By Reneé Ortolani
When talking about fruit and veggie consumption, it’s usually recommended to look for the brightest colors of the bunch (i.e. bright red tomatoes, rich purple eggplant or green leafy spinach). The vibrant colors means the fruit or veggie is packed with vitamins and nutrients. While you’re painting your plate with color, leave room for the less vibrant hues too! While they don’t make for as striking a presentation as a carton of blueberries, paler veggies like cauliflower; onions and mushrooms are good sources of nutrients and antioxidants.
Okay, so technically mushrooms aren’t really vegetables, but rather a type of edible fungi. They have more in common with yeast than most of what you’ll find in the supermarket’s produce section. Some of the most common varieties of mushrooms include: portabello, shiitake, cremini, and chanterelle but there are thousands of different types of mushrooms. Mushrooms range in color from white to tan to golden and generally have a mild to strong (depending on variety) earthy flavor. Not all mushrooms are edible, though. Because some poisonous mushrooms look very similar to edible varieties, it’s best to leave mushroom picking to the expert mushroom hunters.
So why are mushrooms so great? Let’s break down their nutrients. Mushrooms are naturally low in sodium, fat, cholesterol, and calories making them a healthy option to add to any meal. Mushrooms are also packed with the B vitamins riboflavin, folate, thiamine, pantothenic acid, and niacin. They’re also the only non-fortified dietary source of vitamin D, a huge benefit to vegans. The list goes on with several minerals that mushrooms can add to the diet such as selenium, potassium, copper, iron, and phosphorus.
If you thought that was all that mushrooms offered, keep reading. Not only does this food from the fungi kingdom rate high on the nutrient scale, they provide a slew of possible health benefits as well. Beta-glucans (a type of fiber found in mushrooms) has recently been studied to evaluate its effect on improving insulin resistance and blood cholesterol levels, while lowering the risk of obesity. Choline, another nutrient, aids in sleep, muscle movement, learning, and memory, while also helping support fat absorption and reduce chronic inflammation. The mineral selenium delivers cancer-fighting qualities by assisting in detoxifying cancer-causing compounds in the body. It also prevents inflammation, lowers tumor growth rates, and is important for liver enzyme function. The list goes on with supporting cardiovascular health, improving immunity, aiding in weight management, and increasing satiety too.
With all of these nutrient benefits, where can you go wrong with incorporating mushrooms into your lifestyle? There are so many ways that mushrooms can be added to a dish. Whether replacing your burger with a grilled and marinated portabello, adding creminis to an egg frittata, or mixing shiitake mushrooms into your favorite pasta dish, this powerhouse of a “veggie” is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
So, what are you waiting for? Add mushrooms to your grocery list and try them in this delicious portobello mushroom burger recipe from the MGH Be Fit Program, the perfect addition to your palette this summer season!
Be Fit Basics: Stacked Summer Veggie Portobello Burger
6 portobello mushrooms (any dirt brushed off with a paper towel), stems removed
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
4 rosemary sprigs (or 1 tsp dried rosemary)
3 peaches cut in half with peach pits removed
3 bell peppers cut in half with seeds and stems removed
3 small onions, skins removed and sliced in half (preserving onion rings)
Salt and pepper (salt estimated at ½ tsp)
Place mushroom caps in a large bowl; add balsamic vinegar and 2 tbsp of olive oil. Tear leaves off rosemary sprigs and add them to the bowl. Add salt and pepper and toss all ingredients until mushrooms are fully coated (Adding additional balsamic as needed). In another large bowl place peaches, peppers and onions. Cut lemon in half and squeeze juice into bowl. Add remaining 2 tbsp olive oil with along with salt and pepper; toss to combine.
Light grill; allow it to come to medium-high heat or when you can hold your hand about 5 inches above the grill (being careful not to burn your hand) for 3-5 seconds. The process for lighting your grill will vary depending on whether you have a charcoal or gas grill. [Note: If you don’t have a grill you can roast the mushrooms, peaches, peppers and onions on a large baking sheet in a 425 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes. (The cooking time may vary slightly depending on your oven.)]
Place mushrooms, peaches, peppers and onions on grill. Grill until slightly charred and cooked through, about 5-15 minutes. Turn vegetables once half way through cooking.
Assembly: On bottom of a wheat bun place peppers, onions, peaches and mushroom cap. Place other bun half on top
Yield: 6 serving
Nutrition Information per Serving (not including bun):
Calories: 180 • Protein: 4g • Sodium: 210mg • Carbohydrate 22g • Fiber: 5g •
Fat: 10g • Sat Fat: 1.5g
(Content reviewed by MGH Department of Nutrition and Food Services)