Mushrooms have long been a staple food item in the human diet, offering a wide array of nutrients alongside a bunch of filling fiber but a relatively small number of calories. As with most food, eating mushrooms raw is the best way to experience their full nutritional profile, but that’s also the least tasty way to consume them. Researchers recently set out to find the best compromise between raw and cooked-to-ruin and the end result is the best (two) ways to prepare mushrooms.
Edible mushrooms come in numerous varieties, but their nutritional profiles are somewhat consistent: they’re all high in fiber and low in calories, all the while offering high relative amounts of protein, some essential amino acids, some trace minerals, and a bunch of vitamins including vitamin C, a trio of B vitamins, and more. In addition to that, we’ve also known for a while that mushrooms contain betaglucans and other beneficial compounds.
It is for this reason that mushrooms are a major component of vegetarian and vegan diets, though they’re in no way limited to those subsets of food. Mushrooms are utilized in ways that span from entrees like mushroom ‘steaks’ to gloried garnishes. Highlighting their beneficial nature is the fact that there’s an entire research team dedicated to studying them — the Mushroom Technological Research Center of La Rioja, which recently looked into the effects of cooking mushrooms using various methods.
The researchers looked at frying mushrooms, grilling them, boiling them, and microwaving them. Among these, many may guess that a quick boil would help preserve the nutrients while frying and grilling would potential be destructive. This isn’t the case, it turns out, at least not entirely: while frying is the worst in terms of preserving mushrooms, grilling is one of the best alongside microwaving. Boiling mushrooms is very destructive in terms of nutrients.
This isn’t to say that any of these cooking methods are exactly bad (perhaps with the exception of microwaving, which is gross), as each does have its own potential benefits. Boiling, for example, was found to increase glucans while reducing antioxidant properties while frying increased energy and fat content (likely due to the oil component involved in frying). Microwaved and grilled mushrooms, however, retained the best antioxidant properties.