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September is National Mushroom Month. Mushrooms add a pleasant touch and taste to many dishes, but they provide so much more. These unique food items constitute a class of their own. Mushrooms are fungi that are commonly placed into the vegetable category because of their nutritive value.

What do you know about this distinctive food?

  • Mushrooms are one of few foods in the American diet that is a natural source of Vitamin D.
  • They are naturally high in umami, the fifth taste sense along with salty, sweet, bitter, and sour.
  • They are low in sodium and calories.
  • Antioxidants in mushrooms help the immune system.

Mushrooms can be used in varied ways to help incrMushroom, Nature, White, Raindropease the nutritional value of many dishes. Consider these tips.

  • Replace part of the ground beef in dishes with mushrooms to lower fat and calories.
  • Replace sour cream and cheese on that baked potato with sautéed mushrooms with herb seasonings.
  • Make dishes more filling and increase the flavor with the addition of mushrooms.
  • Add spinach and mushrooms to scrambled eggs to increase vegetable portions in your diet.

Mushrooms are versatile as an ingredient or served as a side dish in place of vegetables. They are wholesome and rich in B vitamins and minerals, especially selenium which works as an antioxidant to protect body cells. Mushrooms contain about as much potassium as a small banana.

Mushrooms have shown potential in decreasing tumor growth in cancer. They help with weight loss because they are low in calories yet give a sense of fullness. They also blend well with many foods, especially meats.

The most popular mushroom is the white button. It makes up about 90% of mushrooms consumed. It has a mild flavor which intensifies with cooking. Other varieties include:

  • Crimini:     Richer and deeper in flavor. Great with wild game, beef, and mixed with cooked vegetables. High in antioxidants and low in calories with about 23 calories per serving.
  • Portabella: Deep meat-like texture and flavor. Often served as appetizers, entrees, or as side dishes.
  • Maritake:   Rippled and fan-shaped, called “Hen of the Woods.” Distinctive aroma with a woodsy taste.
  • Shiitake:    Needs to be cooked before eating. Brownish color with a meaty texture and rich, woodsy flavor. Slightly higher in calories with about 41 calories per serving.
  • Other choices with mild flavors include Enoki, Oyster, and Beech.

While most of us use mushrooms in favorite dishes, increasing the use may result in greater physical well-being when used in place of high sodium or fatty foods. At the same time, substitutions just may help us as we combat our personal battle with excess body fat.

Before September fades away, resolve to add this nutritious and versatile food to your meals.

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