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Superfood Spotlight: The Mighty Mushroom

Coeur d’Alene Acupuncture & Holistic Healing / Health  / Superfood Spotlight: The Mighty Mushroom
mushrooms on a cutting board

Superfood Spotlight: The Mighty Mushroom

By: Karin Michalk, MS PT CNS
Functional Nutritionist and Physical Therapist

Do you like to eat mushrooms? Honestly, I haven’t been a fan most of my life. I never liked their earthy flavor or rubbery texture. I didn’t even like the smell of them raw or cooking. When people raved about stuffed mushrooms or portabella burgers, I was the one picking each sliver off of my pizza. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when I was working as a recipe tester on a book project for a fellow CNS, that I had to confront my mushroom aversion. It seemed that many of the recipes contained mushrooms. Oh no! I had to test the recipes as written without admitting that I was not excited. I persevered. Sourcing high quality mushrooms grown locally, I discovered that I can actually enjoy mushrooms…well, with limitations! The key was to hide them in meat or to use a really good recipe that allowed the savory flavors to disguise the earthy notes.

What are mushrooms? They are neither plant nor animal. They belong to the Fungi Kingdom. However, in food classifications, they are considered a vegetable, a white one if you’re “eating the rainbow”. As for the parts of a mushroom, what we recognize as a mushroom is also known as the fruiting body. The structure we can’t see is called the mycelium which is similar to a root system. It functions to collect nutrients and water as well as to secrete enzymes that decompose organic matter. The fruiting body itself and extracts made from it are where the majority of the medicinal value resides1.

What roles do mushrooms play? The roles that likely come to mind initially are their culinary and therapeutic roles. However, placing them back in their natural habitats, they play an ecological role. Some of their functions within this role are carbon cycling, decomposition, and symbiotic relationships2. Mushrooms play a culinary role because they add a unique umami savory dimension to foods. They are low in calories, carbs, fat, and sodium but high in vitamins and minerals, protein, and fiber. Of the more than 2000 species of mushrooms, only about 25 are used as food. Another important role of mushrooms is that of a therapeutic or medicinal nature. So far, we are aware of more than 100 therapeutic effects as a result of their many bioactive compounds. Some of these therapeutic effects include antioxidant, anticancer, antidiabetic, antiallergic, immunomodulating, anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular protection, antiviral, antibacterial, antiparasitic, antifungal, detoxification, and as liver protection3.

Now that you know a little more about mushrooms, let me share a few tips that have helped me incorporate more mushrooms and overcome my aversion.

    1. Season food with my Mushroom Salt (recipe below).
    2. Finely minced mushrooms before adding to recipes.
    3. Add finely minced mushrooms to ground meat.
    4. Cook mushrooms with tomatoes or tomato paste to increase the umami experience.

Karin’s Mushroom Salt

Yield: 1+ cup
Total time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

1 ounce dried mushrooms (I like shiitake)
2/3 cup salt
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon dried parsley

Directions

    1. Finely grind dried mushrooms in a high speed blender.
    2. Add salt, onion powder and black pepper, pulse in blender until well combined.
    3. Add red pepper flakes and dried parsley and briefly pulse to combine.
    4. Store in an air tight container for up to 6 months.

 


 

1. Mushrooms R. Mushroom Anatomy: A Deep Dive Into the Parts of a Mushroom. Real Mushrooms. Published June 2, 2022. Accessed May 7, 2024. https://www.realmushrooms.com/mushroom-anatomy-parts/

2. de Mattos-Shipley KMJ, Ford KL, Alberti F, Banks AM, Bailey AM, Foster GD. The good, the bad and the tasty: The many roles of mushrooms. Stud Mycol. 2016;85:125-157. doi:10.1016/j.simyco.2016.11.002

3. Valverde ME, Hernández-Pérez T, Paredes-López O. Edible Mushrooms: Improving Human Health and Promoting Quality Life. Int J Microbiol. 2015;2015:376387. doi:10.1155/2015/376387