Mushrooms are a "kingdom" of eukaryotic organisms, both single-celled and multi-celled, the same kingdom to which yeasts and molds also belong. Also called mycetes, they have been classified, throughout history, also as plants: up to the (non-unanimous) decision of the microbiological sector to classify them as a separate kingdom. Leaving aside the purely scientific notions, mushrooms are a product that lives in symbiosis with certain environments, in the case of wild ones: but some species can also be cultivated. They are an excellent food for our health and in particular useful to those who follow a vegetarian diet, thanks to the large amount of protein contained. Mushrooms have numerous beneficial properties and are widely used in cooking. The species belonging to this genus are many and not all edible: among the best known from a food point of view there are the porcino mushroom, the champignon mushroom, the honey mushroom, the chanterelle mushroom and more, each with its unmistakable flavor. But let's find out what are the beneficial and nutritional properties of mushrooms, how to choose them and preserve them at best and, above all, what are the best combinations and uses in the kitchen.
Nutritional values of mushrooms
Mushrooms are rich in proteins, vitamins and mineral salts, with a really low calorie content: 26 Kcal per 100 grams. Then they contain water (92 grams), many proteins (3.9 grams), fats (0.7 grams), carbohydrates (1 gram) and a good amount of fiber (2.5 grams). In particular, mushrooms are an excellent source of proteins, which contain important amino acids such as lysine and tryptophan, although they do not have a complete spectrum like those of animal origin. This is especially important for those who have chosen a vegetarian diet, because it allows to integrate the missing elements. Mushrooms are rich in vitamins, especially of the B group, such as vitamins B2 and B3: the first one is important for the production of red blood cells and for the proper functioning of the metabolism, and the second one helps to oxygenate the blood and keep the nervous system healthy. Mushrooms also contain many mineral salts, such as potassium, sodium, calcium, but also selenium, iron, manganese, according to the specific variety.
Beneficial properties of mushrooms
Mushrooms, thanks to their nutritional properties, bring many benefits to our body. Here they are:
Mushrooms strengthen the immune system: thanks to vitamins and proteins, especially tryptophan and lysine, of which mushrooms are composed, and their antibacterial properties, they are excellent foods during the changes of season, when the immune defenses drop significantly.
Mushrooms can be a really good help for bone health. Mushrooms, when exposed to the sun, produce a lot of vitamin D, as it happens in humans. Vitamin D is essential because it helps our body absorb calcium by making our bones stronger.
Mushrooms are good antioxidants. They contain antioxidant substances that help slow down aging, counteracting the harmful effects of free radicals, also thanks to mineral salts such as selenium. In addition, potassium helps keep blood pressure under control.
Mushrooms promote weight loss: thanks to the low caloric intake and the content of water and chitin, which makes them satiating foods, mushrooms are suitable for those who follow a low-calorie diet.
Mushrooms are useful in case of anemia. The good iron levels contained in the mushrooms make them suitable in case of anemia and lack of iron. In addition, mushrooms contain beta glucans which improve insulin resistance.
Mushrooms are good for the beauty of skin and hair. Always thanks to selenium, mushrooms make the skin radiant and elastic, and selenium is also useful for making hair and nails stronger.
How to utilize mushrooms in the kitchen
Mushrooms can be prepared in many different ways: they can be enjoyed in a pan or in the oven, but there are really many recipes with mushrooms. Mushrooms are also often used to flavor sauces for seasoning or broth, both vegetable one and meat one, thus making the dishes tastier. Champignon mushrooms are among the most used ones, also because they are available all year round, but porcini mushrooms are certainly among the favorites by people: it is possible to find them fresh between May and November. They are very suitable in the preparation of sauces, but also sautéed, fried or to be enjoyed in an exquisite pureed soup. In general, however, mushrooms go well with soups, pasta, rice, potatoes, but also as a filling for ravioli. The advice is to buy them only from trusted dealers, checking that they are intact, before buying them.