Let’s Talk Food: Mushrooms for a healthier body

  • Photo courtesy Audrey Wilson Mushroom growing kits.

My grandson Quentin loves math and science and one of his favorite books is “Mushrooms of Hawaii” by Don E. Hemmes Ph.D., and Dennis E Desjardin, Ph.D. Because of that interest in mushrooms, he was very excited to eat them. We made a super easy creamy mushroom pasta, which everyone enjoyed.

Creamy Mushroom Pasta

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8-10 ounces assorted mushrooms, sliced

4-5 cloves garlic, pressed

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 8-ounce block cream cheese

2-4 tablespoons milk

1 pound spaghetti

Boil noodles for 10-11 minutes. While the noodles are boiling, saute mushrooms in olive oil and garlic until mushrooms are soft. Add cream cheese and mix until there are no lumps and sauce is smooth. Add milk to thin the sauce, if needed. Drain noodles, mix in sauce the mix sauce through. Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

• • •

I had heard many years ago from Dr. Hemmes that the nutritional value in mushrooms increases significantly after cooking. According to scientists at the Mushroom Technological Research Center in La Rioja, Spain.

“When mushrooms were cooked by microwave or grill, the content of polyphenol and antioxidant activity increased significantly, and there were no significant losses in nutritional value of the cooked mushrooms.”

Then in the 2021 issue of Advances in Nutrition, it was found that “folks who ate roughly 1/8 to 1/4 cup (measured raw) of any type of mushrooms daily had a 45% lower risk of all types of cancer-and most significantly breast cancer-compared to those who didn’t consume fungi.

Mushrooms pack high levels of glutathione and ergothioneine, a pair of potent antioxidants that combat free radical damage. (When free radicals are left unchecked, they can cause oxidative stress, which damages cells, tissues and DNA, potentially leading to cancer.)

Plus ergothioneine is especially good at suppressing tumor growth. While the study looked at once-a-day mushroom intake, spreading the total amount (1-1-3/4 cups) over the course of the week could have a similar benefit, notes study co-author John P. Ritchie Jr., Ph.D., a professor of public health sciences and pharmacology at Penn State Cancer Institute.”

Mushrooms not only contain antioxidants but are a good source of vitamin D, important for bone structure development. Can we get our children to have mushrooms as part of their diet to help with bone development?

Did you know that penicillin is extracted from mushrooms? Because of that, eating mushrooms improves your resistance to infection and strengthens your immune system. Research has also found that the antioxidants in mushrooms speed up the healing process for ulcers.

Mushrooms are very low in carbohydrates, contain no cholesterol, and have high protein levels. They also remove plaque accumulations from the walls of the blood vessels, as well as reduce LDL cholesterol.

Mushrooms are a natural and very effective alternative for supplementing one’s iron, necessary for those suffering from anemia.

Diabetics may be surprised to know that insulin found naturally in mushrooms helps disintegrate the sugar and starch in their food.

Certain types of mushrooms seem to help reduce blood pressure, such as shiitake and maitake varieties. Both are rich in potassium.

Mushrooms contain a compound called selenium in good quantities, which helps to strengthen our immune system and enhances the protection of body cells and tissue.

It also works as an antioxidant to remove poisons from vital organs.

There is even a claim that mushrooms could possibly fight off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists have fed mushroom to rodents and it showed that their diet helped promote nerve growth in the brain.

But this study needs further research of humans to confirm this benefit of eating mushrooms.

According to Mushrooms of Hawaii, the Chinese for over 2,000 years have made kombucha with the Manchurian mushroom to detoxify the blood, prevent cancer, and prevent one from catching certain viruses like a common cold.

Reishi and Ling Zhi, a wood-rotting polypore fungus, is used as a tea or powder the strengthen the immune system and promote long life.

This practice has been used for over 4,000 years in Japan and China. These extracts are available at health food stores.

• • •

Here is a recipe from “Mushrooms of Hawaii” by Lilinoe Cranford of Hilo.

Hot Chicken with Wood Ear

2 cups shredded dried wood ear fungus

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

8 chicken thighs, sliced into slivers

2 cans water chestnuts, drained and slivered

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1 tablespoon chili pepper paste (to taste)

1 teaspoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons salt

Chicken broth or water

Rehydrate 2 cups shredded dried wood ear fungus in cold water for about 1 hour. Stir-fry garlic and chicken until chicken is browned. Add water chestnuts, wood ear fungus, seasonings, a little chicken broth or water, and stir-fry for another 5 to 10 minutes. Serve hot.

We had so much fun ordering a mushroom growing kit online. Everyday Quentin would make sure the medium was well watered. He found out from Dr. Hemmes that he could not overwater so was very enthusiastic about watering, sometimes twice a day.

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These kits make great Christmas gifts for a youngster interested in growing things or science.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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