Although mushrooms are considered vegetarian, they are actually not plants. Instead, mushrooms belong to a special food category called fungus. Mushrooms come in all different sizes, shapes, tastes and chemical makeup. Common white mushrooms are mild in taste and can be eaten raw as well as cooked. Darker portabella mushrooms are stronger in flavor and serve as great complement to meat dishes. More exotic species like shiitake, enoki and maitaki mushrooms are much more expensive, but they are also known to be unique in taste and have much higher medicinal value. Raw or cooked, eating mushrooms is extremely beneficial for your health. They are known to help fight cancer, reduce heart risk, improve skin quality and increase overall immunity against diseases.
The most common types of culinary mushrooms in Western cultures are white and portabella mushrooms. These have little energy value and work well for weight loss and health maintenance purposes, but do not carry most of the therapeutic advantages of the more exotic Asian species.
Though white mushrooms rank at the bottom of mushroom nutrition, they are still highly beneficial to have in your diet. White mushrooms are excellent sources of riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid and copper. They also contain higher levels of trace minerals like copper and selenium than most common vegetables. White mushrooms are best eaten raw to prevent losing of nutrients during the cooking process.
Portabella mushrooms have a meatier taste. They also have more protein and other nutrients than white mushrooms. Technically speaking, you can eat these mushrooms raw or cooked. Most people find their aroma too strong to be eaten raw. Portabellas are best cooked with red meats that have high saturated fat and cholesterol. Its high content of riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 and folate not only elevate your body's fat burning metabolism, they also inhibit transport of fat and cholesterol into your blood vessels, and reduce your risks of atherosclerosis and other heart diseases. Portabellas are extremely rich in phosphorus, potassium, copper and selenium. These help you build leaner muscles, control blood pressure and eliminate biological waste and toxins.
Medicinal Value of Exotic Mushrooms
Exotic Asian mushrooms like shiitake have more than triple the amount of vitamins and minerals compared to portabellas. Their nutrient concentration is so high that it reaches the therapeutic dosage for many ailments.
Exotic mushrooms are known to help reduce your blood cholesterol, especially the artery clogging low density lipoproteins (LDL). They contain a tremendous amount of B vitamins which promote more efficient energy production, blood oxygenation and prevent the accumulation of blood and body fat. Some species like oyster and shiitake mushrooms also contain significant amounts of lovastatin which has been isolated and used pharmacologically to treat high cholesterol.
Shiitakes are among the highest ranked of all foods in terms of pantothenic acid and selenium content. These nutrients are extremely beneficial to the detoxification of your system. Frequent intake of shiitakes can significantly reduce the occurrence of acne breakouts and skin allergies. These mushrooms can also improve your liver and colon functions, reducing your body's toxicity and your chances for cell mutation and cancers.
Exotic mushrooms are highly valuable for their anti-pathogenic properties. They are natural sources of antibiotics which help prevent you from food-borne diseases and other infections and inflammations. Having these mushrooms is an easy way to boost your overall immunity.