Autumn marks the beginning of mushroom season! Don’t worry, you don’t have to search the woods far and wide to get the immune-boosting benefits. You will find them popping up at your local farmers markets and in the produce section of grocery stores. Once you get your hands on some shiitakes, how do you use them? Here is everything you need to know about the benefits and how to enjoy them in a creamy, delicious soup.
In my newest book, Secrets of Longevity Cookbook, I list shiitake mushrooms as one of the top ten foods for health and longevity. So, where did this top-ten list come from? During my twenty-five years of studying centenarians, I discovered that the same ten foods kept showing up again and again in the diets of long-living individuals, and mushrooms—especially shiitakes—showed up with astounding frequency. This is the ninth article in my monthly series that highlights these top ten longevity foods. If you’re just catching up, check out the longevity benefits of corn, black beans, walnuts, sweet potatoes, peanuts, green tea, seaweed, and sesame seeds!
In China, mushrooms are regarded as a symbol of longevity and have long been used to boost immunity. The shiitake mushroom especially is packed with coumarin (a naturally occurring chemical compound), and sterols (a group of chemical compounds like cholesterol), in addition to essential vitamins and minerals that enhance immune functions. And there’s more! Shiitake is considered to help lower cholesterol levels, regulate blood sugar, treat infections, assist in the prevention of heart disease, and give some support for cancer prevention.
When trying a new mushroom, it best to eat only a bite or two the first time, as even commonly cultivated mushrooms may adversely affect some people.
Which is Better—Fresh or Dried?
As mushrooms have become more popular, they are also easier to find fresh in specialty stores and markets. Fresh is best because more delicate beneficial compounds may be damaged in dehydrating process—but if you have no luck finding them fresh at the supermarket, you will still definitely benefit from the dried version.
To reconstitute dried mushrooms, soak them in water for about an hour until they plump up to original size and then cook with them as you usually would. Cut off the woody stems and store in your freezer to be used the next time you make a batch of broth! Store dried foods in airtight glass containers, but even so, keep in mind that dried foods will not last forever and the nutrient levels in the foods will degrade over time.
Immunity-Boosting Cream of Mushroom and Cauliflower Soup
For mushroom lovers, there’s nothing like a hearty, creamy cup of mushroom soup seasoned with herbs. This recipe combines the wonderfully intense flavors of shiitake and portobello mushrooms with cilantro, oregano, garlic, and onion, a collection of ingredients that work synergistically to boost your immunity to colds and flu and also act like natural antibiotics to help you fight infection. Best of all, the cream base for the soup is dairy-free and uses the natural, creamy texture of cauliflower, a cruciferous vegetable that also helps prevent cancer.
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, crushed
• 1 small head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
• 5 cups chicken stock
• 1/2 cup fresh shiitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped
• 1/2 cup portobello mushrooms, coarsely chopped
• 1/2 cup white button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
• 1/2 cup white wine
• 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
• Salt and freshly ground pepper
• Fresh oregano sprigs, for garnish
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onions, garlic, and cauliflower; reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until the onion and cauliflower are softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the stock, mushrooms, wine, and three-quarters of the cilantro. Bring the soup to a boil and cook over medium heat until the mushrooms are softened, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
2. Working in batches, puree the soup in a food processor or blender until smooth. Return the soup to a clean saucepan and bring it to a simmer over medium heat; season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. To serve, ladle the warm soup into serving bowls and sprinkle the remaining cilantro over the top. Garnish with oregano sprigs. Sit back and enjoy!
May you Live Long, Live Strong, and Live Happy!
--Dr. Mao Shing Ni, best known as Dr. Mao is a bestselling author, doctor of Oriental Medicine and board certified anti-aging expert. He has recently appeared on The Ricki Lake Show, Dr. Oz, and contributes to Yahoo Health and The Huffington Post. Dr. Mao practices acupuncture, nutrition, and Chinese medicine with his associates at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica, Newport Beach and Pasadena. Dr. Mao and his brother, Dr. Daoshing Ni, founded the Tao of Wellness more than 25 years ago in addition to founding Yo San University in Marina del Rey. To subscribe to his tip-filled newsletter please visit www.taoofwellness.com. To make an appointment for evaluation and treatment please call 310-917-2200 or you can email Dr. Mao at firstname.lastname@example.org.