The sun is getting brighter, the air is breezy and sweet, and we’re just moving away from soup season. But my mind is still reflecting on so-called immune-boosting foods from the last post! Although total diet quality likely matters more than loading up on a single “superfood,” there are special foods worth exploring.
Mushrooms are one. They’re either loved or hated, and at first glance nutritionally they’re far from extraordinary. Low in calories and fat and containing only small amounts of nutrients, you wouldn’t consider them a must-have. But mushrooms are revered by certain cultures and have been eaten and used as medicine for thousands of years. Traditional medicine practitioners firmly believe in their healing properties. It’s actually their non-nutritive substances such as polysaccharides that exert antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Animal and cell studies show that mushrooms can stimulate the action of immune cells, macrophages, and free radicals—our first-line defenders against invaders entering the body. The mushroom’s polysaccharides also act as a prebiotic, or food for beneficial gut bacteria. They can support the growth of digestive-friendly strains like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Cooking-wise, mushrooms contain an amino acid called glutamate, that magical ingredient that injects foods with a rich savory umami flavor. There are thousands of varieties of mushrooms out there. Check out our Nutrition Source food page dedicated to mushrooms to learn more.
I recently tried this recipe for mushroom soup because I was inspired learning about mushrooms! I’ve never made mushroom soup and this was also my first experience using full-fat coconut milk. I’d always avoided coconut milk because of the high saturated fat content, but I’ve realized that it can be a valuable cooking ingredient when calling for richness. The recipe below was super easy, and I was most pleasantly surprised by how light the soup tasted! It had the umami from the mushrooms and liquid aminos, and a subtle creaminess from the coconut milk but nowhere near the heaviness I expected. It also didn’t have any coconut flavor that I feared would overpower the soup. Give it a try with some crusty bread for a soothing lazy afternoon treat!
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 packages (8 oz each) sliced white button mushrooms
1 package (8 oz) sliced portobello mushrooms
2 tbsp liquid aminos
1 14oz can full-fat coconut milk
Salt and black pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a 3-quart pan on medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté several minutes until softened.
- Stir in the sliced mushrooms and liquid aminos, and cover the pot. Continue to cook on medium-high, covered, for about 10 minutes.
- Remove the lid, stir, and cook for another 10 minutes uncovered to allow some of the water to evaporate.
- Add the coconut milk and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with any herbs as desired.