I’ll admit fungus and fungi aren’t the most flattering words, so it might be best to refer to them as good old-fashioned mushrooms. Or as I like to call them, mushies. And you need to eat more.
We’ve recently heard how great mushies are for potentially saving the planet, but turns out they also boast a commanding nutrition profile unlike any other food - with the potential to enhance energy levels, slow the aging process, and even reduce cancer risk.
The top 5 reasons mushies are crucial to your diet:
1. Not quite fruit or vegetable.
Mushies actually evolved at a completely different time to plants, and technically shouldn’t even be classified as a fruit or vegetable. Subsequently they have an entirely different nutrition profile too.
In fact, they are their own food group known affectionately as “fungi,”¯ and should be eaten in addition to fruits and vegetables for some serious health benefits.
2. Amazing umami!
Mushies have a unique texture and rich flavor that Japanese have labelled as “umami”¯ (meaning flavorsome or tasty). Umami is actually the relatively new fifth taste discovered, after salty, bitter, sweet and sour.
The savory umami taste and texture are largely due to the natural glutamates in the mushroom, also responsible for the flavor in parmesan cheese, anchovies and soy sauce. So a meal with a rich umami taste (like mushrooms) requires far less (if any) added salt or artificial flavors.
Mushrooms contain a bounty of powerful nutrients and antioxidants that boost your health and vitality. In fact, no fruit or veggie can compare with the nutrient profile of the mushroom: solid amounts of protein and fiber; almost zero fat and calories; considerable amounts of all the B vitamins (such as riboflavin, niacin and biotin) for boosting energy release; rich in minerals such as folate and selenium; and full of antioxidants too (more on that in the next point).
Pretty potent stuff.
Mushies are choc-full of antioxidants, helping to protect cells from oxidative damage (commonly known and scorned as aging).
You might be thinking, “Yeah yeah but all vegetables have antioxidants, mushrooms aren’t exceptional.”¯ Think again.
One of the antioxidants found in mushrooms, ergothioneine, appears to play a significant role in human health by protecting the hemoglobin in red blood cells. In fact, recent studies found that this particular antioxidant may be an essential nutrient - that is, must be obtained from our diet because it’s not made by the body. Some are even saying it could be a whole new vitamin.
And guess what - it’s not found in other vegetables except a few beans and onion.
Mushrooms are also ranked in the top 5 for antioxidant capacity when compared with 29 other common veggies. Now you begin to wonder whether extra mushrooms on your pizza could’ve hidden some forehead wrinkles for a few more years…
5. Disease destroyer.
OK maybe that’s not entirely true (yet). But mushies are believed to boost your immune system, and they have strong anti-inflammatory properties which is known to reduce cardiovascular disease risk. There have even been some reviews on the cancer-fighting potential of mushrooms, with encouraging results.
Of course, association does not equal causation, so it’s too early to say that mushrooms can prevent cancer- but the outlook is promising.
6. Easily available and affordable.
Here’s a quick bonus tip on top of the 5, just because.
Mushrooms are affordable, and widely available. Heck you can even grow them yourself, without a garden.
So any growers out there? Please share your tips and spread the word – don’t be left in the dark about the power of mushrooms!