Did you know that it’s Mushroom Month? Hard to believe there is a whole month devoted to these fungi but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to go to bat for these little earthly delights. It can be easy to overlook their shades of brown next to a colourful palette of fruits and vegetables but these humble looking bites actually pack a potent nutritional punch! Make friends with fungi and consider incorporating more of this overlooked superfood into your meals.

Why Fungi are Fantastic

While mushroom extracts have long been used in traditional medicine, plenty of research supports eating whole mushrooms to bolster your body’s defences. The high selenium content in mushrooms becomes part of an antioxidant enzyme that prevents oxidative damage in the body (which could lead to chronic disease). Mushrooms are also an excellent source of energizing B vitamins including riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. The high copper content in mushrooms aids in the production of red blood cells, as well as support the immune system, and bone/nerve health.

However, where mushrooms really shine are in substances called polysaccharides, which support the immune system. Beta-glucans are one category of polysaccharide with known immune-boosting benefits. Lentinan, another substance found in shiitake mushrooms, helps strengthen heart health and help fight cancer. Mushrooms are a key anti-inflammatory food and worth incorporating into your diet.

What to Choose

Enjoy whatever mushroom varieties are in season and locally available from buttons to portobellos to shiitakes and chanterelles. Much of the research on the medicinal benefits of mushrooms has been done on shiitakes, so focus on these meaty and flavourful fungi if a medicinal plate is what you’re after.

Keep ’em fresh

Properly storing produce is critical in preserving its nutrients and mushrooms are no exception! Store in a loosely tied bag in a high humidity drawer. The best way to keep mushrooms fresh (and not slimy!) is to minimize surface contact with each other. To clean while preventing sogginess, gently wipe them with a damp towel just before use.

How to Cook

The thick and hearty texture of mushrooms adds a richness to meatless entrees. Saute mushrooms with onions and garlic as a base for stews, sauces and grain dishes. Try roasted mushrooms over avocado toast or add to omelets, salads, and pasta.