A staple in Chinese medicine and Asian cuisine, mushrooms are a powerhouse of goodness, but it seems we Brits still associate this special type of fungus with light supper options such as mushrooms on toast or a mushroom omelette.
Low in calories and rich in antioxidants and vitamins, healing properties can be found in Japanese shiitake, white buttons, dried varieties and even a new supplement that holds a beauty secret.
Here are plenty of reasons to start foraging for this magic food source...
1) They’re anti-aging – and help with medical conditions
If for some reason mushrooms aren’t on your menu (the texture, perhaps?), Hifas da Terra is a new range of Spanish organic mushroom supplements which consist of types such as shiitake and reishi. The MicoSalud range has been developed to target specific health issues such as IBS, immunity, cholesterol (Mico-Five, £55, Harrods) and Mico-Rei (£55, Harrods) which can help with anti-ageing, reducing fine lines and pigmentation.
“Mushrooms have excellent healing properties and are strong enhancers of the human immune system, which help protect the body against a large variety of diseases and health issues,” says Catalina Fernandez de Ana Portela, co-founder and mycologist.
These strong powerful extracts in capsule form can be combined and work in synergy with each other to give increased results.
“Some of our organic mushroom extracts, you may notice [improvements] the same day, like cordyceps to give you the stamina and power to run, work, dance or just enjoy life,” says Portela.
“Others, like reishi, which is incredible in helping to control stress, within two to three days you will feel a very nice sense of ‘I can do it, and I will still go on with much more’. Problems seem to get smaller and life smiles at you.”
2) They’re high in vitamin B
As well as being a great source of calcium, which helps promote healthy bones and prevents osteoporosis, mushrooms are rich in B vitamins to aid a healthy nervous system.
Essential to convert food into energy, they can ward off fatigue, and types such as shiitake (rich in vitamins of the B group) are a great solution for veggies and vegans who need to be careful with the lack of B12.
3) They tackle bloating and tiredness
A natural diuretic, mushrooms improve the lymphatic system so they’re ideal for anyone who suffers from water retention and you may even feel a flatter stomach.
They’re also a good source of copper, which is required for the absorption of iron.
“Nearly a quarter of women in the UK have low iron stores, which can lead to tiredness, fatigue and low moods,” says Hobson.
4) They’re right in vitamin D
Mushrooms are one of the few foods containing vitamin D, especially when they’ve been exposed to sunlight.
“Vitamin D is essential for a strong immune system and healthy bones,” says Rob Hobson, Healthspan nutritionist and co-author of The Detox Kitchen Bible.
“Many people in the UK have low levels of this essential vitamin, particularly during the winter. Mushrooms are also a good source of selenium, which is essential for maintaining a strong immune system, and intakes of this mineral are relatively low here.”
4) Dried mushrooms are a nifty trick
As well as being able to enjoy eating mushrooms raw, they contain antioxidants that are not deactivated or destroyed by cooking. Dried mushrooms, such as shiitake, oyster and wild porcini mushrooms, also taste delicious in stir-fries and pasta.
“Dried varieties are rich in the amino acid glutamate, which is responsible for their rich savoury taste known as umami (derived from the Japanese word meaning delicious),” says Hobson.