Ancient Romans referred to them as "food for the gods." Ancient Egyptians thought they could grant immortality. While those claims may be a stretch, crimini mushrooms (the common button type) are packed with unique phytonutrients that have been shown to contribute to boosting immune function, regulating inflammation, preventing arthritis, and protecting against cardiovascular problems. Not bad for a fungus.
If that weren't enough, new evidence suggests that crimini mushrooms can provide a boost of vitamins D1 and D2, which are instrumental in maintaining a healthy immune system. In fact, crimini mushrooms have proven to be more beneficial to the immune system than their more exotic mushroom counterparts.
Crimini mushrooms also provide an excellent source of selenium, zinc, and manganese--critical antioxidant nutrients--and vitamins B1, B2, B3 (niacin), B5, B6, and B12, which contribute to better cardiovascular health.
When buying, storing, or preparing crimini mushrooms, follow these tips to get the most nutritional bang for your buck.
1. Buy organic. Due to modern agricultural practices, it is important to purchase or cultivate organic mushrooms in order to lessen your risk of ingesting contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals, and other unwanted substances.
2. Store them properly. How you store your mushrooms is vital to preserving their nutrient content, especially where vitamin D is concerned. To prevent discoloration and hardening, wrap mushrooms in a damp cloth and place them in a loosely closed paper bag, or spread them out in a glass dish and cover them with a moist cloth. Store them in the refrigerator at about 38°F (3°C). Whichever storage method you use, you'll want to try to restrict surface-to-surface contact among the mushrooms in order to keep them fresh longer. If you need to stack them, be sure to separate each layer with a damp paper towel.
3. Sauté and enjoy. The mushrooms should be wiped clean, sliced, and sautéed lightly, making sure not to overcrowd the pan, in order to ensure a golden-brown exterior and moist, succulent interior. Take care not to overcook mushrooms as this will make their nutrient count plummet.
- Pesti, G., ed. Mushrooms: Cultivation, Antioxidant Properties and Health Benefits. New York: Nova Publishers, 2014.
- World's Healthiest Foods. "Mushrooms, Crimini." Accessed December 2014.
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