The Paleo diet encompasses fresh fruit and vegetables, but what about mushrooms – are mushrooms Paleo?
Did you know that mushrooms aren’t plants? In fact, mushrooms and humans are kind of related—we belong to the same genetic kingdom, albeit distantly. However, mushrooms are classified under vegetables.
WHY EAT MUSHROOMS?
I’ve always wondered why people were so eager to eat them?
Chefs love mushrooms for the taste, earthy flavor and the texture that it can bring to a dish. Many vegetarians eagerly eat Portobello burgers in place of beef burgers to replace that beefy texture.
HOW TO CHOOSE MUSHROOMS
Choosing mushrooms has three components to make sure that your mushrooms are fresh and tasty to eat.
- Make sure the mushrooms are firm. Feel the mushrooms and make sure that they bounce back when you touch them.
- Moisture is the enemy of produce and this is true of mushrooms as well. Make sure there is little to no moisture.
- Stay away from black or slimy mushrooms. Mushrooms vary in color and texture but they should never be black or slimy.
- Mold free. Make sure the only fungi is the mushroom and they are not packing any mold with them.
- Smell – make sure there is no funky smell before purchasing.
HOW TO STORE MUSHROOMS
Mushrooms are best stored in a paper bag inside the fridge for about 5 days. If you notice any of the above like bad smell, moisture, slimy, etc. they are probably past their prime. Brush the dirt off and rinse lightly, when you’re ready to use them.
SHOULD YOU WASH MUSHROOMS?
The Mushroom Bureau advises to wipe mushrooms with a damp cloth or a quick cold water rinse. Mushrooms can absorb water, which will obfuscate the flavor.
Undoubtedly quite a number of people met their ends after sampling a dangerous variety. Poisonous mushrooms can be hard to identify in the wild unless your are with a mushroom hunting expert. Many farmer’s markets have local mushroom farmers. You can even buy a mushroom growing kit and grow your own mushrooms at home. The most common type of mushrooms:
- button or white mushroom
But if these fungi have such a history of being dangerous; Should we really be including them in the Paleo lifestyle?
ARE MUSHROOMS HEALTHY?
Well, it turns out we don’t really have anything bad to say about mushrooms! Mushrooms include some of the rarer nutrients that can be difficult to work into your diet. Such as selenium and copper.
REDUCTION IN MOOD DISORDERS
Mushrooms have been linked with a reduction in mood disorders. Especially depression and anxiety because they promote healthy nerve function and encourage active brain processing.
INCREASE BIO-AVAILABILITY OF NUTRIENTS IN FOOD
They’re also associated with nutrient intake because they seem to help us absorb the nutrients in the foods we eat. Their chemical compounds help to make the vitamins and minerals in our food more bio-available, so that our body can use them.
ANTI-TUMOR AND ANTI-CANCER PROPERTIES
Mushrooms are also knows for anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties. Pharmaceuticals are currently fast-tracking research for drugs derived from mushrooms for future medicines to combat cancer.
Fungi are a vast source of bioactive molecules, which could potentially be used as antivirals. Chinese medicine has used mushroom and mushroom powders to combat viruses for years.
Truth be told, mushrooms seem like a miracle food, right?
NUTRITIONAL PROFILE OF MUSHROOMS
You can’t go wrong with mushrooms. Mushrooms are packed full of nutrients like fiber, vitamin and minerals, while being fat-free, low-sodium and low-calorie treat. Here are some of the nutrients of mushrooms:
Beta glucan (β-glucan) is a soluble fiber that has been linked to improving insulin resistance, boosting heart health and fixing gut bacteria. Researchers think beta glucan is key to solving the obesity crisis. Beta glucan is more commonly known in oats and barley, but mushrooms have beta glucan as well.
Copper helps deliver oxygen to your body via red blood cells. This mineral is important for heart health, bones and even nerves. Mushrooms can provide a heavy dose of copper even after cooking.
Selenium is an antioxidant that aids the body in metabolism and thyroid function. Selenium helps boost your immune system, reduces the risk of heart disease and decrease cognitive disorders like dementia.
Potassium is extremely important nutrient for heart health and absorption of vitamins. Ever have a cramp? Potassium is important for muscle health and cramps and even nerve function. Portobello has the highest amount of potassium rivaling even a banana in a serving!
Antioxidants protect cells from damaging free radicals that can cause aging and disease. Antioxidants boost your immune system and can help fend off viruses as well.
Mushrooms are rich in the B vitamins: riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid (B5). This combination of B-vitamins is great for heart health including increasing blood flow and decreasing cholesterol.
WHAT DO OTHER PALEO EXPERTS SAY?
- Mark Sisson says: “Humans have probably always eaten mushrooms since mushrooms grow wild everywhere….they’re good sources of relatively rare nutrients like selenium, copper, and pantothenic acid.”
- Chris Kresser says: “The [foods] that are most highly recommended for health…are asparagus and broccoli and kale and spinach, mushrooms, arugula, lettuce, [but]they respire so rapidly that within two or three days of harvest they might have half or even less of the antioxidants.”
ARE MUSHROOMS PALEO?
They are a great addition to a Paleo diet. But do your best to eat them when fresh in order to get the most out of them. Try checking out local mushroom hunting groups or mycological societies to learn how to mushroom hunt for yourself.
Issue No. 46