Fungal Nutrition for a Healthier You

Those of us who enjoy mushrooms love their fresh earthy taste. Prepared right, mushrooms can add so much flavor to our soups, salads, meat dishes, pasta dishes, and so many others. But did you know that mushrooms are not only good but also good for you? Mushrooms are a nutritional powerhouse that can help make for a healthier you. (Source: UCLA Health –

Mushrooms can lower your cancer risk. A review of 17 cancer studies from 1966 to 202 shows that consuming as little as 18 grams of mushrooms each day can reduce your cancer risk by up to 45%. Mushrooms contain large quantities of ergothioneine, an antioxidant and amino acid that slows or prevents cellular damage.

Mushrooms are low in sodium. A single cup of white button mushrooms contains only 5 milligrams of sodium. And since mushrooms are also very flavorful, using them in prepared meals means that less salt is needed. A study from the Culinary Institute of America and UC Davis showed that replacing half of the meat in a ground beef dish with mushrooms can lower sodium intake by 25% while still maintaining flavor.

Eating mushrooms can help lower cholesterol. Mushrooms contain compounds that inhibit cholesterol production and absorption and lower cholesterol levels in the blood.

Mushrooms can protect brain health. A study in Singapore showed that participants who consumed more than two cups per week of mushrooms had a 50% lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Mushrooms are an excellent source of Vitamin D. Most people get their Vitamin D from supplements or sunshine, but mushrooms are a natural source of this essential nutrient. Certain mushrooms, when exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation, can increase their concentration of Vitamin D. White button, portabella, and cremini mushrooms provide the largest amount of Vitamin D after being exposed to the sun. To get the maximum benefit, slice three mushrooms (or one portabella), expose them to sunlight for fifteen minutes, than enjoy. You can also get the same benefit from a cup of maitake (hen of the woods) mushrooms without the sun exposure.

Mushrooms can promote gut health. Mushroom polysaccharides can stimulate the growth of healthy gut bacteria. They are unaffected by stomach acid and can pass through all the way to the colon to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria there.

Mushrooms can play a role in supporting a healthy immune system. Mushrooms contain certain macronutrients that help promote a healthy immune system.

  • Selenium, a crucial mineral the body needs to make antioxidant enzymes to prevent cell damage. Cremini and portabella contain the highest amounts of selenium.
  • Vitamin D, which assists with cell growth, increases immune function, and reduces inflammation. Maitake mushrooms are an excellent source of this nutrient.
  • Vitamin B6, which plays a role in red blood cell, protein, and DNA formation. Shitake mushrooms are the best source of Vitamin B6.

So pile on the mushrooms. Your body will thank you!


Know Before You Grow

Those of you who have taken one or more of my classes have probably heard me make this little speech. But for those of you who haven’t yet, I’m going to write about this for all to hear. Gardening is a fun and enjoyable hobby. However, if you also want it to be a successful hobby, you’re going to have to do a little homework. By that I mean that before you plant anything in your garden, you have to do some research on it. In other words, know before you grow.

“What? Homework? Research? I didn’t sign up for that! All I want to do is plant some vegetables. Homework is for schoolkids, not me.” And you are entitled to that opinion. But I will tell you, based on personal experience, that if you want to boost your chances of a bumper crop of veggies, it’s going to take some pre-work on your part.

On several occasions, people have asked me why the tomatoes (or any other fruit or vegetable they planted) grew poorly or not at all, despite having given it plenty of tender loving care. The first question I always ask them is, what cultivar did you plant? And almost without fail, I’ll get an answer something like, “Oh, I don’t know. We just purchased whatever was on sale Wal-Mart.” And that, my friends, was their first mistake. Planting any old tomato will get you any old results. Were you lucky enough to choose a cultivar that is right for your soil conditions, environment, etc.? Well, then you want to be sure to plant it again. Oh, wait; you can’t. You never paid attention to what cultivar you purchased, so now you won’t know what to look for. Were you unfortunate enough to choose a poorly performing cultivar? Well, then you want to remember what it was so you don’t make the mistake of planting it again. What was it called again? Oops! You didn’t pay attention to what you bought. You now run the risk of accidentally planting it again.

