Surprising health benefits of mushrooms and how to eat more of them

Oct 19, 2020
Turns out, mushrooms come with a host of health benefits. Source: Getty.

They work great in a bolognese sauce, mixed through a stir fry or as a pizza topping, but did you know that mushrooms are fantastic when it comes to improving your health? Yes, that’s right — mushrooms are packed with good-for-you nutrients. Not only that, they’re incredibly versatile, making them the perfect vegetable to have on-hand.

The health benefits of mushrooms

According to Australian Mushrooms, these little veggies are rich in vitamin D, which is essential for strong bones and can help lessen your risk of developing osteoporosis later in life. In fact, a study published in the journal Dermato-Endocrinology found eating mushrooms can be just as effective as taking a vitamin D supplement. How come? Most mushrooms have been exposed to sunlight during their growth period.

Eating mushrooms has also been linked to increased feelings of fullness and reduced hunger, making mushrooms ideal for those watching their weight. Mushrooms also have gut health benefits, and can reduce bad breath! Not to mention mushrooms act as a prebiotic to stimulate the growth of gut microbiota, which helps with digestion, metabolism, immune function and brain health.

They’re also full of antioxidants, which help fight free radicals (unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing illness and ageing) in your body and support immune function. Mushrooms have also been linked with cancer-fighting and cholesterol-lowering properties and may boost heart health as well. In fact, one study published in the International Journal of Cancer found eating mushrooms may help lower your prostate cancer risk.

Getting the most out of your mushrooms

“Mushrooms are such a versatile way to add flavour to your meals, and we now know that there are a host of health benefits associated with eating mushrooms too,” leading dietician Jemma O’Hanlon tells Starts at 60.

And when it comes to getting the full benefits, she recommends eating a variety of mushrooms, such as button, cup, swiss brown, flat and portobello mushrooms. Jemma also recommends leaving your mushrooms in the sun (gills facing up) for about 15 minutes to increase its vitamin D levels. “It’s an easy trick that multiplies the vitamin D content of mushrooms by up to 10 times,” she says.

Jemma says you should also use every part of the mushroom in your meals — caps and stems, explaining that, “Many people don’t realise but there’s so much goodness found in mushroom stems, so don’t waste them!”

How to eat more mushrooms

“Mushrooms are a simple and delicious way to get extra goodness into your day,” Jemma says.

She recommends adding them into your favourite stir dry dish or toastie, whipping up a delicious mushroom sauce to pair with a nice side of steak or chicken, or even adding them into an omelette for a tasty way to start your day. If you’re not a big fan of mushrooms, or you have fussy eaters at home, try adding them into a bolognese sauce, so you won’t have to miss out on the vegetable’s many health benefits.

If you’re after some more inspiration, Australian Mushrooms has shared a tasty recipe for baked polenta tart.

Baked polenta tart

Ingredients

Polenta tart base

  • 1 cup coarse polenta
  • 1 garlic glove, minced
  • 500ml vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup grated cheese
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter for cooking
  • Cracked pepper to taste
  • Sea salt to taste

Tart toppings

  • 150g swiss brown mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 100g button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 150g (1 bunch) English spinach, rinsed, ripped into smaller pieces
  • 1 red onion thinly sliced into half-moons
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 100g marinated goats cheese
  • Unsalted butter for cooking
  • Sea salt to taste

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Lightly grease a 35cm pie tin and set aside.
  2. Warm up a heavy-based medium saucepan to medium heat, add a lump of butter. Once the butter has melted, add the minced garlic and saute until it turns a light golden colour. Add the polenta and stir thoroughly to coat in butter.
  3. Gradually pour in the stock while continually stirring to prevent lumps forming. Once the polenta thickens and the grains soften, add the grated parmesan cheese, fresh herbs, pinch of salt and a good amount of cracked pepper.
  4. Remove from the heat and turn the polenta out into the pie tin. Using a spatula, level out the polenta and allow for a nice thick side crust. Trim off any excess.
  5. Place the tart casing in the oven to cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until it becomes crispy.
  6. To cook the caramelised onion, add a lump of butter to a heavy-based frying pan. Add the thinly sliced red onion and allow to sweat down, stirring until the onions become translucent and soft.
  7. Add the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar and stir through. Cook for a further five minutes while the sugar dissolves and the balsamic vinegar caramelises. Remove from heat and set aside.
  8. In the same frying pan on medium heat add a small lump of butter and the English spinach. Saute until it becomes soft and wilted, remove from the heat and set aside.
  9. Using the same frying pan, add a lump of butter followed by the sliced mushrooms and the thyme. Saute until the mushrooms become tender and juicy. Remove from heat and set aside.
  10. To fill the tart, spread out the caramelised onion across the base. Follow with the wilted spinach and top with the sauteed mushrooms. Finish off with spoonfuls of marinated goats cheese, a drizzle of the oil from the cheese and a sprinkle of fresh parsley over the top. Serve warm straight away.
Baked polenta tart
Baked polenta tart. Source: Supplied.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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