All about Mushrooms – what’s available in India and their health benefits

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Mushrooms are often known as the meat of the vegetarians. In India indigenous cuisines, especially in tribal cultures did use mushrooms as and when they were available. And more lately mushrooms are finding their way into Indian kitchens on a more regular basis. Besides international cuisines, mushroom is finding itself in traditional Indian dishes. Even then, the familiarity with mushrooms, the variety available and their respective health benefits is relatively lesser known still. The author has put together information on mushrooms that will help improve your awareness significantly. Team RetyrSmart

All about Mushrooms – what’s available in India and their health benefits

White Button Mushrooms

White button mushrooms are the most common and mildest-tasting mushrooms available in the Indian market. Button mushrooms, also known as cultivated mushroom or champignon (de Paris), are less intensely flavoured than many of its more exotic types. It can be eaten raw or cooked and are best used in soups, salads and on pizzas. Despite the common belief that these mushrooms are not as healthy as others, these have some interesting health benefits. White button mushrooms are low in calories and sugar. They are rich in protein and due to their exposure to sunlight, mushrooms are a natural non-animal source of vitamin D2; it helps in the absorption of calcium in your body and helps keep your bones strong. It is also rich in vitamin B12 which is an animal-obtained vitamin and so mushrooms are a good option for vegetarians. White mushrooms are also known to have cancer-fighting properties and help in reducing blood sugar levels and improve insulin resistance. Also, it is prebiotic and helps improve gut bacteria.

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Portobello Mushrooms

Portobello Mushrooms are a native to Europe and North America grasslands, these are one of the most commonly consumed mushrooms in the world. When young, portobello mushrooms are known as white button mushrooms. These mushrooms are impressive because of their size and meaty texture and earthy flavour. Similar to its other varieties, portobello is one of the natural sources of vitamin D. They are rich in copper and selenium which your body needs to form connective tissue, metabolize iron and to produce energy and antioxidants. It also has niacin or vitamin B6 which helps metabolize food into energy and synthesizes fatty acids. Vitamin B6 is essential for our body as it is present in more than 100 chemical actions in our body.

Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms are one of the popular mushrooms in the world and for a good reason. They are known for their rich, savoury taste and various health benefits. This mushroom is a native of Japan. In Japanese, shiitake means “oak fungus.” Fresh Shiitake mushrooms have a light woodsy flavour and aroma. These have a meaty texture and are chewy, and go well with almost everything. They are popular for their medicinal properties and are found in powdered supplement form in many herbal pharmacies. They are also known as black forest, black winter, brown oak, Chinese black, black mushroom, etc., Shiitake has a rich flavour than most mushrooms. It is usually used in soups, steamed and simmered recipes and even stir-fried in vegetarian dishes. Low in calories, rich in fibre as well as vitamin B, Shiitake mushrooms are good for boosting the immune system, lowering blood cholesterol levels, hardening of the arteries, diabetes and as an anti-ageing agent. Also, it has promising antibacterial and antiviral effects.

Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms are one of the biggest types of edible mushrooms which are most common and versatile. Oysters are easy to cultivate and grow mainly on decaying wood. This edible wild mushroom is now grown commercially across the world and has a slightly sweet, anise-like smell while it has tender flesh, velvety texture and mild flavour. The mushroom gets its name due to its similar appearance to the oyster. Oyster mushrooms are mostly fat-free and a good source of essential minerals and vitamins including niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and thiamin. It also has numerous health benefits such as it lowers cholesterol, boosts heart health, better immune function, and improved metabolic health.

Enoki Mushrooms

Enoki, also known as Enokitake, winter mushrooms, winter fungus, the edible variety of these mushrooms is small, shiny white caps attached to thin stems, and is crunchy. These mushrooms are usually used in East Asian food and cooking. Enokitake mushrooms are also called golden needle mushrooms. It is known to have a mild and delicate fruity flavour. These mushrooms can be eaten raw and cooked as well as used in salads, soups, sandwiches, and pasta sauces. It has two distinct varieties, wild and cultivated. the wild form differs in texture, colour, dampness and has dark brown colour, shorter and thicker stem while the cultivated mushrooms have long, slender stems with tiny, firm caps. This variety of mushroom is rich in several minerals and vitamins such as vitamin B3, vitamin B5, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, phosphorus, iron, selenium, thiamin, calcium and copper. The mushrooms also contain healthy amino acids and dietary fibre and are low in cholesterol which helps to improve the immunity system, reduces body fat and increases metabolism. It also improves digestion and reduces the chance of developing allergies.

Shimeji Mushrooms

These mushrooms are also known as buna shimeji, beech brown mushroom, clamshell mushroom and they grow on dead beech trees. Native to East Asia, this variety is also found in Northern Europe. They have cracked, speckled brown caps and a white base. When eaten raw Shimeji mushrooms taste bitter and when cooked, these brown-capped clusters are crunchy and have a sweet nutty flavour. It is usually used in stir-fried foods and soups, stews and sauces. It can also be sauteed whole, including its stem. Shimeji mushrooms are a great accompaniment to noodles. It is rich in umami tasting compounds such as guanylic acid, glutamic acid, and aspartic acid. It is cholesterol and sodium-free, low in fat and high in dietary fibre. Also, it is a good source of protein, zinc, B vitamins and copper. Shimeji Mushrooms are loaded with health benefits which are reason enough to enjoy them. It lowers cholesterol, aids weight loss, manages diabetes and is natural anti-cancer food. It is also anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-parasitic.

Porcini Mushrooms

Porcini mushrooms are one of the most popular mushrooms in Italian Cuisine. These are large mushrooms with a cap that can grow up to 12 inches in diameter. Porcini mushrooms have a few different varieties, are slightly reddish-brown, have a thick stem and are a little sticky to touch. It has an aromatic, woodsy and nutty flavour which makes it a gourmet mushroom and it is loved for its smooth texture. Porcini mushrooms can be used to make meat dishes, sauces, broth, eggs, pasta and vegetarian dishes. Similar to other varieties of mushrooms, Porcini has its own set of health benefits. They have nutritional benefits that make for a healthy diet, including fibre for gut health, antioxidants that boost immunity, protein for muscle mass, iron for essential minerals and has no cholesterol, trans fat or saturated fat.

Paddy Straw Mushrooms

It is one of the easiest mushrooms to cultivate. Paddy straw mushrooms were first cultivated in India in the year 1940. It is equally popular as white button mushroom for its flavour, aroma, delicacy and nutrients. These straw mushrooms are cold and good for the summer season. They are rich with protein, fibre, iron, vitamin B and vitamin C, also has mineral extra folic acid, potassium and copper. Paddy straw mushroom’s health benefits include reduced cholesterol in the digestive system. It has natural insulin which is good for diabetics, the beta-glucan prevents the growth of cancer cells and vitamin D strengthens bones. It also prevents anaemia and is good for heart health.

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