Commonly considered a vegetable, mushrooms are actually a fungus, and they are delicious and nutritious. Often added to a salad or served as a side dish, mushrooms are rarely acknowledged as a source of many health-promoting nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, which have been linked to decreased risk of chronic diseases.
Each variety of mushroom will have a slightly different caloric count, but if you eat one cup of raw, white mushrooms, you will consume 15 calories. This serving size contains 0.5 grams of fiber and just over 1 gram of carbohydrates. With this serving, you will also have 1 gram of protein.
Crimini mushrooms are high in many vitamins, including riboflavin, niacin and vitamin B-5, a vitamin essential for metabolism. They are very good sources of other B vitamins, including B-1 and B-6, and a good source of folic acid, which is involved in the proper function of red blood cells and in the synthesis of DNA. Mushrooms varieties such as portobello and crimini contain antioxidants, helping to slow down the aging and destruction of cells within the body. Vitamins also provide a source of vitamin D, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Mushrooms are an excellent source of many minerals, including selenium, a powerful antioxidant, in addition to potassium and phosphorous. One 5 oz serving provides 35 percent of the daily value of copper. They are a very good source of manganese and zinc, which regulates nerve impulses and hormone release, and a good source of calcium and iron.
Many varieties of mushrooms are available at your local market, including crimini mushrooms, which are similar in appearance to white button mushrooms, but with a darker coffee color, deeper flavor and greater nutrient density. Portobello mushrooms are large and meaty, making them suited to be served as entrees. Porcini mushrooms have a long, fleshy stalk and pores on the underside of their cap, while oyster mushrooms have a tender, velvety texture.
Mushrooms are tasty sliced and added to salads, or as a companion to carrots and celery next to your favorite dip. Since important nutrients can be destroyed or diminished by overcooking mushrooms, it is healthiest to saute them for a few minutes. Use veggie broth instead of oil, which when heated can produce cancer-causing chemicals, and try them with garlic or onions.