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Top 5 Foods With Surprising Qualities: Mushrooms

Updated on January 30, 2010

Mushroom gatherers of ages gone by had to be careful not to poison themselves to death due to the toxicity of some mushrooms that were grown in cellars, caves and other dank dark places. Today, thankfully, most mushrooms are grown indoors under controlled environments and are quite safe. The wide variety of mushrooms available in supermarkets today leaves lots of room for experimentation. Chanterelles, with their delicate look, can be used in pasta, while the hearty portobello is delicious grilled on an open grate. There are so many other varieties of mushrooms widely available nowadays that you'll be amazed at the selection, and they all taste fantastic! The copper, selenium, riboflavin and pantothenic acid that mushrooms contain make them worth your while, as they're known to be powerful disease fighters.

Nutritional Perks

One cup of cooked mushrooms is an excellent source of copper, selenium, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and iron.

While shiitake mushrooms deliver the highest amount of copper: 1 cup cooked gives you 65 percent of the Daily Value while regular button mushrooms, the most commonly sold variety, provide 39 percent of the Daily Value, still a significant amount. Copper is essential for keeping the tissues in your body healthy. Low copper levels cause tissue breakdown, which then prompts the weakening of the heart, blood vessels and kidneys.

Selenium
Selenium is present in mushrooms in fairly large amounts. One cup of cooked mushrooms provides 9 micrograms, or 26 percent of the Daily Value. Eat 1 cup of sautéed shiitake mushrooms and receive nearly 36 micrograms; that's over half of the Daily Value of this important nutrient, which may help lower your risk of cancer, stave off heart disease and help fight viruses within the body.

Pantothenic acid
If you're taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, you could be low on pantothenic acid. Eat 1 cup of cooked mushrooms and get almost 34 percent of the Daily Value. Pantothenic acid is an important B vitamin and plays a role in the synthesis of, among other things, cholesterol and hormones.

Iron and riboflavin
One cup of cooked mushrooms is a good source of iron and provides 27 percent of the Daily Value of riboflavin. Iron is essential for your blood's good health. A deficiency in iron could cause colds, fatigue and anemia. Riboflavin assists in the body's ability to utilize energy and promotes healthy skin and eyesight.

Selecting Mushrooms

Be sure that mushrooms have smooth, dry, firm caps. Smell mushrooms before you purchase them as they should have a pleasant aroma. Stay away from mushrooms that appear leathery. To avoid bruising during preparation, choose mushrooms that have little dirt, and bypass mushrooms with mold or ones that are damp or sticky. Most mushrooms are available year round.

Storage and Handling

Handle mushrooms with care. Use the most delicate varieties, such as chanterelles, immediately, as they have the shortest shelf life. To extend storage time, keep your mushrooms in a paper bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. If your mushrooms seem damp, layer them in dry paper towels before placing them in the refrigerator. Conversely, if they seem dry, layer them in damp paper towels.

Continued In Top 5 Foods With Surprising Qualities: Mushrooms Part II

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