NYS Certified Nutritionist

Consider the Mushroom

An increasing number of Americans are adopting a Mediterranean style of eating due to the increasing number of studies demonstrating the health benefits of a plant based diet. Valued for thousands of years by Asian, Roman, and Greek cultures, humans have enjoyed including many different varieties of mushrooms in their meals.

While white button mushrooms [immature portobellos] are the most common form of this so-called vegetable consumed in the US, mushrooms come in many colors, sizes and shapes, and are actually not vegetables at all. They are in the fungus family, commercially grown on decaying, composting matter, including horse manure, and chicken waste. A source of many minerals, and B vitamins, mushrooms share with humans the ability to produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, as does our largest organ…our skin.

Vegans and vegetarians need to be aware that while mushrooms may offer many health benefits, they contain only small amounts of protein, and are not equivalent to protein in a serving of tofu, seitan [wheat gluten…mock animal protein], legumes [beans], peanuts, or tree nuts. If you order the portobello burger in a restaurant, you will not be consuming protein equal to to a beef or chicken patty. On a positive note, possibly beneficial microbes [bacteria, molds, and yeasts] within these fungi, are being evaluated for suspected anti-cancer, anti-diabetes, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Enjoy including mushrooms in your recipes. But, never hunt for edible mushrooms in the wild, or on a lawn, unless you are, or have by your side, a trained mycologist [mushroom specialist] who can evaluate the safety of any mushrooms collected for consumption. The consequences of eating the wrong mushroom can range from unpleasant [causing nausea, vomiting, diarrhea] to fatal.

Dateline: Town of Colonie, Albany County, The Capital Region of New York State