Mushrooms, mushrooms everywhere! Mushrooms have been used as food and medicine for thousands of years. Many people like to eat various types of mushrooms, both raw and cooked. Most are grown in Chester County, PA, in and around Kennett Square, which is also known as “The Mushroom Capital of the World”. With many health benefits and a variety of ways to prepare them, it is easy to understand why so many chefs like to incorporate them into their tasty dishes.

Mushrooms contain between 80 and 90 percent water, are low in sodium, fat and calories, are extremely dense in nutrients and are an excellent supplement for people who care about weight. In addition, they do not contain gluten, fat or cholesterol. They are full of potassium, which helps to reduce blood pressure and the incidence of stroke. In fact, a medium-sized portabella mushroom contains more potassium than a normal-sized banana. They are also full of vitamin B (great for the nervous and digestive systems), iron (good for anemia and red blood cells), copper (helps to produce red blood cells) and selenium (good for prostate function and helps to reduce the prostate Cancer).

Mushrooms are the only food grown that contains natural vitamin D, which helps in strengthening bones. Combined with calcium which is also found in mushrooms, they can help with joint pain and osteoporosis. They also contain beta-glucans, which help to boost the immune system and increase resistance to allergy, and are found in many Shiitake and Oyster mushrooms. Mushrooms are also known to contain ergotionein, a powerful antioxidant that strengthens the immune system. Ergotionein is a sulfur-containing amino acid that many people lack in their diet. Diabetics showed improvement by eating various types of mushrooms, due to the natural insulin and the enzymes they contain. Many species of mushrooms also help diabetics with infections in their limbs, as they are a natural antibiotic.

Below is a summary of some of the most common mushrooms:

    • White buds: the most common of mushrooms in the United States, research shows that they help with breast and prostate cancer, while consuming about 150 grams a day. Good for weight loss.
    • Crimini (precursor to Portabella): These brown mushrooms are similar in size to white buds and are firmer and have a more earthy flavor. They also help with breast and prostate cancer. Great for weight loss.
    • Portabella: These large, brown, umbrella-shaped mushrooms (the adult version of Crimini mushrooms) have a more fleshy flavor. Great for grilling and stuffing with artichokes, spinach, crab meat and an “Italian” recipe for ground beef, tomato sauce, onions, peppers and herbs. It also helps with weight loss.
    • Shiitake: It has been used by many Asian cultures to treat colds and flu. Research shows that extracts of this mushroom help to fight infections, improve the immune system and help fight the growth of tumors and breast cancer. Eat 4-5 ounces a day. Excellent source of vitamin D.
    • Reishi: It looks like a brown and white wood flower: good for fighting bacterial and viral infections, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.
    • Maitake: Helps cleanse the body and stimulates the immune system.
    • Oyster: Ongoing research shows the promise to help defend against HIV. Rich in antioxidants
  • Porcini: a fleshy mushroom that looks like a portabella mushroom, but also has anti-inflammatory properties

Mushrooms are a versatile food that can be used in many soups, salads, sandwiches, appetizers, stews, nutraceuticals, supplements and yes, even added to sports drinks! Buy mushrooms only from trusted suppliers, as many mushrooms grown in the wild can be poisonous and contain toxic heavy metals.

Mushrooms are a delicious addition to people’s diets and have many surprising health benefits. Research has shown that they can help reduce cholesterol levels, protect diabetics from infections, help prevent breast and prostate cancer, help with weight loss, improve bone health, boost the immune system, reduce pressure increase the absorption of iron and are excellent suppliers of potassium, calcium, riboflavin, phosphorus, vitamin D and selenium. Try using them in a variety of recipes today!

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