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Nutrition

The Magic of Mushrooms

These small wonders can boost our immune systems and pack a powerful protein punch.

Mushrooms are having a moment. From lattes made with mushroom powder, dairy-free milk and maca powder, and served up in cafes in London and Edinburgh, to mushroom supplements and fungi face care, the seemingly humble ’shroom has plenty to offer on the health front.

Mushrooms have always been a key ingredient in Asian cooking in countries with long life expectancies such as Japan, Singapore and South Korea. Now nutritionists in the western world are also convinced of the mushroom’s nutritional benefits: all varieties contain significant amounts of vitamin D (higher than any other non-meat source), as well as B vitamins, potassium, chloride, copper and selenium, plus fibre, plenty of plant-based protein (3g per 100g), and relatively few calories (around 20-25 per 100g).

What is more exciting is the discovery of specific health benefits. A team of scientists at Penn State University discovered that mushrooms contain unusually high amounts of two antioxidants – ergothioneine and glutathione – which could help fight the effects of ageing and support all-round health.

“Without a doubt, mushrooms are the highest dietary source of these two antioxidants taken together, and some types are really packed with both of them,” says Professor Robert Beelman.

Other research suggests that mushrooms could help reduce the symptoms of age-related memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease, while a 2011 study by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences also showed that people who ate 4oz of cooked shiitake mushroom every day for four weeks had a stronger immune system as a result.

The good news is that the health and nutrition benefits apply to all types of edible mushrooms, especially if you keep cooking times short. Try grilling or lightly stir-frying, and give these five popular mushrooms a place on your plate.

Our Tasty Top 5

White Button

Mild, sweet mushrooms packed with vitamin B and protein. Eat raw in a salad, grilled at breakfast, or served in a sauce with pasta.

Shitake

A smoky-flavoured mushroom, scientifically proven to improve immunity to infection and to regulate blood glucose levels. Perfect in stir-fries and noodle soups.

Oyster

Another mushroom that helps the body beat off viruses and bacteria. Stronger in flavour than shiitake, and best eaten raw or lightly sautéed.

Portobello

A 2017 study in Minnesota indicated that mushrooms make people feel fuller for longer, so these giant, meaty mushrooms are the ideal BBQ swap for a sausage or burger.

Enoki

This mushroom is both beautiful and beneficial. Its light, crunchy texture is ideal in salads and stir-fries or to garnish soups, and it also tastes good in sandwiches.