A Healthy Treat
À votre santé
In what seems now to be another life, my opinion of mushrooms was that of my family’s: spongy “vegetables” found on pizza toppings. The common belief was that they had nothing nutritional to offer (besides water), and as such, they were never forced on us like were broccoli and brussel sprouts.
Indeed, mushrooms are typically 85%-90% water by weight. Some, like the shaggy mane (Coprinus comatus) reach as high as 95% while others, like the truffle, only 50%. But don’t let these numbers fool you: even broccoli is 90% water by weight!
The reality is that mushrooms are appreciated just as much for the things they contain as the things they do not. Let’s begin with what they lack. Mushrooms contain no sodium and very little fat and carbohydrates, less than 1% and 6% of their fresh weight respectively. With only 35kcal/100g (similar to broccoli, but 10 times less than lamb) they are perfect for low calorie diets.
Mushrooms can provide us with all of the essential amino acids, notably lysine and leucine. They also contain glutamic and aspartic acids that enhance the taste of certain foods and give the mushrooms their famous umami taste.
Minerals account for about 1% of fresh mushroom’s weight, mostly phosphorous and potassium. Iron, copper, zinc and iodine are the main trace elements, essential to human health.
Generally, vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B12 are present, as are, in lesser concentration, vitamins C and D. Exceptions to this are chanterelles and maïtake that are important sources of vitamin C and D, respectively. A mushroom's environment can have an impact on its nutritional value: for example, exposure to sunlight raises vitamin D levels in shiitake.
15% of the carbs in mushrooms are indigestible dietary fibers, like pectin and cellulose. Simple digestible sugars such as glucose and mannose are present as well. Trehalose, a disaccharide, is found only in mushrooms and is responsible for provoking an intolerance to mushrooms in one out of ten people. Mushrooms are the only non- animal source of glycogen, a complex carbohydrate.
Mushrooms contain 2-5% protein by weight. While this means they have ten times less protein than meat, they still have a higher protein content than most vegetables. That's one reason shiitake is nicknamed the "meat" of vegetarians.
There is no doubt that mushrooms will have a increasing presence in our daily diets as more poeple become aware of their nutritional value. Indeed, they along with vegetables are perfectly poised to replace much of the meat we eat to the benefit of both our health and the environment.