When it comes to mushrooms, it seems that most people either like them or they don’t.
But for those who do, how they are prepared significantly impacts their nutritional value, according to research published last week in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition.
“A significant decrease was detected in the antioxidant activity especially after boiling and frying, while grilled and microwaved mushrooms reached higher values of antioxidant activity,” concluded the researchers.
The Spanish scientists examined the nutritional content of the world’s most popular mushrooms: white button (Agacricus bisparus), shitake (Lentinula edodes), oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus) and king oyster (Pleurotus eryngi).
“Since cooking techniques clearly influence the nutritional attributes of mushrooms, the proper selection of treatments is a key factor to prevent/reduce nutritional losses. Microwaving and grilling were established as the best processes to maintain the nutritional profile of mushrooms,” the researchers noted.
Antioxidants are nutrients that boost the immune system and keep the body clear of free radicals. They also can be found in fruits and vegetables, usually the most colorful ones.
The research team from the Mushroom Technological Research Center in La Rioja, Spain harvested the mushrooms at facilities in CTICH, an agricultural technology center in Spain.
“After the cooking process, raw and uncooked mushrooms were then freeze-dried, and the proximate composition and the antioxidant activity were analyzed,” explained a Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology news release.
“Mushrooms are considered valuable health foods, since they have a significant amount of dietary fiber and are poor in calories and fat,” according to the news release.
“Moreover, they have a good protein content (20-30 percent of dry matter) which includes most of the essential amino acids; also provide a nutritionally significant content of vitamins (B1, B2, B12, C, D and E) and trace minerals such as zinc or selenium.”
Mushrooms also are high in beta glucans, which are sugars found in the cell walls of fungi such as mushrooms. These compounds have been used medicinally to treat AIDS, high cholesterol, cancer and diabetes.
For those who only like mushrooms fried and with a few beers at the bar, you won’t get as much nutritional punch as those who cook them on the grill or in the microwave.
“Boiling improved the total glucans content by enhancing the beta glucans fraction.”
This is the time of year when morel mushrooms are growing in the Midwest. Morel mushrooms were not included in the study but have a devout and enthusiastic following.
Morels grow in forests where people hunt them. Actually, they are unpredictable and can pop up anywhere, particularly on south-facing slopes.
Whichever mushroom you choose to prepare, it is important to soak mushrooms in salt water for at least 15 minutes, then rinse and repeat three times. Small insects can particularly hide inside the many pockets on the head of a morel.
Preparing mushrooms with a little bit of oil does not result in nutrient loss, according to the researchers. Olive oil is best, they say, because it will increase the fatty acid profile with only a minimal spike in calories.
A professional journalist nearly 30 years, David Heitz started his career at the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa before moving to Los Angeles. He led the Glendale News-Press to best small daily newspaper in the state (CNPA) as managing editor and also worked as executive news editor of the Press-Telegram. He worked briefly as deputy news editor of the Detroit News before returning to the Quad-Cities, where he has worked as a freelance medical writer since 2012 for several national websites. He recently purchased his childhood home and says he truly is “living the dream.”