Do you love mushrooms? You're not alone. People have been enjoying mushrooms since the Cave Man days. Did you know that the "Iceman" discovered in the Italian Alps in 1991 (and thought to have died 5 000 years ago) was carrying dried mushrooms with him?
From baby buttons to big portabella and oyster mushrooms, these fungi are brimming with healthy nutrients. Here are 14 cool facts you should know:
- A 100g serving of mushrooms contains more dietary fibre (2.5g) than 100g of celery (1.8g) or a slice of whole-wheat bread (2.0g).
- Mushrooms contain more protein than most vegetables.
- Mushrooms are low in kilojoules: 100g of raw mushrooms contains just 100 kilojoules.
- Ancient Egyptians believed that mushrooms grew by magic, because of the way they could appear overnight.
- Mushrooms are one of the few natural sources of vitamin D, which is essential for healthy bones and teeth.
- Mushrooms are a great source of B-vitamins: it contains Thiamin (which controls the release of energy from carbohydrate, needed for the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system); Ribofloxin (which helps to maintain healthy red blood cells and promotes good vision and healthy skin); Niacin (which helps to control the release of energy from protein, fat and carbohydrate in order to keep the body’s digestive and nervous systems in good shape); Pantothenic Acid (which plays a number of essential metabolic roles in the human body, including providing assistance with the production of hormones); Biotin (essential in the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates); and Folate (which is essential for the formation of red and white blood cells in bone marrow, and the healthy growth and development). Folate (also known as Folic Acid) is particularly important for pregnant women.
- Although vitamins are also found in many vegetables, they are lost when cooked in boiling water: as mushrooms are rarely prepared with boiling water, they retain their valuable vitamin content when cooked.
- Mushrooms contain virtually no salt.
- Mushrooms contain more potassium than most other fruit and vegetables: one medium brown mushroom contains more potassium than banana.
- Mushrooms are one of the richest, natural sources of selenium, an essential mineral which strengthens the immune system and may help reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic illnesses.
- Mushrooms are a good source of zinc, another essential mineral which helps boost your immune system, as well as your libido.
- The stem of a mushroom is a good source of flavour and nutrients so there is no need to remove it. On the occasions that you do need to remove the stem, chop it and add to stuffings, casseroles, soups and sauces.
- Mushrooms are best stored unwashed in brown paper bags in the refrigerator, preferably on the lowest shelf. Alternatively use a cloth bag or clean tea towel to wrap them.
- Be careful of wild mushrooms as many of them are poisonous and could be life-threatening. Rather buy your mushrooms from a reputable grower or grocer than hunting them yourself.
(Source: South African Mushroom Farmers’ Association (Samfa)
(Compiled by Graig-Lee Smith, Health24, October 2012)