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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Bored Palates? Food Fads Mushrooming....

"We have discovered that mushrooms may be even better for health than previously known. They can be excellent sources of four key dietary micronutrients that are all known to be important in healthy aging."
"We are even looking into whether some of these could be important in preventing Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease."
Robert Beelman, professor, food science, Pennsylvania State University
Mushrooms contain some valuable nutrients.

We are forever searching for magic formulas that will make us healthier, guarantee longevity, create taste sensations, and allow us to be among the food cognoscenti partaking of truly fashionable dining choices. Mushrooms, decidedly within the fungi genus require a host to grow upon and usually that turns out to be decaying woody fibers. In woodland settings in spring and fall people who know their mycology, which are safe to eat and which best to avoid, go on expeditions to hunt out tasty morsels  for the table.

Mushrooms are known for other things too, of course, not merely for their edible qualities and taste sensations, but for other, more exotic values, as doors capable of opening us into a world of psychedelic wonders. There are those people who will go to great lengths to hunt down these marvels of psychic transformations and out-of-mind experiences. Clearly, the mushroom family is a vast species of flora capable of delivering both sustenance and mind-altering sensations.

From time to time on an ongoing basis one type of grain or fruit or vegetable is selected by influential public food figures as the 'food ingredient of the moment', and recipes and various exotic edible concoctions and pairings begin to take centre stage with a focus on stamping the chosen food item as special far beyond the nutritional qualities of other foods. The careful curation of establishing a stellar reputation for such foods results in their wild popularity, including for foods that few enjoy the taste of.

But mushrooms in all their various types are by and large good tasting as well as packed with nutrients while carrying very few calories. What's not to like? Dr. Beelman, in conducting a 2017 study, found specialty varieties like shiitake, porcini and grey and yellow oyster mushrooms are possessed of exceptionally high concentrations of antioxidants, ergothioneine and glutathione -- yum and benefits combined!

Even the button mushroom, the most common type to be found on supermarket shelves, and the safest bet for mushroom-suspicious food-preparers contain high levels of selenium and potassium. Mushrooms' new popularity and buzz is expanding the consumer market worldwide, with expectations that mushroom sales will result in over $50 billion by 2023. As for medicinal mushrooms combined with other foods, that market has surged by 800 percent.
Stuffed mushrooms
Make stuffed portabella mushrooms by filling them with your favorite ingredients and baking.

Medicinal mushrooms like chaga, lion's mane and reishi are being used in broths, beverages and even in the production of body care products on their way to presenting as one of the biggest food trends for 2018. Of the taste sensations such as sweet, salty, spicy, sour and bitter there is also umami, attributed to mushrooms. Umami is the taste that the Japanese explain is exemplified by monosodium glutamate, the ubiquitous taste enhancer in traditional Chinese food preparation.

Medicinal mushrooms are now -- wait for it -- being added as mushroom powder to lattes in coffee shops. Roasted coffee beans are similarly being blended with various types of fungi. Can it hurt, given that mushrooms are packed with vitamins and minerals? If while drinking coffee there is a lingering underlying taste of mushroom, it certainly might put some critical palates off. Perhaps, however that might be counteracted by the impression that it's high-style?

Before we get too immersed in the discussion entirely on the side of the mushroom cheerleading team, some scientists have given warning that the health benefits attributed to mushrooms require far more evidence before what's bandied about becomes a given. Chaga, commonly used in medicinal tinctures and teas, as example, said to "support cellular regeneration", "important for liver cleansing, "keep skin youthful", appears to be mostly wishful thinking.

According to MindBodyGreen, an examination "couldn't find a single study in which researchers gave chaga to human beings for any reason, let alone to determine if the fungus slows down aging in the skin". Caveat emptor!

Eating death cap mushrooms may lead to liver and kidney damage as well as death.

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