Mushrooms are fat free, low in sodium and very low in calories; one cup of raw slices of white mushrooms contains only 20 calories. They are full of the B vitamins thiamin, niacin, B6, pantothenic acid, and folate. Mushrooms are also good sources of the minerals iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, phosphorus, copper, potassium and selenium.
When it comes to antioxidants, the substances that help fight free radicals that are the result of oxidation in our body, we are more likely to think of colorful vegetables than neutral-hued mushrooms. But a study at Penn State University showed that the total antioxidants of crimini and portobello mushrooms were about the same as for red peppers.
Although portobello mushrooms are higher in calories than white mushrooms (1 cup of grilled slices contains 42 calories), they are also high in fiber and their polysaccharide (carbohydrate source) and beta-glucan components (soluble fiber) exhibitt anti-cancer properties.
The most well-known are white, or button mushrooms. They’re versatile because of their mild flavor and are often used raw in salads and in many cooked recipes.
Enoki mushrooms are white and long-stemmed with a delicate flavor. You will find them in many Asian recipes.
Mushrooms like morel, porcini and shiitake have more distinct or meatier flavors and taste best when cooked, or in sauces.
Cremini mushrooms, also called Italian brown or baby bellas, look similar to white buttons but have a strong, earthy taste. If allowed an extended growing time, they develop into the large portobello mushrooms.
Choose firm mushrooms that are well-shaped and free from spots and slime. If you are not going to use them right away, store them in the refrigerator in the original plastic container or in a brown paper bag, for up to one week. Don’t clean until you’re ready to cook them. Mushrooms are very porous and will absorb water, which will make them soggy. Remove any loose debris gently with a damp paper towel or a soft brush.
To reap the full nutritional benefits, don’t prepare mushrooms with loads of butter. Instead, toss them into a nonstick pan that’s been lightly sprayed with oil, then sauté on low heat until they soften.