The flavor "umami," which means "delicious" in Japanese, is valued for making foods taste meatier and more satisfying. Umami is the natural flavor of glutamic acid, which, in your body is often found as glutamate; eating umami-rich foods may increase post-meal satiety, helping you eat less throughout the day and ultimately lose weight.
Umami is valued for making foods taste better. When an umami-rich food like is added to soup stock, for instance, it makes the broth heartier, more "meaty", and more satisfying.
Mushrooms, and shiitake mushrooms in particular, are rich in umami flavor. This is why they're often used in place of meat in sandwiches. While I don't necessarily recommend cutting back on meat in your diet, particularly if it's organic and pastured, mushrooms do make an ideal meat "enhancer" for those trying to cut back.
By adding a "mushroom base" to burgers, meat sauce, and more, you can cut the meat in your recipes by half or more, without sacrificing flavor and heartiness. This will certainly shave some dollars off your food budget and, at the same time, will add valuable nutrition to your meals.
Did You Know?
- By adding a “mushroom base” to burgers, meat sauce, and more, you can cut the meat in your recipes by half or more, without sacrificing flavor and heartiness and heartiness
- Mushrooms are rich in protein, fiber, vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium, and minerals, along with being excellent sources of antioxidants
How to Make a Roasted Mushroom Base
"At this year's Worlds of Health Flavors conference in Napa, Calif., Pam Smith, a culinary nutritionist, presented delicious recipes by the Chef Clifford Pleau featuring a finely chopped roasted mushroom mix (chefs refer to it as simply 'The Mix'), that she combined with beef for a delicious burger with half the meat…" the New York Times reported.1
The recipe that follows, posted by the New York Times,2 is your basic mushroom base to add to virtually any meat-based recipe. Try substituting half the meat called for with mushrooms, and adjust up or down accordingly.
If you're in a hurry, pick up pre-sliced mushrooms, which will cut down on prep time. Even if you use whole mushrooms and slice them yourself, this recipe is simple and quick. Store leftovers in the fridge and you'll have a healthy meat substitute at the ready.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or coconut oil)
- 2 pounds organic mushrooms, sliced, or quartered
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
- In a large bowl, toss mushrooms with oil, salt, and pepper. Spread in an even layer on baking sheets and bake in the middle and lower racks of the oven for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, and switching pans top to bottom halfway through. The mushrooms should be tender and dry when done. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Grind in a grinder or pulse in a food processor fitted with steel blade until broken down into small pieces resembling ground meat. Taste and adjust seasoning.
The mix will keep for about 4 days in the refrigerator.
Mushrooms Are a Superfood
There's good reason to add mushrooms to just about any recipe you can; they're excellent for your health. You really can't go wrong with any of the edible mushrooms, as they are rich in protein, fiber, vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium, and minerals, along with being excellent sources of antioxidants.
Mushrooms contain polyphenols and selenium, which are common in the plant world, as well as antioxidants that are unique to mushrooms (like ergothioneine, which scientists are now beginning to recognize as a "master antioxidant").
About 100 species of mushrooms are being studied for their health-promoting benefits, and about a half dozen really stand out for their ability to deliver a tremendous boost to your immune system. They've even been studied for their ability to prevent cancer.
The compound lentinan in shitake mushrooms has been found to increase the survival rate of cancer patients.3 And extracts from maitake mushrooms, when combined with vitamin C, were shown to reduce the growth of bladder cancer cells by 90 percent, as well as kill them.4
A previous study in the journal Nature5 discusses the importance of ergothioneine, which is fairly exclusive to mushrooms, describing it as "an unusual sulfur-containing derivative of the amino acid, histidine," which appears to have a very specific role in protecting your DNA from oxidative damage.
Which Mushrooms Are the Healthiest?
If there's a certain type of edible mushroom that you enjoy, feel free to indulge, as they all have unique benefits. According to Steve Farrar, who has studied mushrooms professionally for the last three decades, Americans consume about 900 million pounds of mushrooms a year, but 95 percent of that is just one species: the common button mushroom and its relatives, the Crimini, and the Portabello mushrooms.
Granted, the button mushroom is an excellent low-calorie food, especially for diabetics. It contains a number of valuable nutrients, including protein, enzymes, B vitamins (especially niacin), and vitamin D2.
However, there are many other types of mushrooms worthy of consideration if you want to improve your diet, including shiitake, reishi, cordyceps, turkey tail, and Himematsutake. You can learn more about these four healthy mushroom varieties in the infographic below.
The Best Part About Smoothies: You Can Use Whatever Ingredients You Have On Hand
When making smoothies, you don’t have to stick exactly to the recipe. If you have raspberries instead of blueberries, for instance, or want to change it up by adding in some raw milk or kefir, you can do that. In fact, it’s a good idea to switch up your smoothie ingredients regularly to ensure you’re getting a wide variety of nutrients in your diet. Other healthy ingredients that work great in smoothies include:
For one of my favorite smoothies, I put a giant scoop of the banana Miracle Whey in a one-quart glass mason jar, and then I add two raw organic, free-range eggs. Then I add in some coconut milk. When combined with the banana-flavored whey, this mix imparts a heavenly flavor of coconut banana. Coconut is a great source of MCTs, which are medium chain triglycerides. MCTs are the best low-glycemic fuel for your muscles after exercise.
Thus, the coconut milk further enhances the fueling impact of Miracle Whey, which also contains MCTs. To increase the fiber content, I then add in a teaspoon or two of organic psyllium and, to top it all off, I add some seeds, such as chia seeds and pumpkin seeds. I prefer to blend this altogether using a hand mixer (for ease of cleanup), but you can also make it in a traditional blender. You can tailor your own smoothies to your own taste, using the fruits and vegetables you prefer, and adding coconut water, coconut milk, raw milk, raw yogurt, or kefir, for instance.
One important caveat: be careful to not overdo the fruit, especially if you are insulin or leptin resistant (are overweight, diabetic, hypertensive, or have high cholesterol). If this applies to you, I recommend limiting your fructose intake to a maximum of 15 grams of fructose per day from ALL sources, including whole fruit. You’re far better off making your own smoothies at home for this very reason, because many store-bought smoothies contain excessive amounts of fructose from fruit, and perhaps even added sugars on top of that, even though they’re advertised as healthy.
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Try This Beet, Mushroom, and Beef Burger
For a unique twist on a beef-mushroom burger, try this delicious recipe from the New York Times.6 It includes the mushroom base recipe above along with a couple of other healthy surprises, like beets, shallots, and chives. Each burger contains just two ounces of beef, but tastes so good you won't even miss it.
Beet Mushroom Beef Burger
- ¼ pound peeled roasted beets (1 medium)
- ½ pound roasted mushroom mix (recipe above)
- ½ pound organic grass-fed ground beef
- 1 tablespoon minced chives
- 1 shallot minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (more or less to taste)
- freshly ground black pepper
- Olive oil [or coconut oil] for cooking (no more than 1 tablespoon)
- Grate beet on large holes of a grater.
- In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients except the oil for cooking until well-combined. Shape into 4 patties. I like to pile the mixture into a 3-inch ring and pull the ring away. When I place the patties in the hot pan, I press them down with the back of my spatula so they are about 1-inch thick.
- Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and add a small amount of olive oil, just enough to coat pan. Cook patties for 4 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and serve. You can use a bun or not (I think they are fine without). Baby arugula, mizuna, or spicy microgreens make a very nice accompaniment.
The burger mix will keep for a day or two in the refrigerator.
Sources and References