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Edible Mushrooms Aand Their Many Health Benefits

Whether chanterelle, porcini, mushroom, or oyster mushroom – our local edible mushrooms have at least two things in common: They taste delicious and are very healthy!

Healthy edible mushrooms with medicinal properties

Edible mushrooms are often underestimated and often only eaten in small quantities. Hardly anyone knows that mushrooms, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms have interesting healing properties. Although there are special medicinal mushrooms, most of which come from Asia and are taken as dietary supplements or medicines, e.g. B. the Cordyceps mushroom, which makes you potent and efficient or the Reishi medicinal mushroom, which fights cancer, relieves pain in arthritis and detoxifies the liver.

However, in this article, we will focus on edible mushrooms, which are also so rich in nutrients that they have a certain healing effect and you can easily include them in your personal nutrition plan more often.

The Kingdom of Mushrooms

Mushrooms are truly wondrous creatures because they are hybrids between animals and plants and form a completely independent kingdom among living beings. Although they are sedentary like plants, they breathe oxygen – like animals and humans – and feed on organic material (e.g. wood, insects). Furthermore, fungi have cell walls like plants. However, the cell walls of the fungi are not made of cellulose, but of chitin, like the shells of insects.

Around 100,000 species of mushrooms are known worldwide today, but it is estimated that there could be more than five million. Each species of mushroom is endowed with a characteristic architecture. When the mushrooms shoot up from the ground, they appear confident – ​​with an umbrella and hat. But what ends up in our cooking pots is only a tiny part of the actual fungus.

Because this is only the fruiting body, which only occurs sporadically and is used for reproduction. The rest of the fungus lives in the form of the so-called mycelium underground or in the wood of the trees. The mycelium, which can be visually compared to the roots of plants, is made up of very long, thin threads (hyphae) that serve to absorb water and food.

Many fungi enter into a symbiosis with plants. The hyphae wrap around the roots of the trees in the soil and absorb the sugars produced by the tree. In return, the fungi supply the trees with nutrients. Certain types of fungi and plants are particularly close.

For example, B. the bolete or the saffron is usually at the foot of a pine, while the birch fungus – as the name suggests – prefers the company of birches. This is also the reason why experienced mushroom pickers know exactly where the males prefer to be in the forest.

Edible mushrooms in the kitchen

Man has been eating mushrooms since the Stone Age. Even in the olden days, the so-called edible mushrooms were preserved by drying them and stocked up for the harsh winters. In the Middle Ages, they were seen as poor people’s food, but in the Baroque era, they were once again considered a real delicacy.

Mushrooms were the first mushrooms to be cultivated in Europe – more precisely in France – around 1650. Different in Japan: Here z. B. Shiitake mushrooms have been cultivated for at least 2,000 years.

Today, edible mushrooms enjoy a high reputation all over the world and make an important contribution to healthy nutrition. The methods of preparation are extremely varied: you can eat the mushrooms raw, fry them, stew them or boil them. Mushrooms pickled in oil or vinegar or ground to a powder are also used in the kitchen. Dried mushrooms can also be used, but must first be soaked before consumption or further processing.

In Central Europe alone there are hundreds of types of edible mushrooms, with button mushrooms, chanterelles, oyster mushrooms, porcini mushrooms, morels, truffles, the real stimulating mushroom, and shiitake mushrooms being among the favorites because they can be bought almost everywhere. But also less well-known species, such as the violet knightling, which is considered to lower blood pressure, is a very good edible mushroom.

Mushrooms are healthy because…

…they are high-quality suppliers of a whole range of vital nutrients:

Mushrooms provide valuable protein

Some mushrooms are very rich in protein compared to many types of vegetables – especially the porcini mushroom with 5.5 percent protein. Mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, and chanterelles still provide 2 to 3 percent but are not richer in protein than spinach or broccoli.

Dietary fiber in mushrooms

Mushrooms contain a lot of fiber, which promotes digestion, protects against colon cancer, and reduces the risk of heart attacks. Although the German Society for Nutrition (DGE) recommends 30 g of dietary fiber per day, only 20 g is eaten on average in industrialized countries.

