Mushroom is also known as toadstool, it’s a fleshy, spore -bearing fruiting body. The term “mushroom” and its variations may have been derived from the French word mousseron in reference to moss (mousse). The main types of this macro fungi are : Pleurotus ostreatus, Lentinula edodes, Agaricus bisporus, Flammulina velutipes and Auricularia auricular, and medicinal mushrooms mainly include Ganoderma lucidum, Cordyceps sinensis and Poria Cocos.
The vitamin D content of a mushroom depends on postharvest handling, in particular the unintended exposure to sunlight. The US Department of Agriculture provided evidence that UV-exposed mushrooms contain substantial amounts of vitamin D. When exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light, even after harvesting, ergosterol in mushrooms is converted to vitamin D2, a process now used intentionally to supply fresh vitamin D mushrooms for the functional food grocery market.
In a comprehensive safety assessment of producing vitamin D in fresh mushrooms, researchers showed that artificial UV light technologies were equally effective for vitamin D production as in mushrooms exposed to natural sunlight, and that UV light has a long record of safe use for production of vitamin D in food. Mushrooms are used extensively in cooking, in many cuisines (notably Chinese, Korean, European, and Japanese). Edibility may be defined by criteria that include absence of poisonous effects on humans and desirable taste and aroma.
Edible mushrooms are the fleshy and edible fruit bodies of several species of macro fungi. Edible mushrooms include many fungal species that are either harvested wild or cultivated. Mushrooms are of many types, some of them are ;button, Dhingri, Shiiitake, jelly ear mushroom, straw mushroom, golden needle, lily mushroom snow ear etc. but most commonly used among all these is button mushroom. Commonly used white button mushroom contains 93kj calories, vitamin D 7 IU, Choline 17.3 mg, Folate 17 ug, and Niacin 3,6mg per 100 gm.
The content of vitamin D is absent or low unless mushrooms are exposed to sunlight or purposely treated with artificial light. Mushrooms are good source of antioxidant nutrient Selenium. Selenium is known to protect body from chronic diseases and makes our immune system strong. Mushrooms also provide ergothioneine which helps to protect the body cells from damage. Mushrooms are rich sources of nutrients, yet low in calories, sodium and sugar hence helpful in weight management as it limits fat intake with high satiety value. It has nutrients which are good for heart health and cancer fighting properties.
Some studies say that an extract (polysaccharides) from mushrooms are used as an dietary supplement for betterment of immunity and even has anti-tumour properties. Beta- glucan are the main polysaccharides; which have anticancer, antioxidant and neuroprotective properties. It’s the only vegetarian source of Vitamin D. Wild mushrooms contain more off Vitamin D2 in comparison to cultivated ones. Lectins ; are glycoproteins have many medicinal properties and mushrooms are rich source of lectins. Mushrooms also contain ergosterol, which is good for cardiovascular diseases. Tocopherols are essential fatty acid which take important role in body metabolism and helps in betterment of degenerative disorders. Mushrooms can be used in diet of PEM (protein energy malnutrition) patients, for their improvement. It’s one of the macro fungi which has high nutritive value and has medicinal properties.
Mushrooms can be cooked, pickled added in soups, pasta and even noodles.
—The author is Associate Professor, Division of FST, SKUAST-K, Shalimar.