotic mushrooms to your friends and family they will feel the magic


While often thought of as a vegetable and prepared like one,
mushrooms are actually a fungus, a special type of living organism that has no
roots, leaves, flowers or seeds. Shiitake (as well as reishi and maitake)
mushrooms have grown wild since prehistoric times. Their therapeutic value has
been prized in Asian countries, where they originated, for thousands of years

Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free and very low
in sodium, yet they provide important nutrients and fiber.  They provide several nutrients that are
commonly typically found in animal foods

High in antioxidants
–  Mushrooms contain the mineral selenium
which neutralize free radicals to protect the cells from damage that might lead
to heart disease, cancers and other diseases of agingfrom damage that might lead to heart disease, some cancers and other
diseases of aging2from damage that might lead to heart disease, some cancers and other
diseases of aging2. This is good for vegetarians
who are often lacking in this mineral. Mushrooms contain more selenium than any
other plant source.  Mushrooms also  contain ergothioneine a naturally occurring antioxidant which help protect the
body’s cells.

An excellent source of iron & B vitamins – Mushrooms are a good source of vitamin B including
riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid which help provide energy by breaking
down proteins, fat and carbohydrates.   B vitamins also play an important role in the
nervous system. Shiitake mushrooms have long been recognized as a very good,
non-animal food source of iron. But a recent preliminary study has determined
that the bioavailability of iron from shiitake mushrooms may be even better
than we thought.

High Protein, satisfying
Most mushrooms have a high protein content. Mushrooms are rich, hearty and filling.
They are a great replacement for meat because of their “meaty” flavor.  They have way fewer calories in a serving
size than a piece of meat.

Vitamin D
Mushrooms are the only source of vitamin D ( in the D2 form) in the produce
aisle and one of the few non fortified food sources.  They are the exception to the rule that plant
foods don’t naturally contain Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium

High in Minerals Copper
to help the body to absorb oxygen and create red blood cells.  Potassium, an extremely important mineral that
regulates blood pressure.  A large Portobello mushroom is said to have more potassium than a banana.  Other important minerals, phosphorous, zinc, and magnesium.

Buying Storing & Cooking

Look for mushrooms that are firm, plump and clean. Those
that are wrinkled or have wet slimy spots should be avoided. The best way to
store loose mushrooms (especially, shitake or  maitake mushrooms) is to keep them in the
refrigerator in a loosely closed paper bag. They will keep fresh for about one

Mushrooms are very porous, so if they are exposed to too
much water they will quickly absorb it and become soggy. Therefore, the best
way to clean mushrooms without sacrificing their texture and taste is to clean
them using minimal, if any, water. To do this, simply wipe them with a slightly
damp paper towel or kitchen cloth.

Eat a variety of mushrooms.
Different species have different levels of nutrients.  The common white button mushroom is good but
to get the broad spectrum of benefits branch out and try some of the other varieties.
In addition to the health benefits the tastes are amazing.

Cook your mushrooms.
They have a tough cell wall which lock health benefits away in indigestible
chitin.  Cooking them makes these
molecules more available.

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