Mushrooms are high in hemicellulose, a fiber that creates a feeling of satiety, which could be of particular interest to those who are overweight. It also increases the bulk of the stool and accelerates the passage of food through the intestinal tract.

A particular specialty of the mushrooms is the dietary fiber chitin already mentioned. This is also the reason why some people cannot easily digest mushrooms. Conversely, digestion can be stimulated in the long term if mushrooms are served more often.

Tip: The finer you chop the mushrooms or the better you chew your mushroom meals, the more digestible the chitin is.

The dietary fiber content depends on the type of mushroom. So are e.g. For example, 100 g fresh mushrooms contain around 2 g, chanterelles 5.5 g, porcini mushrooms 7 g, and truffles up to 16 g fiber. In comparison, among the vegetables, green peas are among the frontrunners and contain around 5 g of fiber.

The minerals in mushrooms

Mushrooms provide relevant amounts of minerals such as potassium, iron, selenium, and zinc.

Potassium

Potassium deficiency can be associated with loss of appetite, muscle relaxation, and damage to the heart muscle. Mushrooms are among the most potassium-rich foods and contain e.g. B. 20 percent more potassium than meat. Mushrooms, chanterelles, and porcini are particularly noteworthy here, the recommended daily dose of potassium can be covered up to 30 percent with a portion of fresh mushrooms.

Iron

Some mushrooms such as B. the chanterelle – are a particularly valuable source of iron and thus prevent anemia (anemia), immune deficiency, and many other consequences of iron deficiency with regular consumption. 100 g of fresh chanterelles contain 6.5 mg of iron, which covers half of the daily requirement of 10 to 15 mg.

Selenium

Selenium protects against free radicals, strengthens the immune system, and activates the thyroid hormones. The DGE recommends 30 to 70 µg selenium per day for young people and adults because those who consume too little of the trace element risk increased susceptibility to infections. According to researchers, however, there is also a connection between an undersupply of selenium and diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and rheumatism. It is therefore all the more important to eat foods containing selenium, including mushrooms.

The porcini mushroom native to our forests is one of the best sources of selenium, 100 g contains a whopping 184 µg. In comparison, the selenium content of the shiitake mushroom is 76 µg and that of the birch mushroom is 8 µg.

Zinc

Whether metabolism, immune system, or hormones: Zinc fulfills many important functions in the body. According to the World Health Organization ( WHO ), the recommended daily amount of zinc is 12 to 15 mg.

The zinc content of mushrooms is comparable to that of fish and is between 0.5 and 1 mg. At just under 0.9 mg, oyster mushrooms are at the upper end of this scale, while the porcini mushroom is far beyond that, namely providing 1.5 mg of zinc.

The vitamins in mushrooms

Mushrooms also help to cover the daily requirement of vitamin A, vitamin B, and vitamin D.

Vitamin A

The consequences of a vitamin A deficiency include B. an increased susceptibility to infection, dry hair up to hair loss, blurred vision, iron deficiency, and an increased risk of cancer. Vitamin A is mainly found in animal tissue, but its precursors, such as B. the beta-carotene, are also contained in plants and mushrooms and are converted into vitamin A in the body.

The average daily requirement is 1 mg of vitamin A, which corresponds to 6 mg of beta-carotene. 100 g of fresh chanterelles contain 0.2 mg of vitamin A, with which you can already cover 20 percent of your daily requirement.

Vitamin B

Also in terms of B vitamins, the mushrooms are not to be scoffed at. B. 100 g of fresh mushrooms contain 35 percent of the recommended daily dose of vitamin B5 and 28 percent of vitamin B2, while oyster mushrooms contain up to 0.2 mg of vitamin B1 and the required coverage is 20 percent.

Furthermore, mushrooms are also a very valuable supplier of niacin and are to be equated with meat and fish in this respect. You can cover 100 percent of your daily niacin (B3) requirement with just 100 g of fresh chanterelles.

