Ingredient of the Month: Mushrooms

("Pierogies - Crimini mushrooms" by Rebecca Siegel/Flickr Creative Commons)

(“Pierogies – Crimini mushrooms” by Rebecca Siegel/Flickr Creative Commons)

Let me tell you, I have been waiting for this post for ages–I love mushrooms. In soups, salads, and omelets. Or sautéed in a little butter or olive oil with rosemary and garlic. Or parsley. Really, mushrooms are a great addition to any meal, being both tasty and nutritious.

Mushrooms are a good source of selenium, manganese, riboflavin, and niacin. Selenium, for instance, is connected to improved immune function and protection from some cancers (check abstract one and two), including lung cancer. Selenium deficiency (which is very rare in the US, so not really something to worry about) is connected to increased virulence in viruses, due to free-radical damage that selenium’s anti-oxidant properties could have prevented.

Riboflavin and niacin are both B vitamins–specifically, B2 and B3, respectively. Riboflavin has been shown to decrease severity and duration of migraine headaches in adults and it may be helpful in mitigating side effects of cancer treatments. Niacin plays an essential role in cellular respiration and ATP production (i.e., how you get anything and everything done) by moving electrons around, making it an important antioxidant. It also offers protection against cancer. In fact, “[c]ellular depletion of [niacin] has been found to decrease levels of the tumor suppressor protein p53,” and this is super important. Last semester, my professor in Cellular Biology introduced p53 as “the Guardian of the Genome” and it truly is. Anything that is going to suppress this tumor suppressor needs to be taken seriously.

Now that you know what little powerhouses mushrooms are, feel free to dig in. I like them sautéed in olive oil and served up in my eggs or on quesadillas–how do you eat your mushrooms? Tell us in the comments!

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