I enjoy watching my son, every Saturday morning, savouring a bowl of mushroom soup and brown bread. This is a habit he picked from my mother who is a lover of mushrooms. Mushrooms are basically fungi, which have a fleshy and spore-bearing fruiting body. They have been in use not only for consumption purposes, but also for medicinal purposes, since ages. Pharaohs ate mushrooms as a delicacy, Greeks believed them to be a source of strength and Chinese regarded them as healthy food.
Today, mushrooms are eaten by people, for their flavour, texture as well as for the health benefits they accord.
Since my son eats lots of mushrooms every weekend, at some point, I thought I might be poisoning my son with mushrooms without my knowledge, so I did research and found out all I could about them. And some of the health benefits of mushrooms include;
• They have fewer calories and contain approximately 80 to 90 percent water. At the same time, they have low sodium, carbohydrate and fat content and high fiber content. This is the reason why mushrooms are considered good for those aiming for weight loss.
• Mushrooms are an excellent source of potassium. In fact, it is said that there is more potassium in a mushroom than a banana. Since potassium helps lower blood pressure and diminishes the risk of stroke, mushrooms are recommended to people suffering from hypertension.
• Mushrooms are rich in copper, a mineral that has cardio-protective properties. A single serving of mushrooms is said to provide about 20 to 40 percent of the daily needs of copper.
• Mushrooms are believed to help fight against cancer. They are an excellent source of selenium, an antioxidant that works with vitamin E to protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals.
• Researchers have suggested that white button mushrooms can reduce the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer. In fact, extract of white button mushrooms has been found to help in diminishing cell proliferation as well as tumor size.
• Shiitake mushrooms comprise of Lentinan, a beta-glucan that has been associated with stimulation of the immune system and thus, is believed to be helpful in fighting against AIDS. It also helps fight infection and exhibits anti-tumor activity.
• Being rich in fiber, protein and Vitamin B, mushrooms help maintain a healthy metabolism.
• It has been found that mushroom extract helps stop migraine headaches and is beneficial for people suffering from mental illnesses, like obsessive-compulsive disorder.
• Oyster mushrooms are said to be useful in strengthening of veins and relaxation of the tendons
There are over 14,000 types of mushrooms in the world, out of which about 3,000 are edible, about 700 are known to have medicinal properties and around 1400 have been recognized as poisonous. As the evidence surrounding the health benefits of mushrooms continues to grow, a wider variety of mushrooms are becoming available at local stores in tins or fresh from the farms in the local markets.
Since not all mushrooms are edible, one has to be very careful about where they buy their mushrooms and also how well they are prepared. They can also be prepared in different foods. Like my son, he enjoys his mushrooms when they are prepared in a creamy mushroom soup which is accompanied by bread, or like the traditional way of eating mushrooms is to cook them mixed with beans. Whichever way you choose mushroom is delicacy you cannot afford not to taste!