Ewww,fungi. True if it’s the fuzz on your loaf of bread or in the corners of the shower. But mushrooms, redolent of the earth, are worth cozying up to for their slew of nutritional perks, including immune-enhancing compounds such as polysaccharides.
Portabellos are fully grown cremini mushrooms with a robust texture and earthy flavor. They’re laced with chitin, a cholesterol-lowering carbohydrate, and contain only 22 calories per serving. These tan giants have a natural meatiness that takes well to marinades or glazes and makes them great for the grill.
Once reserved for Chinese emperors and royalty, this “medicine of the kings” provides immunity-boosting polysaccharides and proteins, and contains loads of triterpenes, organic compounds believed to help fight cancer. Reishi is too woody to eat and is only used for its medicinal purposes in supplement form, available at your natural products retailer.
It’s hard not to be smitten by shiitakes’ rich, smoky flavor and whimsical umbrella appearance. Add to pasta, casseroles, and stir-fries for a healthy dose of selenium, a potent antioxidant that helps mop up damaging free radicals. For a savory taste and extra texture, add dried shiitakes to soups.
The humble button mushroom can rev up the immune system and is a rare nonmeat, nondairy source of vitamin B12, necessary for making DNA and maintaining healthy nerve cells. With a woodsy flavor that becomes stronger during cooking, button mushrooms work well in soups, stews, and chilis.