The term “superfood” is used a lot by the media, possibly too frequently, yet there is no formal definition of the term. If there were such a definition, a superfood might have the following characteristics:

  • Be minimally processed without nutrient fortification
  • Have nutritional benefits not seen in other foods commonly eaten in its class
  • Have at least 20% of the RDI of two or more essential nutrients in a normal serve
  • Have a high nutrient density compared to its kilojoule content
  • Provide essential nutrients without increasing the consumption of salt, saturated fat or other compounds linked to poor health
  • Provide other bioactive compounds such as antioxidants
  • Have research linking the food to a potential reduced risk of long-term disease
  • Be easily available and affordable

Judging against these characteristics, it is indisputable that the mushroom is quite an exceptional food! The mushroom is:

  • A popular and frequently consumed fresh produce item
  • Very different to vegetables because it a) provides nutrients in amounts not usually found in vegetables; and b) has a different flavour to vegetables (often referred to as the “5th taste” or “umami”).
  • A serve provides more than 20% of the RDI for six essential nutrients: riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, copper and selenium
  • Light exposed mushrooms provide 100% of the AI of vitamin D
  • Low in kilojoules, with a high nutrient density, and satisfies the appetite
  • Provides good nutrition without adding fat, cholesterol or sodium to the meal
  • Has an antioxidant capacity similar to, or better than, common vegetables, including ergothioneine, an essential antioxidant available only from the diet
  • Provides bio-active compounds that appear to improve immune function and potentially lower the risk of breast and prostate cancer
  • Is as close as your supermarket or greengrocer, and less than $1 per serve

There is no doubt that the mushroom is a food that punches well above its weight.