Cooking Improves Mushroom Nutrition; Which Method Is Best?

May 22 2017 - 10:44am
Mushroom cooking

Some believe that raw foods are more nutritious for you than cooked, but here is a case that has found otherwise. Mushrooms are one of the many vegetables that actually pack a more nutritious punch cooked than raw.

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Mushrooms are a nutritious part of a diet rich in whole plant foods. Not only are they good sources of vitamins such as the B vitamins niacin and riboflavin plus vitamin D, they are also rich in antioxidants and a phytonutrient known as betaglucan.

Spanish researchers have recently learned that mushrooms appear to be even better for you nutritionally when cooked, especially by microwaving or grilling.

The study utilized four of the most commonly consumed types of mushrooms – the white button mushroom, shiitake, oyster mushrooms and King oyster mushrooms. Four different types of cooking methods were studied – frying, boiling, grilling and microwaving.

Obviously, frying the mushrooms increased fat and calories of the vegetable. Scientists also learned that it induced losses in protein. Boiling the mushrooms improved total glucans content, but there was a decrease in antioxidant activity.

Betaglucans are polysaccharides found in the cell walls of fungi such as mushrooms. They have been found beneficial for reducing cholesterol levels and for boosting the immune system. Betaglucans also have anticarcinogenic properties which can impede cancerous tumor growth.

Mushroom nutrition was best preserved by grilling and microwaving

"When mushrooms were cooked by microwave or grill, the content of polyphenol and antioxidant activity increased significantly, and there are no significant losses in nutritional value of the cooked mushrooms" says Irene Roncero, one of the study authors

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Adding a little oil improved antioxidant capacity even more.

"This minimal amount will not cause nutrient loses by leaching; in fact, the antioxidant capacity can be even improved. Moreover, if olive oil is used, the fatty acid profile of the final preparation is enhanced with barely increase in the calorie content," notes Roncero.

Two important antioxidant compounds found in mushrooms include ergothioneine (which helps to prevent oxidative damage to our DNA) and Selenium (a mineral that plays a key role in metabolism).

When buying mushrooms, look for those that are firm and plumb and avoid those that look as though they have been sitting for too long (for example, they have slimy wet spots on them). Store loose mushrooms in the refrigerator in a loosely closed paper bag. If mushrooms are purchased pre-packaged from the grocery, they can be stored in their packaging in the fridge for 3 to 7 days.

Mushrooms can be enjoyed many different ways. Grilled, Portobellos make a great meat substitute as a “burger”. Smaller mushrooms can be sautéed in a small amount of oil along with onions for a side dish. You can even add mushrooms to soup – yes, the hot water may cause some leaching of the vitamins (as noted before), but if you will be drinking the broth, you will still get the positive nutritional benefits!

Journal References:
Irene Roncero-Ramos, Mónica Mendiola-Lanao, Margarita Pérez-Clavijo, Cristina Delgado-Andrade. Effect of different cooking methods on nutritional value and antioxidant activity of cultivated mushrooms. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 2016; 68 (3): 287 DOI: 10.1080/09637486.2016.1244662

Akramiene D, Effects of beta-glucans on the immune system. Medicina (Kaunas) 2007

Additional Resources:
Fruits and Veggies Matter
World’s Healthiest Foods

Photo Credit:
By Thamizhpparithi Maari - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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