Mushrooms are neither a fruit nor a vegetable. They come in many varieties and contain beneficial vitamins and minerals. Mushrooms are the only non-animal food to contain vitamin B-12. Most mushrooms have a meaty texture and are low in calories. Some varieties contain antioxidants and may prevent some cancers.
Raw versus cooked
Raw mushrooms may contain small amounts of toxins that can be removed by cooking for a few minutes. Cooking at high temperatures by sauteeing, broiling or grilling is best to remove the toxins. High temperatures also make mushrooms easier to digest. Vitamin C content is increased by cooking, according to an article on sfgate.com. Dr. Andrew Weil of drweil.com advises against eating raw mushrooms due to the possibility of their containing toxins. Cooked mushrooms contain more fiber and fewer calories than raw ones. However, one advantage of eating raw mushrooms is that they contain twice as much protein as cooked mushrooms.
Dr. Weil recommends avoiding button, crimini, and portabello mushrooms; they are all the same species but at different life stages. Due to their spongy make-up, mushrooms often absorb toxins from their environment. Dr. Mark Stibich recommends eating organic mushrooms whenever possible (see longevity.about.com). Shiitake, maitake, and enoki can be found in some general grocery stores, Asian grocery stores, or gourmet stores. They are delicious and healthy and do not contain toxins found in button, crimini, and portabello mushrooms.
Wild mushrooms contain vitamin D. Most commercially produced mushrooms are not exposed to sunlight and do not produce vitamin D. If mushrooms are exposed to the sun for 30-60 minutes, they start producing vitamin D, according to powerofmushrooms.com.au. Mushrooms contain selenium, a mineral with antioxidant properties that's found in soil. Lion's mane mushrooms can be found at gourmet stores and in medicinal supplements. They are said to improve memory, cognitive function, and act as a catalyst to regenerate brain tissue. Superfoods-for-superhealth.com says that lion's mane mushroom supplements are great for people with epilepsy and others who have had seizures. Mushrooms may contain substances that reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancer.
How to clean mushrooms
Many chefs will tell you not to wash your mushrooms because they will absorb water due to their spongy consistency. They advise to wipe them clean with a dry cloth or mushroom brush (yes, they make brushes specifically for cleaning mushrooms). Sites like thekitchen.com and Kitchen Conundrums on YouTube say that mushrooms absorb very little water and that rinsing is the fastest and most effective way to clean them. Kitchen Conundrums recommends brushing morel mushrooms clean rather than soaking them, but many morel lovers on morels.com suggest soaking them in cold water to remove the bugs and grit. They also recommend storing fresh mushrooms in paper bags inside the refrigerator.
There are many varieties of mushrooms that have significant health benefits. Choose organic or exotic mushrooms and grill or saute some mushrooms for dinner tonight for a delicious and healthy meal.