I often can be heard telling people to eat “color” for health. Mushrooms don’t have much in the way of color, so is it nutritionally healthy for you? Yes, in fact mushrooms provide a range of nutrients including many essential nutrients. These essential nutrients include copper, and the B vitamins – riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. A serving of 4-5 white mushrooms contain 20 calories, zero fat, and 300 mg of potassium, an important nutrient that most people do not get enough of in their daily diet. They also contain antioxidants which protect our cells from damage. In fact, mushrooms are the top source of the antioxidant selenium in the fruit and vegetable aisle.
Another interesting fact is that all mushrooms contain some vitamin D, a very popular vitamin in the news these days. In fact vitamin D is important for many reasons such as, it is a strong antioxidant, it stimulates the immune system, it may help with diabetes, it contributes to a healthy cardiovascular system, and it is essential for the absorption of calcium and magnesium for strong bones. We also know that vitamin D is also called the “sunshine” vitamin, because a chemical reaction takes place when we expose our skin to sunlight and vitamin D is generated.
Speaking of sunlight, it is the ultraviolet UVB rays that are necessary for the formation of vitamin D. I’m not promoting any product over another, but the Monterey brand (a California company) actually exposes their mushrooms to low power output UVB lamps to simulate safe exposure to sun, just like when mushrooms are grown in the wild (to read more you can visit www.montmush.com). A single serving of 3 ounces (approx. 4-5 button mushrooms), provides you with 400 IU of vitamin D. That is more than 3.5 ounces of salmon, which provides 360 IU’s of vitamin D.
So I say, “eat your mushrooms!” In fact next time you have a pizza get extra mushrooms on top, or slice and add to your favorite pasta sauce, or try my favorite; I chop 6-8 mushrooms per pound of turkey meat to create juicy turkey burgers. Some selection tips: look for firm, fresh, smooth appearance, and the surface should be dry, but not dried out. Store in the refrigerator in the original packaging for up to a week. Once you open the package store them in a paper bag for a longer shelf-life. Clean by brushing off any dirt with a damp paper towel or fingers. Since they absorb moisture, never soak mushrooms, and trim the end before using.
I will continue to recommend that you should eat color on a daily basis; in fact half of your plate should be colorful. I will also say add some mushrooms, not much color but very nutrient rich, and that’s what is important.