Mushrooms are one of those foods you either love or hate and if you love them you know they offer versatility and nutrition.
They’re great on pizza, in gravies, scattered on salads, sautéed with onions and draped over the steak of your choice, diced or sliced and used in warm and hearty soups or stir-fry.
Are mushrooms a veggie?
Mushrooms are really fungi, though they’re often considered a vegetable, said Marshfield Clinic Medical Dietitian Chrisanne Urban. There are actually over 14,000 different types of mushrooms worldwide but only 7,000 are edible, she said. “About 70-80 types are poisonous and can make you ill or cause death so you have to know your mushrooms.”
Mushrooms are 90 percent water, low in calories and cholesterol and high in anti-oxidants, fiber, magnesium, zinc, B-vitamins and selenium.
Are mushrooms a superfood?
Urban said there has been belief through the years that mushrooms help fight cancer or stimulate brain function in people diagnosed with dementia.
“Very few research trials in humans have been done to back up these claims so that’s something to keep in mind,” she said.
The supplement industry also jumps on apparent benefits of mushrooms, offering mushroom extracts and other products but, Urban said, this is an unregulated industry “so you need to be careful with what you’re purchasing. With a lot of different foods or even supplements, remember that mushrooms aren’t a cure-all. You still need to watch your diet overall. That’s the important part.”
If you choose mushrooms for their potassium value, you’d have to eat 2/3 cup to equal the potassium in one banana. “And, you have to eat 3.5 ounces of mushrooms to get health benefits. Mushrooms are quite light so that’s a lot of mushrooms!”
Try this recipe
Urban suggests this healthy soup recipe as a main dish or side soup that calls for mushrooms, barley and carrots for a soup high in vitamin B6 and fiber.
Mushroom Barley Soup
- 1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 celery ribs, chopped
- 1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed and drained
- 6 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth, divided
- 5 cups (about 3/4 pound) chopped mushrooms
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cayenne pepper to taste
In a large soup pot, heat 1/2 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add onion and celery and sauté for 3 minutes. Add barley and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Add 4 cups of broth and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a nonstick pan, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté for 6 minutes, stirring constantly, until mushrooms are tender. Add Worcestershire sauce and stir for 1 minute. Remove mushrooms from heat. Stir in carrots and set aside.
After barley has simmered for 40 minutes, add mushroom and carrot mixture and remaining 2 cups of broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, until vegetables and barley are very tender. Season to taste with salt, black pepper and cayenne. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to four days.
Each serving has 123 calories, 3 g total fat (<1 g saturated fat), 21 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber, 5 g protein and 632 mg sodium.
Source: Adapted from the New American Plate Cookbook by The American Institute for Cancer Research.