Even as a kid, I was in love with mushrooms. I’m not sure what they had to recommend themselves to me as a child: they’re bland, mushy, and generally unexciting when compared to a lot of other foods that were available to me.
But I loved them. On my pizzas, in my pasta, and in cheese omelets.
As an adult, I still love them. But I now realize that my mother only presented me with one type of mushroom, the white button kind you find in those little boxes in the produce aisle.
Little did she (or I) know that mushrooms come in a wealth of shapes, sizes, colors, textures, and flavors. And those names! Hedgehog mushroom, oyster mushroom, “chicken of the woods” mushroom, shiitake mushroom, lion’s mane mushroom … the list goes on.
Turns out that those “boring” little fungi are quite possibly the most interesting food out there. And the nutritional content and disease-fighting power of mushrooms is unparalleled. In fact, they might just be the perfect food.
They’re low in fat and sodium, high in protein (ten small mushrooms have as much protein as an egg!), and rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B, C, D, E, zinc, and selenium.
They act as natural antibiotics and contain beta-glucans that boost your immune system.
But if you cook your fungi the wrong way, you’re destroying all of their nutritional and disease-fighting power before they even reach your plate!
Choose your cooking method carefully
Scientists from the Mushroom Technological Research Center in Spain wanted to see how different cooking methods might change the nutritional components of mushrooms, specifically, their protein and fiber content, as well as their levels of beta-glucans and antioxidants.
They analyzed button, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms, three of the most popular varieties. They were either boiled, microwaved, fried, or grilled.
Here’s what they found:
- Frying greatly reduced the protein, carbohydrate, and antioxidant content, but increased fat
- Boiling increased beta-glucan levels, but decreased
- Grilling and microwaving mushrooms increased antioxidants.
So, if you’re eating them for their immune protection, boiling them will give you more of that. But it will deprive you of some of the protein and antioxidants you could be getting.
Overall, to get the most health mileage from your mushrooms, the results show that grilling or microwaving them are your best choice, largely because it will give you more disease-fighting antioxidants.
Antioxidants break down and neutralize the free radicals that make you age faster. They do damage to every system in your body, causing diseases from arthritis to Alzheimer’s, diabetes to cancer.
With all the toxins we’re exposed to daily, the more antioxidants you can get, the better.
“When mushrooms were cooked by microwave or grill, the content of polyphenol and antioxidant activity increased significantly, and there are no significant losses in nutritional value of the cooked mushrooms,” said Irene Roncero, one of the study authors.
In other words, these two cooking methods are a win-win for you and your health. You get more of the phytonutrients that guard against disease-causing inflammation without losing out on protein, fiber or immune protection.
Grilling is great!
I’m a big fan of sautéed mushrooms. I use them on burgers, in chicken dishes … anywhere I can! But since reading this research, I’ve backed away from the frying pan in favor of the grill.
The research says that the protein and other good stuff in my mushrooms has been leaching into the oil in the frying pan. But it also says that just a little oil to coat the grill is OK, and won’t do any harm.
I use olive oil, which only makes them more “heart-healthy.”
Summer’s still here, so fire up the grill and throw on some mushrooms! Just put them on a skewer, brush them with a little olive oil, add your favorite seasonings, and grill for a few minutes, turning once or twice.
- Nutritional properties of mushrooms are better preserved when they are grilled or microwaved — Plataforma SINC
- Top 20 Most Popular Types Of Mushrooms — GroCycle
- How do free radicals affect the body? — Medical News Today