Mushrooms of all shapes, sizes, and varieties have been a staple food for thousands of years, and not only because they are typically abundant and delicious, but also because they’re packed with health benefits. So much so that they’ve often been used as medicine.
Every ancient civilization has used mushrooms for food and its healing properties. In fact, the ancient Egyptians even referred to mushrooms as the plant of immortality.
Of the edible mushrooms, it’s estimated that about half of them are considered functional mushrooms, which means they have advantageous health benefits and can even be used to treat disease.
With a diet rich in mushrooms, you too can boost your health, and you can create fantastic meals, just like this one.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 cup corn
1/4 Cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon sp pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon flour
Ingredients for Potato Topping:
4 potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon vegan butter
1/2 cup soy milk or nut milk
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
1. Preheat oven to 425°
2. In a medium-large pot, over medium heat, combine oil, garlic, and onions. Cook for about one minute, until the onions begin to soften. Add the celery and carrots, and continue cooking until the onions are translucent and soft.
3. Add mushrooms, corn, parsley, tomato paste, thyme, sage, salt, and pepper and mix well. Pour a half cup of the vegetable stock in, and allow it to rise back to a simmer, add another half cup. Continue adding a half cup of vegetable stock and waiting for a simmer until you’ve used up all of the vegetable stock.
4. Add flour and mix thoroughly, continue stirring until the filling thickens. Then remove from heat, and pour into a pie dish.
5. Place your potatoes in a large pot and cover with lightly salted water. Cook over medium-high heat until boiling. Continue cooking until potatoes are soft and tender. Remove from heat and drain out the water.
6. Mash the potatoes with butter and milk, adding salt and pepper to taste.
7. Spoon the mashed potatoes over the top of your vegetable filling and smooth with a spatula.
8. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Allow the pie to cool for about five minutes to further set before slicing and serving.
Before you dig into your shepherd’s pie, or while you’re waiting for it to cook, consider all of the nutrition that’s packed into these little fungus nuggets.
While mushrooms are often considered a plant-based food, they actually fall into the classification of fungus. This means they do share some characteristics with plant foods, but they also share some with animal foods.
Some of the nutrients you’ll find in a mushroom include B vitamins, selenium, potassium, copper, and vitamin D. While you’re usually told to opt for brightly colored vegetables and fruits to get more nutrients and antioxidants, mushrooms are the exception as they are loaded with both.
Mushrooms contain an indigestible carbohydrate called chitin. This carb is found in shrimp and crab shells but not in plants. Because your body can’t digest this substance, it adds bulk to your meals, making you feel fuller longer and helping move waste through your body more efficiently.
Sometimes what’s most important is what food does not have. In the case of the mushroom, it does not have a lot of calories, has virtually no fat, and no cholesterol, and they’re very low in sodium.
The benefits of mushrooms go beyond adding nutrition to your diet, they can also boost your immune system.
A study on shiitake mushrooms found that regular consumption of this particular mushroom improved immunity and did so while simultaneously reducing inflammation. Beyond that, the way mushrooms improve your immunity is not replicable with modern pharmaceuticals. It’s a benefit that goes beyond modern medicine.
One health benefit that everyone wants is the ability to fight cancer. Mushrooms contain a protein called lectin, which can do just that.
Lectins bind to abnormal cells and cancer cells. This signals our immune system that something isn’t quite right, and these cells are destroyed.
An article published in Molecules looked deeper into the functional food classification of mushrooms and found that they possess important bioactivities such as: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, immunomodulatory, antimicrobial, hepatoprotective, and antidiabetic. This gives them to power to fight many diseases, and potentially even prevent the development of these ailments, including cancer.
While mushrooms are great for the human body, they also have some benefits for our planet as well. They can do more than you realize, including:
♦ Cleaning up oil spills
♦ Absorbing farm pollution
♦ Fighting off smallpox and the flu
♦ Combating unwanted insect infestations
♦ Creating a rich environment for farm and forest growth
♦ Serving as a sustainable fuel source
It seems that we’re discovering more benefits to the mushroom on an almost daily basis, even though this fungus has been among us for thousands of years.
With so many health benefits coming from mushrooms, it’s easy to see why incorporating them into more meals is good for you.
The good news is it’s pretty easy to add mushrooms to savory meals you cook at home, like this vegan shepherd’s pie recipe, because they add a nice mild flavor and a pleasing texture that’s very versatile. They’re also a fantastic substitute for meat if you’re vegetarian or vegan or if you’re just looking for a new meatless Monday meal.
If you’re interested in boosting your health, preventing disease, and fighting off disease, then eating more mushrooms may be your answer. In doing so, you might be helping our planet thrive, too.