The Nutritional Value of Mushrooms

An interesting study passed my desk today that analyzed the chemical components of mushrooms, which were discovered to be mostly carbohydrates. Not surprisingly, the six varieties tested -- based on raw and cooked forms and at various times of the year -- were found to be rich in dietary fibers, including:

  • Chitin which lowers cholesterol
  • Beta-glutan, a chemical providing cardiovascular benefits

Mushrooms are known to offer high-quality protein, vitamins, unsaturated fatty acids and fiber, but a precise carbohydrate breakdown had been elusive, researchers said. The mushrooms studied were white button, crimini and portabella, all of which represent different maturity levels of Agaricus bisporus, and maitake (Grifola frondosa), shiitake (Lentinus edodes) and enoki (Flammulina velutipes).

Raw mature portobellas had the highest concentrations of chitin (8 percent) and beta-glucan (.2 percent). Raw enokis have almost as much chitin (7.7 percent), but no beta-glucan.

As you might expect, cooking tended to increase starch, total dietary fibers and fat contents and to decrease chitin concentrations in all of the mushrooms. For example, the chitin content in raw mature and immature portabellas and raw enokis all fell to 2.7 percent when cooked.

EurekAlert February 14, 2005

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