Local markets are bursting with color this time of year. Red, green and yellow peppers, orange winter squash and deep, dark greens fill many hand-held baskets making it difficult to nestle in a bunch of crimson beets or head of purple cabbage. In the midst of so much color, it’s easy to overlook the low-growing button mushroom.
The smooth, close-capped and thick stiped common mushroom is also known as button, crimini, brown, baby portabello, mini bella and portabellini. Even amongst fellow fungi, the abundantly common mushroom often takes second seat to the eye-catching shapes and textures of hen-of-the-woods, maitaki, shiitake and oyster varieties. But don’t let their simple shape and muted color have you dismissing their nutritional ability to prevent disease.
Perhaps the button mushroom’s biggest contribution to health is how it helps control internal inflammation. Scientific evidence is mushrooming on the topic of prolonged low-grade systemic inflammation linking the condition to diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, heart disease, and cancer.
Researchers are exploring how a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, eating refined foods as well as bacterial and viral infections can cause inflammation and the production of C-reactive protein (CRP) by the liver in response. Often, systemic inflammation goes undetected. However, the presence of CRP is an indicator.
The common mushroom also maintains an unobstructed blood flow through out blood vessels by preventing specific immune cells from attaching to the blood vessel walls.
Of importance to women at risk of hormone-dependent breast cancer, these mighty ‘shrooms contain a surprising amount of conjugated linolenic acid (CLA). Usually found in milk, cheese and meat, CLA binds onto specific enzymes to reduce estrogen production. This can also counter elevated estrogen levels due to chronic stress, eating too much sugar, bacterial imbalances in the gut and the consumption of artificial estrogen-mimicing compounds and toxins in our foods.
Most mushrooms are grown chemical-free. Thus, purchasing organic may not be as critical as with other produce. Just gently brush their surface with a dry paper towel or a soft brush to remove any dirt. Rinsing in water can dilute their naturally earthy flavor.
A cup of mushrooms has a notable 18 vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals – many of which are temperature sensitive. Fresh mushrooms should always be kept at 38 degrees Fahrenheit – the temperature of most refrigerators. They should be firm, but soft and free of discoloring, a sign of deterioration and phytochemical loss. In order to maximize the flavor with the least heat-degradation of nutrients, sauté for no more than seven minutes when cooking.
The World’s Healthiest Foods. (2001-2012). Mushrooms, crimini. Retrieved September 7, 2012, from http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=97
Center for Healthy Living. (2002-2008). Inflammation. Retrieved September 7, 2012, from http://www.wwu.edu/depts/healthyliving/PE511info/infection/Causes.html
Elliott, T. (2010 September 14). Causes of estrogen dominance. Message posted to http://www.livestrong.com/article/244779-causes-of-estrogen-dominance/
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