Mushrooms to the Rescue

May 1, 2018 in Food Economics, Mediterranean, Uncategorized, Weight Management by Joyce Bunderson

In my experience, people either love ‘em or hate ‘em. I guess if you really hate them, you hate the types you’ve tried of the 7,000 edible varieties – and therefore assume they are all not for you. But on the other hand, if you don’t hate them, then maybe you’ll be interested in their benefits and will try them in new and additional ways in your menu planning.

There are five basic tastes – sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami. Umami, the flavor of mushrooms, is actually a flavor enhancer; it intensifies the meaty, savory flavor of food. That’s probably why America’s first use of mushrooms was in stews and meat soups. Clear back in 1899, Kate Sargeant recognized that that the “butcher’s bill would surely decrease if we would replace some of our meat entrees with mushroom preparations.” While Sargeant thought of mushrooms as vegetables; we know that they’re really fungi. Too bad! It doesn’t help the mushroom’s PR. It’s a fact, but the mushrooms are only one part of the huge Fungi Kingdom. It’s those molds, mildews, smuts and rusts that give the yeasts and mushrooms a bad name by association. What would we do without yeasts in our bread, or mushrooms in our salads, soups, dinner sides, as so on. (Actually what would we do without so many of them that break down and dissolve the organic waste piling up everywhere?)

Mushrooms are more than 90% water; but in the remaining 10% they’re stocked with vitamins, minerals, protein, antioxidants and fiber. If you’re trying to cut back on beef and pork consumption – mushrooms to the rescue. You can save fat and a load of calories. Seventy percent lean ground beef has approximately 93 calories per ounce; mushrooms have about 8 calories per ounce. If you substitute chopped mushrooms for part of your ground meat in patties or other applications using ground beef, you can see how it could support your desire to lower your calorie intake and/or your intake of red meat. If you want to sweeten the deal, you realize that it won’t hurt your budget either. Although ground meat is one of the least expensive ways to enjoy red meat, substituting mushrooms will probably bring down the cost even lower; while increasing the health factor.

In addition to providing a great nutrient profile at a low fat, low calorie rate, mushrooms also have antibacterial properties; can support a lower cholesterol level; and there may be benefits in lowering risk of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

I doubt that I really need to include a warning about picking and eating wild mushrooms; but just in case you get sold on the idea of the healthy addition to the diet that mushrooms can add; and then you go off on your own; I better say a couple of words here. Although most of the poisonous mushrooms will just make you sick, there are a few that can kill you. My rule of thumb is very strict; I only buy mushrooms from the market. And however tempting it may be when I find mushrooms in the wild; I never eat them. But you may wish to become a mushroom expert and safely consume wild mushrooms.

There are thousands of ways to use mushrooms in cooking; just Google ‘mushroom recipes.’ If you want to get started; use your old family favorites and substitute part of the meat with mushrooms. Tacos are a natural place to start. Using large Portabellas instead of a burger is another. Adding mushrooms to pastas, soups and risottos is yet another. I use mushrooms in my “reverse omelets” (unlike scrambled eggs with a garnish of colorful veggies, I reverse that ratio and use far more veggies and less egg – just grill chopped veggies and mushrooms; then mix in the egg or egg white.)

Maybe if you don’t love ‘em; you can start slowly mixing them into other ingredients and you will discover that you learned to love ‘em. If you need to be rescued from too much meat, too expensive, or too boring, reach out, learn about, and increase your use of any of many wonderful varieties of edible mushrooms in your diet.