Vitamin D

In Germany, up to 90 percent of adults suffer from a vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D cannot be produced by the body itself. Food, on the other hand, contributes only tiny amounts to covering the vitamin D requirement and can therefore be almost neglected. Only fish provides relevant amounts of vitamin D. But this is out of the question for vegetarians or vegans. Mushrooms can help out here. Although they cannot cover the vitamin D requirement either, you can help to cover it – namely with 2 to 3 µg of vitamin D.

Effects of mushrooms on Chinese medicine

Ancient scholars already knew that mushrooms can be used not only as food but also as medicine. So wrote z. B. Plinius the Elder in his work “Naturalis Historia” (natural research) sometimes about the healing effect of the larch polypore, which was used against intestinal and skin diseases.

Many other herbal books followed over the centuries, e.g. B. the “herb book” by Adamus Lonicerus, published in 1679, in which mushrooms with medicinal properties have a permanent place. For example, the Judas ear was used to heal tumors, the stinkhorn helped against gout, and honey fungus was used as a laxative, which the origin of the name (Hell – meaning hell – in the A) is supposed to indicate unmistakably.

But then the knowledge about the healing properties of edible mushrooms fell more and more into oblivion – at least in the West. This is primarily due to the fact that – apart from mushrooms – nobody knew how they could be cultivated and industrial use was therefore not possible.

However, in East Asia – particularly in Japan, China, Indonesia, and Korea – the situation is very different. Here, where traditional and modern medicine can coexist peacefully, medicinal mushrooms have always enjoyed unbroken popularity. Myotherapy (mushroom medicine) is characterized on the one hand by the ancient tradition of naturopaths and on the other hand by clinical studies. Incidentally, the term myotherapy can be traced back to the mushroom researcher Prof. Jan Ivan Lelley and the following application suggestions come from his outstanding wealth of knowledge.

In recent years, however, interest in the medicinal properties of mushrooms has also been revived in the western world. The decisive factor was that more and more people – whether scientists or not – are increasingly enthusiastic about alternative healing methods (including traditional Chinese medicine). The knowledge was rediscovered that not only the Asian but also our native mushrooms are medicinally valuable. We would now like to introduce three of them to you in more detail.

The mushroom protects against cancer

The mushrooms are also known as Egerlinge in German-speaking countries and are among the most popular edible mushrooms. There are many types of mushrooms, but the two-spored Egerling (Agaricus bisporus) is the one most commonly sold. This so-called cultivated mushroom is the most cultivated edible mushroom in the world – around 1.5 million tons are produced every year in Europe and North America alone.

The mushroom is ideal for people who would like to lose weight, but gout sufferers, diabetics, and high blood pressure patients should also include the tasty mushroom in their menu much more often. The low sodium and glucose content, the high potassium and vitamin content as well as the digestive fiber contribute to the fact that said patients can particularly benefit from mushrooms.

The mushroom does not yet have a long tradition in Asia, but it is already one of the recognized medicinal mushrooms. Thus, an enzyme called tyrosinase, z. B. protects against UV radiation, awarded an antihypertensive effect. In addition, Chinese healers recommend breastfeeding mothers eat mushrooms regularly because they can increase milk production.

In the meantime, some studies have shown that mushrooms – including the button mushroom – counteract tumors. Chinese scientists have z. It was shown, for example, that mushroom extract can achieve a 90 percent growth inhibition in malignant tissue tumors.

Researchers from the City of Hope Cancer Center near Los Angeles have also shown that mushrooms have an anti-cancer effect and z. B. slow the growth of breast tumors. This happens because the mushrooms inhibit the enzyme aromatase, which is involved in the formation of estrogen. In this sense, eating mushrooms also have a preventive effect.

Application:

Mushrooms are rarely offered as dried mushrooms but can be bought fresh all year round. In order to enjoy the healing power of the mushroom, however, 100 to 150 g must be eaten 2 to 3 times a week.

Oyster mushroom regulates cholesterol levels

The oyster mushroom or oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) can be found almost everywhere in the world. It grows on the trunks and branches of trees as it feeds on the lignin in the wood. In Germany, the common beech is its preferred habitat. Oyster mushrooms are very popular edible mushrooms and are therefore cultivated in large quantities – around 2.5 million tons are harvested worldwide every year.

