Mighty medicinal mushrooms

I started eating mushrooms eight years ago. Before then, I didn’t like the idea of eating fungi. Dining out, I used to pick out the mushrooms on my plate and push them aside. Silly me.

Edible mushrooms have unique health properties and add a rich savoury flavour to your meals. Low in cholesterol and salt, and high in potassium, protein and fibre, mushrooms can lower your risk of stroke and heart disease. They’re also a good source of B vitamins, selenium and other minerals that help boost your immunity.

However, what is most interesting about mushrooms is that scientists have recently discovered two powerful disease-fighting compounds in them. These compounds are the antioxidants ergothioneine and glutathione. They play a vital role in fighting ageing and diseases, such as cancer, coronary heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

Ergothioneine helps protect your DNA from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. When we ingest food, it is oxidized to produce energy. When this happens, side products called “free radicals” are formed and many are toxic. Free radicals are the “bad guys” that work with damaged cells that cause diseases, from skin wrinkles to cancer. Glutathione aids in the detoxification of heavy metals and other contaminants.

A research team led by Robert Beelman, Professor Emeritus of food Science and director of Penn State Centre for Plant and Mushroom Products for Health, has tested 13 different species of mushrooms. According to Beelman:

“What we found is that, without a doubt, mushrooms are highest dietary source of these two antioxidants taken together, and that some types are really packed with both of them.”

The research team found that the porcini mushrooms had the highest amount of ergothioneine and glutathione. Other types, such as white button mushrooms, weren’t as rich, but still contained more of the antioxidants than most other foods. The antioxidants seem to work in pairs whereas mushrooms that were high in one antioxidant were also high in the other. In addition, these compounds are heat stable; cooking them does not alter or reduce their health benefits.

So go ahead and eat your mushrooms. From veggie burgers to risotto dishes, stuffed, marinated or as a side dish, mushrooms are good for health and longevity.

If you want to make a delicious meal with lots of fresh mushrooms, here is a plant-based mushroom stroganoff made with cashew cream, a little cognac and three different types of mushrooms.

Bon appétit!

Mushroom stroganoff

Serves: 4-6

An entrée (starter) or a main meal.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1½ cups cashew cream
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 cooking onion, finely chopped
  • 600 grams of 2-3 varieties of fresh mushrooms, sliced or chopped as desired (Here, I used porcini, shitaké & oyster mushrooms, but go ahead and use the kind that you prefer!)
  • 2 tablespoons of cognac
  • ½ cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup organic carrot juice
  • Thyme, to taste
  • Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste

Procedure

Cook the tagliatelle, rice or other pasta of your choice according to package.

In small bowl, add the dijon mustard to the cashew cream and hand whisk until blended. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick wok or a heavy deep frying pan. On medium heat, sauté the onions for 2 minutes until soft.

Add the mushrooms and keep sautéing for 8 minutes.

Add the cognac and sauté the mushrooms for another 2 minutes or until the water has evaporated.

Add the parsley and mix. Add the cream, carrot juice, thyme, salt and pepper.

Mix well and simmer uncovered for a few more minutes, mixing from time to time.

Serve immediately while hot with tagliatelle or rice. Garnish with herbs.

Sautéing fresh mushrooms in a wok.
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Julie Zimmer

Julie has extensive experience in nursing practice and education in a wide range of fields from intensive/coronary care, to medical-surgical to community and public health. Julie has Bachelor Degrees in Psychology and Nursing, and a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Education. She has taught in faculties of nursing and in various communities in Toronto, Canada and in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a consultant to the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Julie also has years of experience teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in addition to coordinating an English department in a Swiss private school.

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