And if the above two scenarios aren’t enough to convince you, then allow me to relate a personal experience. Years ago, I planted Jerusalem artichokes in my parents’ vegetable garden. At the time, all I knew about them was that I liked the taste of the knobby tubers (similar to potatoes) that the plant produced. After they started growing, I happened to read a little about them in one of my books. The description read as follows: “The Jerusalem artichoke, or sunchoke, in the sunflower family…” Wait a minute. Sunflower? Uh-oh. And sure enough those plants grew to a height of well over six feet, and with stems as thick as my wrist. I darn near gave myself a hernia trying to pull those plants out of the ground. And oh boy, were they prolific! I had shopping bags filled with tubers. And then, come the following spring, I got another surprise. The tubers I had failed to dig out began to sprout. They were now weeds. It took me two years to completely clear those plants from the garden. But if I had read about them in the first place, I might have thought twice before planting them.

Consider the current state of your garden – soil quality, amount of sun it receives, etc. Then decide what vegetables you wish to grow, and do some research to find out which cultivars of those vegetables will perform the best in your garden in terms of heartiness, yield, disease resistance, flavor, and many other criteria. Ultimately, you want to plant vegetable crops that are going to grow strong, hearty, and with and high yield of fruits and vegetables. Heirloom tomatoes are wonderful, but if last year’s crop of heirloom tomatoes was felled by a disease, then maybe this year, you want to plant a disease-resistant hybrid instead. Is your garden soil rather hard and blocky? Then instead of a long-rooted carrot cultivar, you’re better off planting one of the shorter rooted cultivars like Oxheart or Thumbelina.

So before you plant that seed, or put the seedling in the ground, consider well what you are about to plant. Make sure it’s the right plant for your garden. You’ll thank me at harvest time.

Love In the Garden

Valentine’s Day is almost upon us. Once again it’s time for that wonderful holiday that celebrates love, romance, and intimacy. And its initials are VD. So let’s be sure to be careful out there. But I digress.

Throughout history, human beings have tried to find foods and chemical substances to heighten the sexual appetites and stimulate the arousal of the ones they love. Well, did you know that you there are foods that you can grow in your very own garden that will accomplish this? Here are a few. Source: Hudson Valley Seed Company,

Basil – may increase blood flow, heart rate and fertility, but the true power of this herb lies in its aroma. In ancient India, women would cover their breasts with basil leaves to attract lovers. Italians referred to basil as “bacianicola” or “kiss me Nicholas,” because it was thought to attract husbands.

Celery – this garden vegetable contains androsterone, a male hormone that acts as a pheromone for attracting mates. A few bites, and the hormone will start flowing through your sweat glands, making you irresistible to the opposite sex.

Onions – “What, no!” you say. “Onions will make my breath stink!” Well, perhaps, but according to ancient Arabic and Hindu texts, onions can stimulate sexual attraction. Many monastic diets forbid the use of onions because they were thought to be too stimulating. A French tradition recommends that newlywed couples consume onion soup on their wedding day to restore sexual energy.

Tomatoes – in the 9th century, tomatoes were known as “love apples.” The Catholic Church banned them because they claimed that this fruit had “questionable morality.” Tomatoes are high in lycopene, which is thought to stimulate health of the prostate gland. If you heat up tomatoes, as in preparing a tomato sauce, you’ll increase the concentration of lycopene consumed.

Arugula – was the spirit-green of Priapus, one of the Greek gods of fertility. Arugula is chock-full of essential vitamins, and its stimulant power has been known as far back as the first century AD.

Coriander – is the seed of cilantro. In Arabian Nights, it was used to cure a merchant of impotence. Do you love cilantro? Then let a few plants go to seed, and someone may love you back.

Hot peppers – contain capsaicin, which creates the same bodily conditions as sexual arousal – body temperature increase, elevated heart rate, endorphin release, and nerve ending stimulation. It gives a whole new meaning to “spicing things up!”

Fennel – was known by the name of marathon back in ancient Greece. They associated this herb with strength, courage, and longevity. Fennel is an excellent aphrodisiac for women, as it contains high levels of phytoestrogens, a plant chemical very similar to the female hormone estrogen. In the 1930s, fennel was used as a source of synthetic estrogen for hormonal balance.

Yarrow – is associated with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. Yarrow was said to help in the search for a mate, and once that mate is found, it helps connect their hearts.

Carrots – carrot stewed sugar, a popular dessert in 1870s Tehran, was considered an aid for seduction and was highly valued by royalty for this reason. Carrots are high in beta-carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A, which is important for hormone production.

So now that you know about sexual stimulant properties, why not prepare some of them in a dish to feed to the object of your desire? Even better, you can grow all of these in your very own “love garden.” And lastly, if you are reading this and you are not yet a gardener, if this doesn’t encourage you to become one, I don’t know what else will!