In TCM, dried oyster mushrooms are used e.g. B. used to strengthen the veins and relax the tendons. But the oyster mushroom has also made a name for itself in modern medicine. So find the dried fruit bodies z. B. in China to cure lumbago and limb and tendon stiffness, while in the Czech Republic oyster mushroom extracts are taken to prevent high cholesterol levels.

A study by the Leibniz University of Hanover has shown that regular consumption of oyster mushrooms can have a positive effect on blood fat levels.

20 students with slightly elevated cholesterol levels put themselves at the service of science for three weeks. While one group ate 600 ml of dried oyster mushroom soup daily, the control group received the same amount of tomato soup. In those test subjects who ate the mushroom soup, a significant reduction in triglycerides – risk factors for cardiovascular diseases and inflammation of the pancreas – was found compared to the control group. Furthermore, a significant reduction in the “bad” LDL cholesterol and the total cholesterol concentration was measured in the blood of the “mushroom group”.

In addition, Slovak researchers from the Research Institute of Nutrition in Bratislava have found that oyster mushrooms are among the preventive remedies in terms of colon cancer (3). Anyone who eats oyster mushrooms is doing something good for their intestinal flora, which is sometimes due to the chitin. The intestine itself cannot utilize the indigestible chitin, but the intestinal bacteria can. After eating the mushrooms, the number of desirable gut bacteria increases as they find the polysaccharides that makeup chitin especially tasty. In this way, a healthy intestinal flora milieu is created, which is particularly important for maintaining health.

Application:

In order to regulate cholesterol levels, 3 to 9 g of dried and powdered oyster mushrooms are recommended per day. The mushroom powder can be taken in the form of capsules, but can also be stirred into warm tea or soups, for example.

The ink cap blocks tumor cells

The ink cap (Coprinus comatus) is also known as asparagus mushroom or ink mushroom and is native to Europe. It likes to show itself along roadsides and in meadows but has also discovered our cities as a habitat for itself. So even in the middle of housing estates, there are often large groups of Crested Tints. The mushrooms, with their characteristic oval to bell-shaped hats, feed on small nematodes, which in turn show what wondrous creatures the mushrooms can be.

The ink cap is only considered an excellent edible mushroom in its childhood and youth since the older conspecifics melt into an ink-like liquid – which is also where its name comes from. In fact, the decaying mushrooms used to be used to make a kind of ink that could be used to write with.

Another special feature of the ink cap is that it is one of the few edible mushrooms that can be cultivated. The problem with this is that the mushroom has to be used very quickly since even the young specimens soon become inky after harvest. For this reason, the Schopftintling is primarily bred by enthusiasts.

In TCM, shaggy ink is described as promoting digestion and is also used in the treatment of hemorrhoids. Chinese researchers have shown in experiments that the fungus has a 100 percent growth-inhibiting effect on malignant tumors of the connective and supporting tissue and 90 percent on Ehrlich’s carcinoma (skin cell tumor).

A study by the University of Haifa in Israel has shown that certain components of the hair shad block the receptor sites for sex hormones on tumor cells. In this way, hormone-dependent cancers such as breast or prostate cancer can be positively influenced.

The blood sugar-lowering effect of the Schopftintling is also extremely interesting. A German mycologist named Kronberger, who himself suffered from diabetes, conducted experiments on himself in the 1960s. He discovered that the mushroom lowers blood sugar. Since then, it has been proven in various scientific studies that even a small amount of the fungus causes an increased release of insulin or a reduction in blood sugar in type 1 and type 2 diabetes and is in no way inferior to conventional medication – but without causing side effects.

Application:

In order for the ink mushroom to develop its effect and regulate blood sugar, it must be consumed regularly – 100 to 200 g of fresh mushrooms are recommended per day. But you can also use 10 to 20 g of dried and powdered mushrooms, which – depending on your preference – z. B. yogurts, soups, or stews can be added. It is also possible to take a shad ink extract, whereby half a teaspoon to a whole teaspoon of the extract is mixed with a little water or herbal tea twice a day. A mushroom cure should be carried out for at least three months.

