With school holidays upon us, it will be a relief for many kids who have endured lockdown to have a break from their virtual classrooms and online learning. But with the publication of a world-first Australian research project that has assessed and summarised all available research findings on the health properties of mushrooms, there is a new alphabet that your kids need to taste and learn. This is an A,B,C,D&E that will help your kids immune systems stay strong, enable better bones and support their health needs both now and throughout their lives.
A - Antioxidants for healthier cells
are naturally occurring food compounds that help protect cells from UV and other substances that can damage them. They also work hard to help keep immunes systems working at their best. Particularly important at the moment. Mushrooms are quite an array of antioxidants, also known as flavonoids and polyphenols (specifically, these include catechin, myricetin, quercetin and kaempferol). As mushrooms are classified in the diet as fungi, rather than a vegetable, they are one of the few non-plant foods rich in antioxidants.
Cooking Tip – Trying to eat more foods that provide food sources of antioxidants is important for health. The antioxidant levels of mushrooms are higher when you eat them raw or cook for the shortest time possible. Why not try stuffing mushroom cups with a mix of cream cheese and grated parmesan cheese as a yummy afternoon snack.
B- Beta-glucans for heart health
Beta-glucan is a soluble type of fibre that you will read about on labels of oat-based cereals that promote heart health. Beta-glucan binds with cholesterol as it moves through the large bowel, lowering cholesterol levels in the body. While oats are an excellent source of beta-glucan, food scientists have analysed mushrooms and found they contain almost double the amount of beta-glucan as an equivalent serve of oats.
Cooking-tip – The beta-glucan content of mushrooms is not affected by cooking, so to boost intakes of what is a valuable source of soluble fibre, add extra mushrooms to your spaghetti bolognese, burger patties, stews and soups.
C- Chitin for a healthy gut and immune system
Chitin is unique pre-biotic rich carbohydrate structure that makes up the cell wall of the mushroom. Prebiotics are a type of fibre found in plant foods that provide an essential source of fermentable food for the trillions of good gut bacteria that work inside our gut to keep it and our bodies healthy.
Fun fact! Did you know that 70% of the immune system is housed in the gut and that our gut microbiome (bacteria) helps direct many of its essential functions. This is why feeding our good gut bacteria a high fibre, and prebiotic-rich diet is important!
D- Vitamin D for strong bones
Vitamin D is a vitamin essential for growing bones, and mushrooms are one of the few foods that provide a good source of vitamin D, with levels increasing 10-fold when the mushrooms are left out on the kitchen bench and exposed to natural light. It is a vitamin that many people are deficient in and adding UV light exposed mushrooms will help build strong bones.
Cooking tip – To boost the vitamin D content of mushrooms, leave your mushrooms out and exposed to natural light for around 15-minutes. When cooking, it is a good idea to squeeze a few drops of lemon juice into the pan and cook your mushrooms for a shorter time. Cut up raw mushrooms are great in sandwiches, salads or try adding them to a toasted cheese sandwich.
E- Ergothioneine for brain and skin health
Mushrooms are full of protective type antioxidants, including one called ergothioneine. Nutrition researchers have been excited by it as it seems that it has quite a potent role in helping to protect our DNA, brain, skin and other cells in the body. It is now used as an ingredient in some skin creams, and diets rich in ergothioneine have are associated with a lower risk of neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson disease.
Fun fact! Mushrooms serve up more ergothioneine, than any other vegetable or plant food. Making mushrooms an essential food for vegetarians. Vegans will also want to know that mushrooms are one of the few plant foods that provide a source of vitamin B12.
Cooking tip – To ensure you ingest the highest levels of ergothioneine, it is best to only cook your mushrooms for as short a period as possible. You can try them raw, steamed or throw them into the stir-fries for a few minutes before you serve them up.
So there you have the A,B,C,D & E of mushrooms! So why not put the aprons on, roll up the sleeves and help your kids learn to recite the A, B, C, D& E of the mighty mushroom with recipes such as cheesy mushroom & bacon pizza, mexican mushroom popcorn or why not try mac & cheese stuffed mushrooms. (Yum!)
Note: the information in this article is meant as general information only. For specific, personal advice on any medical condition, please see your doctor.
AMGA Dietitian - Jane Freeman
Jane is an internationally regarded and experienced dietitian and nutritionist, is an IOC (International Olympic Committee) qualified sports nutritionist, Leiths qualified cook and an award-winning author.
As a practicing dietitian and director for CANutriton, a cancer specialist nutrition practice in Sydney, Jane is big mushroom lover and passionate about delivering practical nutrition advice that is easy to understand and adopt.
Link to the Australian world-first study assessing and summarising research findings into the health effects and bio-active substances in mushrooms: Examining the health effects and bioactive components in Agaricus bisporus mushrooms: a scoping review - ScienceDirect
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