Are you a fungi fan? If not, it’s time to give mushrooms another chance. Not only are they a great addition to recipes from a flavor standpoint, they also go a long way in upping the nutrition factor.
Mushrooms as medicine? It’s true, and has been for centuries! In traditional Chinese medicine, mushrooms have been used for relief of symptoms of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, as well as, dizziness, insomnia, asthma and allergies; they’ve even been used to attempt halting the growth of cancerous tumor cells.
Pretty powerful, right? Now that the U.S. is becoming more open to alternative and comprehensive medicines, and as research confirms that food can be medicine in and of itself, the mushroom definitely deserves a second look the next time you go shopping for groceries.
Mushrooms are extremely low in calories (only 16 per cup!) and are also very low on the glycemic index with a score of 10. Plus, with two grams of protein per cup, the mushroom is quite nutritionally attractive for those who struggle with high blood sugar.
Mushrooms are also excellent sources of B vitamins, copper, and selenium. Selenium, an antioxidant, is beneficial for blood sugar control in particular. In one study, the control group was given insulin therapy only, while the other group was given insulin + selenium. The insulin + selenium treatment proved more effective at managing blood sugar than the insulin alone.
Many chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease involve inflammation. Mushrooms have anti-inflammatory properties, another reason they are such a great choice for diabetics. In fact, one study showed reductions in bloods sugar and improved blood lipid levels in diabetic rats who consumed mushrooms.
Button mushrooms in particular can help with blood sugar regulation by supporting better pancreatic function. One study found that button mushrooms stimulate the regeneration of beta-cells (the cells in the pancreas responsible for making insulin.)
Another study gave credit to Portobello mushrooms for positive effects on blood sugar. Participants consumed either a straight glucose drink, or a glucose drink infused with Portobello mushroom powder. Their insulin levels were then observed; the participants who sipped the mushroom-infused glucose drink experienced a more gradual decline in insulin levels than those who consumed the straight glucose.
So with all of these antioxidant and blood-sugar stabilizing benefits, how can you maximize the mushroom in the kitchen? The process starts at your local supermarket or farmer’s market. Choose fresh mushrooms that are firm and a clean white/brown in color. Do not select mushrooms that appear to have a slimy texture, or those with brown spots, as they are already beginning to spoil.
Once you bring them home, make sure to get your mushrooms nice and clean before storing them. The best way to clean mushrooms is not to rinse them, but instead to gently brush off any dirt with a damp cloth.
Keep your mushrooms in the refrigerator in either a paper bag or covered by a damp cloth/paper towel. Space them out a bit if you can, as this will help to keep them fresher for a longer period of time. Consume your mushrooms within 3-7 days after purchase, as long as they were fresh when you brought them home.
Now it’s time to eat! Mushrooms soak up liquid, making them excellent flavor carriers. Mushrooms do very well in many preparations from raw, to a simple sauté in olive oil, to being grilled or roasted. But why stop with the basics?
Stuffed mushrooms caps with crab meat or sausage topped with cheese and baked, folded into omelets for breakfast, added with steak, tomatoes and peppers to grilled kabobs… the possibilities are endless. Check out these 15 Must-Try Mushroom Recipes from Eat This, Not That!
So, we have an ingredient that is widely available, affordable, easy to prepare, and tastes great! This humble fungus deserves a special spot on your plate, and in your heart. Go get your ‘shroom on!