Mushrooms aren’t the most glorious, beautiful, or fragrant of nature's creations, but the fungi sure carry their weight in terms of health. Unappetizing as it may be that they are a budding type of fungus, the benefits of mushrooms are incredibly potent, making them a health food that can wholeheartedly be elevated to superfood status. The following 10 unusual ways to use mushrooms allows you to look at the humble fruit of macrofungi in a whole new shade.
For thousands of years, the benefits of mushrooms have been revered as a central part of traditional Eastern medicine, but they have only recently been getting the credit they deserve across the rest of the world. Of all the mushrooms consumed in the US, 90 percent are white button (or crimini) mushrooms. Mushroom varieties run the gamut, and their flavor, taste, and texture are just as nuanced as their health benefits. White button mushrooms will be the focus of this list, considering their popularity, but benefits of mushrooms far more unique are also highlighted as they bring incredible health benefits and uses to the table.
1. Burger Bun
Remove the stem of a Portobello mushroom and you’re left with something that looks a lot like a burger bun. Nix the carbs and cut the calories by replacing a burger bun with Portobello mushroom tops and your body will thank you. Take the burger a step further by opting for a vegan patty.
2. Cancer Prevention
In a study conducted by Tufts University, white button mushrooms showed the ability to increase immunity and defend the body against microbial invasion and tumor development. White button mushrooms boost the immune system by increasing the production of proteins that fight disease-causing pathogens. These findings were witness in another study, in which white button mushrooms exhibited the ability to inhibit prostate tumor growth.
3. Ground “Beef”
In a vegan kitchen, mushrooms are a great way to replace meat, because they have a dense texture and hold together well to create a meaty bite. Dice mushrooms into small pieces and cook in a pan with oil, season with salt, pepper, and other desired spices, add to pasta sauce, sprinkle over pizza, or enjoy however you would ground beef.
4. Weight Loss
In the thick of the summer, we still strive to be thin. Add mushrooms to that equation and you can conquer that battle easier. White button mushrooms support the body’s ability to metabolize lipids and thus help in your weight loss efforts.
5. Skin Regeneration
For smooth, supple skin, use products that are infused with mushrooms. According to a Chinese study, the extract of white button mushrooms increase collagen fibers, and benefit skin regeneration after injury. Dr. Andrew Weil has a mushroom-based skin-care line available at Origins that speaks to their power.
In a Chinese study, the alpha-glucan from the fruit body of maitake mushrooms was administered on rats with Type 2 diabetes. The treatment decreased body weight, the level of fasting plasma glucose, serum insulin, triglycerides, cholesterol, and free fatty acid. Maitake mushrooms have anti-diabetic properties because they are able to increase insulin sensitivity and ameliorate insulin resistance.
Maitake mushrooms also help in the recovery of hepatitis B patients. In a Japanese study among 32 chronic hepatitis B patients, there was a 72 percent recovery rate in the Maitake group compared to a 57 percent recovery rate in the control group.
8. Everyday Spice
You’ll often see dried mushrooms, such as shiitakes, being sold at ethnic food stores or health food stores. Grind these dried mushrooms into a fine powder and use it as an addition to your meals – from soups and salads to scrambled eggs and pasta sauces, their savory umami flavor brings more than just yumminess to your meals. Sneak the essential amino acids and nutrients that mushrooms have to offer into each bite without having to make them the center of the dish.
Even compared to other mushroom superstars, such as shiitake, oyster, and maitake varieties, white button mushrooms are exceptionally advanced in reducing inflammation. Adding white button mushrooms to the diet has shown to change the body’s micro flora and create metabolic shifts that ultimately lead to fewer inflammatory cells.
10. HIV Defense
A 2004 study funded by the National Institutes of Health and its alternative medicine department, doctors found that there was a benefit from ingesting a tea made from wood grown, freeze dried oyster mushrooms on anti-retroviral-induced hyperlipidemia in HIV patients.