Any serious foodie knows that the perfect side dish can elevate any entrée to a sublime experience. Here’s a little illustration to drive the point home.
Burgers are delicious. Throw in some crispy fries on the side – now you’re talking. Add some grilled vegetables, and some toasted pine nuts and – bam! You’ve just elevated a simple burger into something truly spectacular. Work-in a mushroom side dish, and you’re looking at a five-star gourmet dish. It’s amazing what sides can do to spruce up a simple meal.
Mushrooms taste great. Their chewy texture and umami flavor are enough to convince your brain that you’re eating meat – which, if we’re completely honest, is one of the best tastes out there. Non-meat dishes always aspire to be as “meat-like” as they possibly can. Think – veggie burgers…
Mushrooms are one of the few things out there that can successfully get away with it. This is perhaps why they are the perfect embodiment of what an ideal side dish should be. Let’s explore everything you need to know about mushroom side dishes.
The Secret to Making a Healthy Mushroom Side Dish
How you cook your mushrooms plays an important role when it comes to reaping the health benefits that come from them. Unhealthy food choices always trump the good ones, even when both of them are consumed together. Think steamed vegetables drenched in melted mozzarella cheese.
So, how you make your mushroom side dish matters a great deal if it is still to be considered a “healthy” complement to your meals.
Here are the two suggestions for cooking mushrooms to ensure that they retain all their health benefits while remaining low in calories. You can use just about any kind of mushroom in these dishes, but Cremini and Shiitake are both reliable choices.
1. Low-Calorie Sautéed Mushrooms
Mushrooms on their own are low in calories. Sautéing them in lard, duck, or bacon fat, however, isn’t “low calorie” by any definition of the term.
A healthier option would be to use no more than three tablespoons of olive oil to sauté your mushrooms. Build on flavor by adding salt, pepper, herbs like rosemary, thyme, and parsley, garlic, shallots, and a dash of sherry, white wine, or cooking wine.
You can then serve your mushrooms with any healthy entrée. The extra flavor that comes from the caramelization they get from sautéing makes them the perfect complement to any meat, fish, poultry, or vegetable dish you’re serving up.
2. Low-Calorie Roasted Mushrooms
If you’ve never had oven-roasted, garlic-, soy-, and balsamic-glazed mushrooms, then you have no idea what you’re missing out on.
Toss a pound of mushrooms in a tablespoon of melted unsalted butter mixed with balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, fresh herbs like thyme and chopped parsley, and a little salt and pepper to taste. Pop them in the oven to roast for about 15 minutes and voila! You have a healthy mushroom side dish to enjoy with some cauliflower mash, roast lamb, chicken, or turkey.
Why Mushrooms Are the Perfect Healthy Side Dish
Choosing the right side dish to accompany a meal can be difficult. You need to pick something that works well with the main dish while keeping in mind factors like texture, color, and flavor.
Thankfully, that’s not something that you need to think about when you are cooking a mushroom side dish. Can you think of a single meal that doesn’t go well with mushrooms?
What’s the worst that could happen if you add grilled or sautéed mushrooms to your favorite salad, a delicious T-bone steak, grilled lobster, smoked salmon, creamy risotto, butternut squash soup, baked potatoes, grilled cheese sandwich…? They will only make these entrees taste better.
Here are five reasons why mushrooms make the perfect healthy side dish, whether sautéed or roasted.
1. They’re Low in Calories
Mushrooms are chock-full of lean proteins and have a negligible amount of cholesterol and fat. This means that you can have as many of them as you want, without worrying about adding inches to your waistline.
They are a rich source of dietary fibers like beta-glucan and chitin, which are well-known for keeping your blood cholesterol levels low.
2. They Promote Good Bone Health
Did you know that having a healthy mushroom side dish boosts your body’s calcium levels tremendously? Mushrooms contain high levels of calcium, which plays an important role in strengthening your bones, reducing the chances of developing bone-related ailments like joint pain, osteoporosis, as well as other bone degenerative disorders.
3. They’re Great for Your Immune System
Fresh mushrooms are rich in antioxidants. Ergothioneine, in particular, has proven to be quite effective in warding off free radicals in the body.
Free radicals are responsible for causing widespread cell damage, which can, in turn, cause cancer in the long run. Mushrooms also have powerful antifungal and antibacterial properties that help to protect you from infections.
The fact that they are also rich in vitamins A, B-Complex, and C is a definite plus, since all three of them, work to boost the body’s immune system. A side of mushrooms a day keeps the doctor away!
4. They Maintain Proper Blood Sugar Levels
If you have diabetes or are a borderline diabetic looking for a natural way to keep your blood sugar levels in check, you need to be having a side of mushrooms with every meal.
They’re rich in chromium, a mineral that has proven to be quite effective in managing blood sugar levels and keeping insulin levels in check as well. The bonus is that they are low in carbohydrates and fats, which is partly why mushrooms are a superfood people eat to help with the condition.
5. They Keep Your Metabolism in Check
If you’ve been battling your bulging belly with no success, a mushroom side dish could be the answer to your ballooning waistline. They are rich in dietary fiber, which improves digestion that, in turn, boosts your metabolism – your body’s fat-burning potential. So, you can indulge in them with no guilt whatsoever.
The Perfect Low-Calorie Complement to Every Meal
There you have it. That’s everything you need to know about making a healthy mushroom side dish and why it’s good for you. You can’t go wrong with it. So, go on – Use it to elevate your meal into a feast.
For a more detailed overview about cooking mushrooms, see our article The Essential Guide to Cooking Mushrooms.
And see our main recipe page for tons of other mushroom recipe ideas.
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