Healthy Ingredients: Marvellous Mushrooms

Whatever your favourite type of mushroom - button, portobello, oyster, enoki - these fungi (which aren't technically a vegetable) are packed with essential nutrients that contribute to a healthy body. Low in calories, cholesterol-free, fat-free, gluten-free and low in sodium, mushrooms are a great addition to your diet.

What are mushrooms?

They're vegetables, right? Actually, they're not, Technically, they're fungi, a species which is separate from plants and animals. With so many different types of mushrooms available to choose from, they're a really versatile food. Mushrooms are an excellent source of B vitamins, including pantothenic acid, niacin and riboflavin. B vitamins are responsible for breaking down the proteins, carbs and fats we consume and turning them into energy. Here's a bit more about their role in the body:

Niacin - Helps your nervous and digestive systems to function and promotes healthy skin

Riboflavin - Important for maintaining healthy red blood cells

Pantothenic acid - Plays an important role in the nervous system and helps with the production of hormones

Mushroom health benefits

Mushrooms are also packed with beta-glucan which can stimulate the immune system and help to prevent allergic reactions (1). Mushrooms are loaded with minerals including potassium (vital for a healthy heart), copper, ergothioneine, an antioxidant which protects the body's cells and selenium, important for male fertility and a healthy immune system.

Many people also believe that mushrooms can provide protection against cancer, and whilst studies have been carried out on cells and animals which show a link between mushrooms and a decreased risk of tumours, further clinical trials on humans are needed.

Mushrooms can also help you to manage your weight, because they're so filling. They increase satiety, allowing you to reduce your daily calorie and fat intake whilst still feeling full. This as well as the 'meaty' flavour and texture of mushrooms explains why they're often used as a meat substitute.

Did you know that mushrooms are the only source of vitamin D amongst plant foods? You can eat them raw or cooked (it's quick and easy to prepare and cook them) and they're affordable too - expect to pay around £2.60/kilo of standard white closed cup mushrooms, depending on where you do your weekly shop.

Recipe ideas

Because mushrooms are so versatile, you can make loads of vegetarian (and meaty) recipes with them. We have a few ideas to inspire you and get you started cooking with mushrooms. Including them regularly in your diet can boost your energy levels and help you to stay fit and healthy!

Baked Mushrooms and Eggs

This is a great dish for weekend brunch, breakfast or as a light dinner after a run. It's protein-packed thanks to the eggs and you need just a few ingredients, so it's great if you're on a budget. You can choose any mushrooms you like, although the recipe recommends a mix of chestnut and wild mushrooms, but use whatever is available and to hand.

Sun-Dried Tomato, Mushroom and Spinach Tofu Quiche

If you haven't tried tofu before, why not give this vegan quiche a go? Loaded with goodness, the crust is made with ground almonds, rolled oats and ground flax for delicious flavour. The filling is packed with protein from the tofu and B vitamins from the Cremini mushrooms as well as vitamin C from the spinach and sun-dried tomatoes.

Mushroom Millet Soup

A good mushroom soup should be a favourite recipe in every household - this version withholds the cream traditionally found in mushroom soups. It's vegan and super-delicious! You can use millet or quinoa, and we recommend blending half the soup and leaving half chunky for plenty of texture. It's easy to whip this up at home with just a few ingredients - mushrooms, immune-boosting onions and garlic, vegetable stock, worcestershire sauce and millet. A great, warming soup for when you're feeling the chill!

Mushrooms on Toast

This is comfort food at its best - and it's healthy too. Mixed mushrooms in a light garlic and creme fraiche sauce with heart-healthy olive oil, piled high on toasted sourdough and topped with a little crispy prosciutto. This is fast food, but not as you know it! Great for a lazy brunch or quick dinner for one (or two).

Mushroom, Walnut and Tomato Baked Peppers

Earthy mushrooms go beautifully with walnuts, and stuffed peppers are a classic dish to try. The addition of pesto, chilli flakes and sun-dried tomato adds loads of flavour, whilst immune-boosting garlic keeps cold and flu at bay all winter long. We love to serve these with some spicy cous cous on the side, or just enjoy them as they are! They keep well in the fridge for a healthy lunch the next day.

Mushroom and Sausage Pasta

This dish is quick. easy and perfect for nights you can't be bothered to cook (after a long workout at the gym perhaps!) Combining the eggs with parmesan cheese and creme fraiche makes a light carbonara-style sauce, whilst using sausage meat squeezed from its skins is perfect for pasta. Use the best-quality sausages and bacon you can afford - try your local butchers if you want to be sure you know where your meat has come from, or look for sausages with 95% or more meat content in your supermarket.

There are plenty of other great ways to use mushrooms too - try adding a few to an omelette or frittata, making a creamy sauce for chicken, or making vegetarian wellingtons with mushrooms instead of beef. We can't get enough of mushrooms, whichever way you add them to your diet!

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Author By Paula Beaton
Date On 5th Mar 2015 at 12:37

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