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Saturday, December 16, 2006
Mushrooms emerge from dark with disease-fighting benefits.

MUSHROOMS, ONCE RELEGATED to the supporting cast in a salad or on pizza, have become culinary stars, from grilled portobello "steaks" to porcini-laden pastas and warm rugouts spiked with morels and chanterellas.

"Mycophiles" (mushroom lovers) may have even more reasons to celebrate. Although mushrooms once were thought to be nutritional nothings, scientists are unearthing a variety of health benefits. Emerging research suggest they may enhance our immune system, fight infections and even offer protection against diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.

Recent studies show mushrooms are packed with antioxidants - even more than many deeply hued vegetables, such as carrots and tomatoes. Antioxidants act as repellants against free radicals, damaging molecules in ur body that are thought to promote cancer and other diseases.

Medicinal mushrooms
Asian cultures have revered mushrooms as both food and medicine for thousands of years. Only recently have scientists in this country turned their attention to these fragrant, woodsy fungi.

Many of medical qualities of mushrooms are traced to beta glucans, the same types of fiber that gives oatmea its cholesterol lowering abilities. Icreasingly, beta glucans in mushrooms are garnering attention for stimulating immune responses and activating cells that attack cancer, according to Dr. Harry Preus, a physiology professor at Gerogetown University Medical Center, who is conducting a study exploring the anti-diabetic effectrs of maitake mushrooms.

Many of the recent studies have been funded by the mushroom industry, although now the government has set its sights on mushrooms. So far, most of the findings have been based on animal or test tube studies and have used extracts from mushrooms - which makes the results promising, yet still preliminary.

A separate kingdom
Often thought of as a vegetable, mushrooms are fungi - in a class of their own, somewhere mysteriously between a plant and an animal. To obtain nutrients, fungi are totally dependent on their environment - most often a dead tree or rotting log (or typically compost for cultivated mushrooms). Researchers have found that changes to the compst or soil can alter the nutrient content of mushrooms, creating opportunities to enrich mushrooms with calcium, selenium and other nutrients.

Experts believe the survival skills of fungi maybe a clue to the bundle of benefits locked inside. Mushrooms contain enzymes, antimicrobial compounds and natural antibiotics to fight off potential invaders and to keep them from rotting.

This may be why mushrooms offer similar protection to us when we eat them, said Stamets, who completed another NIH study that tested the potential of mushroom extracts to protect against smallpox and otehr viruses.

It's a concept not too farfetched, considering that the lifesaving antibiotic penicillin was derived from a fungus.

The Mushroom Files
Natually low in calories and fat, mushrooms are also high in many vitamins and minerals. These types are considered a "good" or "excellent" source of the nutrients listed, providing at least 10 percent of the recommended Daily Value per serving.

Mushroom type: CREMINI
Baby portobellos similar in appearance to button mushrooms except brown instead of white. Have an eathier flavor and firmer texture.
Nutrients: selenium 31%, riboflavin 24%, copper 20%, niacin 16%, panthotenic acid 13%, potassium 11% and phosphorous 10%.

Mushroom type: ENOKI
Originally from Japan, these dainty Q-tip shaped mushrooms are good as a crunchy garnish for soups, sandwiches, salads or stirfries.
Nutrients: niacin 25%, folate 11%.

Mushroom Type: MAITAKE
Also known as hen of the woods because they resemble the fluffled tail feathers of a nesting hen. Excellent sauteed or grilled, simmered in soups or added to pasta.
Nutrients: niacin 28%, riboflavin 12%, copper 10%.

Mushroom Type: OYSTER
Pale with a delicate flavor and velvety texture reminiscent of a fresh oyster. Best sauteed to bring out their flavor.
Nutrients: niacin 21%, riboflavin 18%, pantothenic acid 11%, copper 10%, phosphorus 10%, potassium 10%.

Mushroom Type: PORTOBELLO
Deep, meatlike texture and flavor. Good grilled as an appetizer or substitued for meat in entrees.
Nutrients: riboflavin 24%, niacin 19%, copper 15%, selenium 13%, pantothenic acid 13%, potassium 12%, phosphorus 11%.

Mushroom Type: SHIITAKE
Brown with broad umbrella-shaped caps. Rich and woodsy with a meaty texture and slight garlicky taste.
Nutrients: niacin 15%, riboflavin 12%, pantothenic acid 11%, fiber 11%.

Mushroom Type: WHITE BUTTON
Still the most widely consumed of all mushrooms. Plump and dome shaped with a delicate flavor.
Nutrients: riboflavin 18%, niacin 15%, copper 15%, pantothenic acid 12%, selenium 11%.

(Source: Abstracted from the articel written by: Janet Helm CHITRIB/Health Watch, a Chicago Dietician and nutrition consultant. Mushroom files from: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference/Mushroom Council)
posted by infraternam meam @ 9:33 PM  
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Name: infraternam meam
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About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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