A Tasty Mushroom Recipe to Boost Immunity

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!

Shiitake Benefits

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. Want to know more? Check out the mushrooms entry in The Natural Health Dictionary.

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 

Serves 4

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.

Ingredients:

  • 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

Preparation:

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!

You can find plenty of tasty and creative recipes for long and healthy living in Secrets of Longevity Cookbook, a great companion book to my Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of Ways to Live to Be 100, which is now available on Kindle.

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May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

—Dr. Mao

This blog is meant to educate, but it should not be used as a substitute for personal medical advice. The reader should consult his or her physician or clinician for specific information concerning specific medical conditions. While all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that all information presented is accurate, as research and development in the medical field is ongoing, it is possible that new findings may supersede some data presented.

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To purchase Dr. Mao's new book, "Secrets of Longevity Cookbook", click here.

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To learn more about Dr. Mao and other natural health tips, go to askdrmao.com.

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