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Fantastic Fungi Deliver Elusive Nutrients

The modest-looking mushroom actually towers in terms of its nutrition benefits. These edible fungi supply significant amounts of selenium and riboflavin, both of which play a role in regulating your body’s liver functions. Studies also suggest that mushroom nutrients might help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Mushrooms come in countless tasty varieties, but here we focus on the popular shiitake, portobello, brown and white mushrooms. While each offers unique nutrient advantages, all are non-fattening (about 20 calories a cup), so add weight control to the many reasons to make room for mushrooms!

Shiitake: These large-canopied mushrooms are kings of the forest because they’re a top source of vitamin B5. Shiitake provides over a third of daily vitamin B5 needs — a hard-to-get nutrient needed for neurotransmitter production.

Portobello: One cup of diced portobellos is a significant source of seven vitamins and minerals — including well over a third of your daily needs for vitamin B2 (riboflavin), which helps support your body’s own antioxidant defense systems. Portobellos also provide a good source of potassium, a mineral that’s MIA from most Americans’ diets and needed to help control blood pressure.

Brown: Otherwise known as Italian, crimini or portabellini mushrooms, browns are actually baby portobellos. If grown for another 2-3 days they would quadruple in size. As you might guess, browns have similar nutrient profiles to the more mature portobello mushrooms. The standout in this case is selenium: One cup of brown mushrooms supplies nearly a third of your daily needs. Selenium, which may help protect the prostate, build stronger bones, support heart health and even boost immunity.

White: This popular mushroom (and its baby version, the “button”) accounts for 90% of the U.S. mushroom market. One study by Tufts researchers suggests an increased intake of white button mushrooms could enhance “natural killer” cells, improving immunity to tumors and disease-causing viruses. Look in your grocers fresh produce section for Dole mushrooms.

Like this kind of food variety and nutrient comparison? Check out others on leafy greens, nuts, beans, melons and herbs.

Published September 1, 2012

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