Mushrooms: A friendly fungus

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Mushrooms have been used in Traditional Chinese medicine for ages, so it’s no surprise that they promote good health and vitality. They help our body to strengthen itself and fight off illnesses.

Mushrooms in general are low in calories but high in vegetable proteins, chitin, iron, zinc, fiber, essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. They are classified as a fungus and contain minerals that you don’t find often in vegetables. Specifically, they contain Selenium, which aids liver enzyme function. It also decreases inflammation and tumor growth. Like other whole foods, mushrooms are high in antioxidants that fight free radicals.

Mushrooms have been linked to cancer prevention, heart health and blood sugar regulation in diabetics. Additionally, they boost your immune system and aid in weight management.

Let’s look at the types of mushrooms:

Agaricus 

Agaricus is the most widely consumed mushroom in many countries, where it is regarded as a health food, due to its medicinal properties. It is traditionally known as "God’s Mushroom" because of its near miraculous curative benefits to a wide range of disorders. These are the common mushrooms that you see all the time in U.S. supermarkets.

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Cordyceps 

Cordyceps can be a powerful stimulant for macrophage activity, strengthening your immune system’s ability to fight against bacterial and viral infection. It is also reported that it causes smooth muscle relaxation.

Maitake 

Maitake is also known by the name Dancing Mushroom, famous for its taste and health benefits. In Japan, Maitake Mushroom is called "King of Mushroom". The fruiting body and the mycelium of Maitake are used medicinally. Historically, Maitake has been used as a tonic and adaptogen. It was used as a food to help promote wellness and vitality.

Reishi 

Reishi has been called an “immune potentiator.” Recent studies have indicated that Reishi can have a number of other effects, including anti-inflammatory, blood pressure lowering, and antiviral properties.

Shiitake 

Shiitake (for centuries called "Elixir of Life" ) has been licensed as a anticancer drug by the Japanese FDA. It contains lentinan, which has shown some effect on bowel cancer, liver cancer, stomach cancer, ovarian cancer and lung cancer.

Yun Zhi 

Yun Zhi, or the Cloud Mushroom, has been used to dispel dampness, reduce phlegm, treat pulmonary infections, to strengthen the tendons and bones, for vital energy, and to support liver health.

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Selecting and Storing Mushrooms

Look for mushrooms that are firm, fresh and appear smooth when you’re eating them raw in salads or if you’re making stuffed mushrooms. If you’re looking for more flavor, choose ones that are softer and starting to brown. They have a shorter shelf life, so use them the day you buy them.

Store mushrooms in the refrigerator in their original packaging for up to a week. Do not freeze.

Cooking with Mushrooms

Mushrooms are pretty versatile and easy to add into your everyday cooking:

Main dish - Mushroom burgers are a growing trend and can be cooked on the grill or stove top.

In Ground Turkey/Chicken dishes - Add mushrooms to just about anything you create with these lean ground meats to keep them from drying out.

In Sauces - One of my favorite sauces is a mushroom gravy made from pan drippings.

Fillings - They make a great addition to fillers for things like stuffed chicken breasts.

Appetizers - Who doesn’t love stuffed mushrooms?

Sides - Mushrooms sauteed with onions is a popular side.

In Salads - Mushrooms are great raw (and most nutritious) and go well in salads.

Whichever way you like them, just know you're putting something great into your body.

Try this recipe:
Chicken and Mushroom Bowl

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