The king oyster mushroom could strengthen the memory

The king oyster mushroom ( Pleurotus eryngii ), also known as the king oyster mushroom, grows in Europe, although it is rarely found in the wild in Germany. It is characterized by its strong, hearty aroma, which bears a resemblance to the porcini mushroom. The edible mushroom has the advantage that it remains al dente during cooking. On the other hand, it is less suitable for raw consumption because it is difficult to digest.

The king oyster mushroom is rich in antioxidants and, according to a study, can therefore have a positive effect on Alzheimer’s. One of the main causes of Alzheimer’s is oxidative stress.

For the Taiwanese study, mice were fed king oyster mushrooms for six weeks. After that time, her memory deficit had greatly improved, while the plaque deposits typical of Alzheimer’s had decreased. The researchers, therefore, suspect that the king oyster mushroom could also promote memory in humans.

10 tips for dealing with mushrooms

Prof. Lelley – the well-known mushroom researcher to whom mycotherapy can be traced back – recommends: “Eat mushrooms and you will live longer!”  – but only if neither toadstools nor spoiled edible mushrooms end up in the cooking pot. However, if you handle the mushrooms with care, you can benefit from both the culinary goodness and the healing effect of the “woodman”.

So you can collect mushrooms

Edible mushrooms can be gathered in meadows and forests from July to November, but autumn is the ideal season. In any case, it is important that only those specimens that can be clearly identified are taken away. If you are unsure about certain mushrooms, you should under no circumstances eat them, but first, contact a mushroom advice center.

Gently twist the mushrooms out of the soil. This is important because there are often important identification features at the ends of the stems that are helpful in identification. You should then cover the hole with soil again so that the mycelium does not dry out. It is better to leave very young mushrooms where they are, as well as old specimens. Keep in mind that most mushroom poisoning is not caused by toadstools, but by old, rotten mushrooms.

It is best to transport the collected mushrooms in airy baskets so they stay fresh longer. You should also keep those mushrooms that you could not clearly identify separately, because e.g. For example, a death cap mushroom can transform the best edible mushrooms into toadstools by shedding spores.

Watch out for toxic doubles

Some edible mushrooms have poisonous doubles, which you should be able to tell apart when collecting mushrooms. The inedible double of the porcini mushroom, for example, is the gall boletus, which tastes extremely bitter. The poisonous double of the meadow mushroom is the death cap mushroom, which can lead to death.

The parasol, which tastes and smells pleasantly nutty and has a sliding ring underneath the hat, also has a number of doubles, some of which are poisonous, others not. If the ring (the cuff) cannot be moved, you can be sure that it is not a parasol, but perhaps a poisonous giant parasol mushroom.

Also, find out whether there are collection restrictions or bans in your region.

Do mushrooms store radioactivity and heavy metals?

Almost 40 years have passed since the devastating reactor accident in Chornobyl – and some wild mushrooms are still contaminated with radioactivity. The degree of contamination depends on both the variety and the location.

The least contaminated are varieties that grow on wood, e.g. B. the oyster mushroom, while z. B. chestnut boletes are considered to be heavily contaminated. Russia and Ukraine are sometimes affected, but also Eastern European countries such as Hungary and southern Germany, and Switzerland.

Since mushrooms also accumulate heavy metals such as cadmium or mercury, the DGE recommends eating no more than 250 g of wild mushrooms per week. Children and pregnant women should be particularly careful and if you want to be on the safe side, it is better to use cultivated mushrooms.

When you buy mushrooms

Be careful not only when collecting, but also when shopping in the supermarket. It is not uncommon for mushrooms that have already spoiled to be offered. This is due to the fact that the mushrooms are often stored incorrectly or for too long. When mushrooms spoil, toxins develop, which can result in mushroom poisoning. So when you buy them, make sure that the mushrooms are not packed airtight (e.g. in plastic).

You should also refrain from buying dried, stained, or even moldy mushrooms. For larger specimens such as porcini mushrooms, you can also carry out a freshness test: simply press the cap lightly with your index finger. If it’s soft and gives way, the mushroom is most likely spoiled.

