Mushrooms have grabbed the attention of dementia researchers - and it's good news if you love the tasty fungi.
The Australian Mushroom Growers Association has been buoyed by new research into nutrients found in mushrooms and cognitive health.
The association's dietitian, leading nutritionist Jane Freeman, says it seems consuming even a small portion of mushrooms each week could help lower the risk of cognitive impairment, which often precedes conditions like dementia, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.
"Mushrooms have grabbed the attention of dementia researchers due to being one of the highest food sources of a neuroprotective type of amino acid called ergothioneine," Ms Freeman said.
"Interestingly, mushrooms are a food that contains one of highest sources of ergothioneine, which may contribute to the promotion of nerve tissue and help stave off symptoms of brain disorders."
A healthy lifestyle is also important, including regular exercise which has been shown to help slow or prevent the onset of dementia.
So how many mushrooms do we need to eat to help to keep our brains healthier?
Ms Freeman said research from the National University of Singapore found seniors who ate more than two standard portions of mushrooms per week (equivalent to half a plate) could have 50 per cent less chance of suffering mild cognitive impairment.
"A separate study published in the British Journal of Nutrition also showed that even eating one small portion of mushrooms a week was beneficial to reducing the risk of cognitive decline," she said.
"This is another reason why we all should be eating three mighty mushrooms a day, to support our overall health."
Want to add mushrooms to your diet? Try this tasty recipe courtesy of the Australian Mushroom Growers Association:
Mushroom & Chicken Pot Pies
- 300g button mushrooms, sliced 1cm thick
- 500g chicken thigh fillets, diced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 20g butter
- 1 onion
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 4 sprigs thyme, leaves only
- 1 leek
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 300ml cream
- 2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
- salt & pepper
- 4 sheets pastry
- 1 egg
Preheat oven to 180°C
In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and half of the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and set aside in a large bowl. Add the remaining chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add to the bowl and set aside.
Return the frying pan to the heat. Add half the butter to the pan, followed by onion and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the thyme leaves and chopped leek. Cook, stirring for 3-4 minutes or until softened. Add mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes. Transfer mushroom mixture to the bowl with the chicken.
Return the frying pan to the heat with remaining butter. Once butter has melted, add flour and stir over low heat for 1-2 minutes. The mixture will be lightly golden and resemble dry breadcrumbs. Add cream to the pan. Stir to combine, ensuring the flour does not stick to the base of the pan. Simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened.
Return the chicken and mushroom mixture to the pan. Stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
In the meantime, prepare the pastry by tracing a knife around the outside edge of a pie dish or 4 ramekins and lightly whisk the egg in a small bowl.
Spoon the chicken and mushroom mixture into the dish/s. Brush egg mixture evenly around the rim of the dish/s.
Place pasty over the dish/s and pinch to edges to seal.
Brush the pastry with egg mixture and sprinkle with additional thyme leaves. Use scissors or a sharp knife to snip 3-4 holes in the top of the pastry.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden on top and heated through. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Serve pot pies with a side salad.