Mushroom caps are the usual go-to star of vegetarian dishes at dinner parties and events, but they’re a lot more versatile (and nutritious) than you might think. In one portobello mushroom, at only 18 calories, you get four percent of your daily fibre and two grams of protein – a combination that helps keep you full without making a caloric dent.
Research has praised mushrooms for their possible role in helping to manage cholesterol, control blood sugar and even help reduce the risk of breast cancer, but right now the buzz is all about vitamin D. Mushrooms synthesize vitamin D2 from the sun, similar (albeit a bit less potent) to the D3 version that our skin manufactures in UV light. While there are vitamin D-enriched mushrooms on their way to a store shelf near you, you can place your regular mushrooms in direct sunlight for an hour to boost their levels of the bone-building nutrient.
Mushrooms are also one of the greatest sources of the fifth taste sensation, umami. Described as savoury, woodsy, earthy and rich, umami gives mushrooms their distinct meat-like quality. You probably won’t fool a meat eater by putting a grilled mushroom cap “steak” on his plate, but a quick grind in the food processor with some spices can make it a delicious substitute for hamburger meat.