Traditionally mushrooms have been utilised in numerous ‘natural’ remedies and in more recent time, exploited in pharmaceutical drugs. Fungus research led to the discovery of antibiotics, antifungals, certain immunosuppressant drugs (used in organ transplantation to prevent rejection and autoimmune diseases), Ergometrine (used in labour) and Statins. The first Statin—Mevastatin, was isolated from a fungus in 1976. Oyster mushrooms naturally produce Lovastatin which is also found in Chinese red yeast rice —a fermented rice product used in Chinese cooking to colour and flavour foods such as roast meats. When eaten it has identical biological effects to low dose prescription Statin (which is obvious as it is the same compound).
Fungi appear to produce some pretty amazing biologically active compounds and currently there is interest in immune and anti-tumour (i.e. anti-cancer) properties. We want to emphasise that to-date there is no proof of treatment effects in humans but some provisional interesting basic and animal research. Some of this interest is specifically related to Beta Glucan within mushrooms (you will remember that this is the active soluble fibre in oats)—therefore there is theoretical cholesterol and cardiovascular benefits as well. Much of the current research and data appears to originate from the East and ‘tropical mushrooms’ (Shitake, Reishi & Maitake) which fits with the cultural interests in traditional medicine and remedies.
The general nutritional value of mushrooms and overall effects on health are without question — they are nutritionally rich, promote feeling full, but low in calories. The other interesting fact from a cardiovascular perspective is that they are high in potassium and low in sodium— 100g of brown mushrooms (white have less) contain around 450mg of potassium. Compare this to 350mg for 100g of banana. The reason we are interested in this is because a high potassium to sodium ratio is associated with blood pressure lowering. You will note that this recipe also contains a generous amount of parsley which is super-high in potassium — 550mg (or 2680mg dried) per 100g of parsley.
Putting the theoretical advantages of mushrooms aside this simple meal recipe is quick, delicious, versatile, filling and has cardiovascular advantages with specific interest around potassium and blood pressure.