Make More Room for MUSHROOMS – an ancient superfood!


Make more room for mushrooms – an ancient superfood! We’re all pretty familiar with the culinary use of mushrooms, but there is now a burgeoning science on the mighty mushroom’s important ecological and medicinal benefits. In fact, mushrooms aren’t actually a vegetable, they’re the fruiting body of fungi and are neither plant nor animal, but they are more closely related to humans than to plants.

While in western nutrition circles, mushrooms are hailed as a ‘novel’ food, in fact, they have a long, long, long history. I’ve dedicated a section to mushrooms in fruit and veg chapter of The Real Food Solution – here’s what I’ve said:

Fungi comprise a huge variety of organisms and it’s estimated that there are around 140,000 species of known mushroom-bearing fungi across the globe and of these, around 2000 species are considered edible and/or medicinal.

Fungi absorb nutrition from other organisms and serve a critical role as ecological decomposers, supporting soil health and ecosystems. Fungi have been used for thousands of years in the culinary and health practices of Japanese and Traditional Chinese Medicine and were highly prized by the Ancient Egyptians.

Mushrooms are nutritional powerhouses and the research has only recently been getting to grips with the tremendous the health benefits that these incredibly diverse organisms offer us; we’re going to be hearing much more about them!

Studies show that mushrooms (like offal, herbs and spices) are one of the most nutrient-dense foods available and not only provide us with impressive amounts of key nutrients like protein, fibre, B vitamins, vitamin C, minerals and phytonutrients, but they also support our gut health, immune system and help us to reduce stress.

All varieties of edible organic mushrooms (such as button and portabellas) offer benefits, but it’s the significant health benefits of Asian varieties like shiitake, reishi and cordyceps that has attracted most research. Specific varieties can support liver disorders, arthritic conditions and demonstrate anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and antioxidant and powerful anti-tumoral properties. 

– Izabella Natrins – The Real Food Solution

Make more room for mushrooms as medicine

My friends over at Food Matters have just shared a really great post 7 Powerful Mushrooms and their healing benefits where they explain the medicinal benefits of (now) commonly available varieties of mushrooms … including the seductive black truffle… which has not only earned its luxury reputation from its £££price, but also due to a ‘bliss molecule’ also found in marijuana! Intriguing?!

1. Reishi – The All-Rounder

2. Shiitake – The Source of Cancer-Fighting Compound Lentinan

3. Oyster – The HIV Fighter

4. Porcini – The Anti-Inflammatory

5. White Button – The Prostate & Breast Cancer Fighters

6. Chanterelle – The Metabolism Booster

7. Black Truffle – The Feel-Good Response

Make more room for mushrooms in the kitchen

Epicurious shares a great post on Fourteen Types of Mushrooms and Their Uses. And a wide variety of fresh, dried and extracted novel mushroom products (like coffees, teas, cacaos and elixirs) can be found with a quick search online.

Four Sigmatic, a Finish-born coffee company has quickly become a world-leader in the functional mushroom landscape.

Finland has the world’s highest coffee consumption and the founders of Four Sigmatic took the tradition of brewing chaga mushroom tea to the next level by putting mushrooms in coffee in 2012. Today they add over 20 types of functional mushrooms and adaptogens, from ashwagandha to reishi, to coffee, lattes, hot cocoas, and teas. None of them taste like mushrooms you’ve had before.  


Check out their cool video:


Needless to say, I’m a BIG fan of mushrooms and I always make sure to have a tray or two in the fridge, waiting to be transformed into a delicious, nutritious, healing plate of real food. Mushrooms are a powerful addition to mineral and bone broths, omelettes, creamy sauces, Asian soups and casseroles and you can never have enough mushroom-based recipes in your repertoire. Here’s my go-to (from The Real Food Solution):

Tomato & Mushroom Ragu

This so-simple recipe will soon become a trusty ‘go-to’ in your culinary repertoire. It can turn its hand to a variety of dishes: a simple sauce for pasta, polenta, beans, pulses, or a medley of fresh, seasonal vegetables; a topping for pizza; or a delicious support for seafood, grilled, or roasted meats. Make the basic ragù in bulk and freeze in portions that suit you – I promise you’ll never want to buy a processed tomato-based sauce again. Ever.

In season, I use fresh, peeled tomatoes (just cut a cross in the bottom, dunk them in boiling water for a minute or two and the skin will peel easily). Otherwise, I use good quality organic chopped tinned tomatoes – either way, since we’re not in sun-blessed Italy or Sicily, a little cinnamon or dark brown sugar cuts the acidity of the tomatoes.

When the sauce is almost cooked (or on reheating it if frozen) you can get creative by adding a handful of any variety of sliced or chopped mushrooms and/or finely sliced red peppers (just sauté them first in a little olive oil or butter until soft) and/or stoned black olives per person and ramp up the volume Sicilian-style with freshly-grated ginger and/or finely-diced chilli.


Note: The tomato ragù will keep well in the fridge for several days and (if made without the mushrooms/red peppers) it will freeze perfectly – just add in the vegetables and a little extra water and seasonings when reheating.

Print Recipe
Tomato & Mushroom Ragù
Course Sauce
Course Sauce
  1. Blitz or very finely chop the celery, carrots and onions. In a large saucepan, sauté them very gently in the oil, until well-softened and very lightly coloured. Add the garlic, tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano, tomato purée, cinnamon/brown sugar, water, salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Mix well, cover with a lid and allow to simmer on a low heat for approximately 30 mins for fresh tomatoes or 1 hour if using tinned; stir frequently and lower the heat if the sauce is reducing too quickly, adding water as necessary to retain a thick (but not solid) consistency. Adjust the seasonings to taste as the sauce cooks.
  3. Leave the sauce chunky or take out the bay leaf and oregano stalks and blend it to your preferred consistency. Add the torn basil just before serving.
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Izabella Natrins

I'm here to inspire and support women at midlife and beyond to re-ignite purpose and meaning to take back control of their health and create the radical, resilient heath they want and deserve. As a whole-health expert with over 30 years experience in the field, a qualified Health and Wellness Coach and Ballymaloe-trained nutritional chef, my real food nutrition and lifestyle medicine programmes support women fighting fatigue, struggling with overwhelm, weight gain, sleep, energy and niggling or multiple diagnosed health issues. As an advocate for real food nutrition, regenerative agriculture and whole-health, my book 'The Real Food Solution' is an evidence-based treasury wisdom for energy, vitality and better health for people and planet and a call to action to change the way we grown, source and cook our food. As the CEO at The UK Health Coaches Association, I'm proud to continue the task of leading the first professional association for Health and Wellness Coaches in the world and the gold standard for the UK and Ireland.

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