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The many shapes and sizes of mushrooms

Seth Anderson
via Flickr

Although mushrooms are a popular ingredient in many dishes, their nutritional benefits are often overlooked. 

This week on “Take Care,” nutritionist Joan Rogus describes some of the more popular kinds of mushrooms and how to get the most nutrition out of them. Rogus is a registered dietician in central New York who has her own private practice in Syracuse.

You may be familiar with the portabello or the shitake mushroom, but Rogus says that there are “about 2000 edible varieties” of mushrooms. Mushrooms are also the only non-animal food that contain natural vitamin D and are very low in calories.

While food taste is usually categorized into bitter, sweet, sour, and salty, mushrooms fall into a different category. 

“Mushrooms impart that fifth taste called umami, which is savory,” says Rogus.

Stronger and meatier mushrooms like portabellos can even be used as substitutes for hamburgers. For those who are less enthusiastic about the taste of mushrooms, white button mushrooms are the blandest type of mushroom and are excellent on pizzas and salads.

It is best to eat mushrooms fresh, but Rogus says that they will keep for a week if you take them out of the plastic and put them in a brown paper bag. Dehydrated mushrooms are even easier to preserve, and “can last almost indefinitely.”

Canned mushrooms also last longer, but they are much less nutrient-rich than fresh or dehydrated mushrooms.

After a quick rinse (or soak for dehydrated varieties), your mushrooms can be used as an ingredient in sauces or even as the main course of your meal. Different combinations of mushrooms can create interesting and unique flavors as well.

“I would advise everybody to get a little bit of everything and try them,” says Rogus.