MUSHROOMS have long been lauded as one of nature's superfoods. But don't be put off thinking you need to run out to gourmet farmer's markets for fancy shiitake, porcini or enokis or go out foraging for wild varieties to get the most out of your mushies.
New research has found common store-bought varieties like button, Swiss brown, Portobello and flat mushrooms also pack a punch when it comes to health-boosting properties.
The study and first ever global review of Agaricus Bisporus mushrooms, conducted by Nutrition Research Australia for Australian Mushrooms, for has shown that adding some common mushrooms to your favourite Bolognese, stir-fry, pasta or salad, can take your meals from good to great, and not just in flavour.
Filled with antioxidants and prebiotics, mushrooms combine many nutrients found within vegetables, meats, whole grains and nuts to deliver one nutritionally rich package.
As well as being a rich source of vitamin D, needed for strong bones, muscles and overall health, eating mushrooms will leave you feeling fuller for longer and contain special prebiotics that feed your good gut bacteria and help reduce bad breath.
They are also packed with antioxidants which help fight free radicals and regularly eating mushrooms has been linked to a reduction in the risk of ovarian cancer and the progression of prostate cancer.
The cell wall of mushrooms also contain beta-glucans, a soluble fibre commonly found in oats that has cholesterol lowering properties and may boost heart health.
Australian Dietitian Jemma O'Hanlon said the latest findings show why more Aussies should be adding mushrooms to their meals.
"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," she said.
And she has a hot tip to supercharge your mushrooms and boost their vitamin D content.
"To reap the vitamin D rewards, leave your mushrooms to tan in the sun with the gills facing up for 15 minutes - it's an easy trick that multiplies the vitamin D content of mushrooms by up to 10 times.
"You should also use every part of the mushroom in your meals - caps and stems. Many people don't realise but there is so much goodness found in mushroom stems, so don't waste them."
Need more inspiration to have fun with your edible fungus? Then try Jemma's delicious mushroom tart recipe.
Baked polenta tart with sauteed mushrooms, caramelised red onion, and spinach
Prep/cook time 45 minutes, serves 4
Polenta tart base
- 1 cup coarse polenta
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 500ml vegetable or chicken stock
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 1/2 tsp rosemary leaves
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter for cooking
- Cracked pepper to taste
- Sea salt to taste
- 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
- Parsley, roughly chopped
- Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
- Lightly grease a 35cm pie tin and set aside.
- Warm up a heavy base medium saucepan to medium heat, add a knob of butter. Once the butter has melted, add the minced garlic and sauté until it turns a light golden colour. Add the polenta and stir thoroughly to coat in butter.
- 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.
- 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 (the pie crust is meant to be thicker than a traditional pastry crust). Trim off any excess.
- Place the tart casing in the oven to cook for 25-30 minutes or until it becomes crispy and a darker golden colour.
- To cook the caramelised onion, add a knob of butter to a heavy base frying pan. Add the thinly sliced red onion and allow to sweat down, stirring until the onions become translucent and soft.
- Add the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar and stir through. Cook for a further 5 minutes while the sugar dissolves and the balsamic vinegar caramelises. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- In the same fry pan on medium heat add a small knob of butter and the English spinach. Sauté until it becomes soft and wilted, remove from the heat and set aside.
- Using the same fry pan, add a knob of butter followed by the sliced mushrooms and the thyme. Sauté until the mushrooms become tender and juicy. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- To fill the tart, spread out the caramelised onion across the base. Follow with the wilted spinach and top with the sautéed 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.
- The full report was published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry