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Oh, settle down, Steven Tyler.. It’s not the 70’s and these aren’t those magic  mushrooms.

But if you’re trying to “ease up on the animal” for weight loss and health, mushrooms are pretty magic.

Roasted, grilled or sauteed, their savory flavors and textures make them a great stand in when reducing meat in your recipes. Even on the occasions when do serve a real steak or a chop, eating this “meaty” side along with it will help you eat less of the animal but feel no less satisfied.

And with a little garlic, shallot and broth, mushrooms make an elegant and rich soup.

Technically not a plant (because it doesn’t need photosynthesis), these “gilled” fungi are still crazy low in calories, only about 15 per cup, and loaded with nutrition.  Even cultivated mushrooms (which are a little less tasty and beneficial than wild varieties) are still high in fiber, iron, niacin, potassium, riboflavin, selenium, thiamin, zinc, and vitamins C, D and B-6, and even have a tiny bit of protein.

But it’s the mushroom’s glutamic acid, which is also found in MSG, that gives the ‘shroom the umami quality and makes it such an effective meat substitute. In fact, a 2008 study at Johns Hopkins proved that test subjects who were fed mushrooms instead of meat consumed far fewer calories but experienced no reduction in their feeling of fullness, leading researchers to conclude mushrooms could play an important role in weight loss.

Oh, Puh-leeze, get a ‘Shroom…

There are 3000 types of edible mushrooms in the world but, for your eating, and weight loss pleasure, you only need to know about a few.

WHITE BUTTON: By far the most used mushroom in America–90 percent of all mushrooms we eat–white buttons are the Rodney Dangerfield of the fungi world…they get no respect. But, even if chefs eschew them, you can still chew them.  A recent study for the USDA at Tuft’s University showed that the lowly button does promote immune function.

SHIITAKE: Used for centuries in Chinese medicine and cuisine, the shiitake is now being studied by western researchers for its potentially value in the treatment or prevention of immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, even cancer. But, since you probably aren’t curing cancer today, just use it in the kitchen where its distinctive flavor and chewy texture enhance so many Asian dishes, from soups, to noodles, to stir fries.

CREMINI: Also called brown mushrooms, Roman, or baby bellas, these are just immature Portobellos.  They have a slightly more meaty and earthy taste than white buttons. Stems are completely edible, just cut off the dry bit at the end.

PORTOBELLO (Portobella) :  This all grown up cremini has a big cap which makes it great for grilling. It can even be served as a burger substitute or stuffed as an entree. Sliced, it can stand in for half of the sliced beef in stir fry meat dishes like pepper steak.

OYSTER: These fungi grow on dead deciduous wood in clusters similar to oysters. Moist, fragrant, they also have a taste that some say is a little like seafood and are often substituted for oysters and clams in various seafood recipes.

MORELS: The fleeting season of the morel and its delicious flavor make it a real star of the mushroom world. Conical in shape, it’s surface has been described as everything from honeycombed to something resembling brain matter. For more than you’d ever want to know about morels, visit The Great Morel home page.

For anything else you want to know about the Magic of Mushrooms, visit the…and I’m not kidding… The Mushroom Appreciation Website.


About Lisa McRee

After 25 years as a local and network anchor, Lisa was just another American mother struggling, and failing, to lose weight. Finally, she cracked the code, and lost 30 pounds, quickly and for good, by doing what she loves: reporting, cooking and eating! The Skinny is the inside story on how she did it, and how you can, too!
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