How to store mushrooms

As you already know, mushrooms only stay fresh for a few days. Wild mushrooms are best prepared on the same day. Since mushrooms are very sensitive to light, heat, and pressure, they should be stored in an air-permeable container or in a paper bag in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator.

Freeze mushrooms

Mushrooms are also great to freeze to increase their shelf life. But before that, you have to clean them well, cut them into slices or pieces and then blanch them briefly. Simply put the mushrooms in boiling salted water, take them out and shock them with cold water. Then drain the mushrooms well. It is best if you pat dry each piece individually. Mushrooms can be stored in the freezer for about 6 months.

Pickle mushrooms

Apart from Tintlingen, you can pickle all young, firm, and worm-free edible mushrooms in broth, oil, or vinegar. The best pickling mushrooms include B. porcini, button mushrooms, chanterelles, irritants, or butter mushrooms.

To pickle mushrooms in olive oil, first boil 1 liter of good wine vinegar, 0.5 liters of water, 2 tablespoons of salt, and the spices of your choice, add 2 kg of mushrooms and let them cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Then pour off the brew, spread the mushrooms out on a clean cloth, and leave to cool for a few hours. It is important that you no longer touch the boiled mushrooms with your hands. In the meantime, sterilize the required sealable glass containers.

Finally, fill the glass with a layer of mushrooms and cover them with high-quality olive oil – until the glass is full – and close it tightly. Always make sure that all mushroom parts are well covered with olive oil, otherwise, mold will develop.

Dry mushrooms

It’s also not rocket science to dry your own mushrooms. First, you should cut them in half or slice them thinly and then dry them at around 40 degrees Celsius. A dehydrator works best for this, but you can also use the oven. You can place the mushroom slices on a baking sheet lined with baking paper or on a wire rack. Choose the convection function or leave the oven a crack open.

An alternative is air drying. The mushrooms are also cut into slices, threaded on strings, and hung in a sheltered place (e.g. attic). In the warm season, the mushroom pieces can also be laid out on a cloth or parchment paper and dried in the sun.

Dried mushrooms should be stored airtight.

Prepare mushrooms

First of all, the motto is not to use canned goods, since more than half of the valuable ingredients are lost through the preservation process. Frozen mushrooms should not be thawed before cooking.

Before wild mushrooms are prepared, they should be cleaned thoroughly. You can either gently brush them under running water or dry them. However, do not leave the mushrooms in the water, as they will then soak up like a sponge and lose their aroma. It is best to pat them dry after washing. Cultivated mushrooms can be wiped off with a damp cloth.

Eat mushrooms raw?

Apart from that, you should know that the vast majority of mushrooms are poisonous in their raw state! These include the most widely cultivated fungi but generally not. Because mushrooms, shiitake, and porcini mushrooms can be eaten raw in the usual quantities of approx. 50 g, e.g. B. Marinated overnight (in the fridge) in lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt, garlic, and herbs.

If you don’t generally tolerate mushrooms very well and have a sensitive digestive system, you should also heat these mushrooms for at least 15 minutes, as they are difficult to digest if they are cooked for a short time. The following applies: the smaller they are cut open, the easier it is for digestion – although we always point out that it is often not the size of the pieces that is the cause, but rather the hectic eating and the reluctance to chew extensively. If you eat in peace and chew comfortably, you will suddenly be able to tolerate a lot of foods that previously caused you discomfort.

Can you reheat the mushrooms?

Incidentally, you can easily reheat mushroom dishes. For decades there were warnings about this, but that was only because in the old days there were no refrigerators and cooked mushrooms spoiled easily. But if you left your mushroom dish in the fridge overnight, you can warm it up and enjoy it the next day or the day after that.

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Written by Bella Adams

I'm a professionally-trained, executive chef with over ten years in Restaurant Culinary and hospitality management. Experienced in specialized diets, including Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw foods, whole food, plant-based, allergy-friendly, farm-to-table, and more. Outside of the kitchen, I write about lifestyle factors that impact well-being.

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