Whether they're served raw in salads or cooked in recipes where they absorb flavors from other ingredients, mushrooms offer cooks great variety. While enjoying the deeper, earthier flavor of "baby bella" mushrooms, you'll also gain nutritional value and other health benefits.
Mushroom names can be confusing because so many different varieties belong to the same scientific family. Agaricus bisporus includes white and brown mushrooms. The white mushrooms include the common button mushrooms. The brown mushroom variety includes crimini and portobellas. Crimini is the proper name for a "baby bella." It is a portobella that has not grown to maturity.
The "baby bellas," or crimini, mushrooms are a low calorie and low fat source of dietary fiber, potassium and the B vitamins riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid. Dietary fiber lowers cholesterol, helps maintain steady blood sugar levels and assists the digestive process. Potassium is an important mineral that is essential for muscle contraction and transmission of signals between nerves. The B vitamins support metabolism and the immune system, promote cell grow and are needed for red blood cells.
Crimini mushrooms contain several antioxidants, including ergothioneine, riboflavin and two trace minerals called copper and selenium. Copper is found in cells throughout the body, but is especially abundant in the lungs and red blood cells. In addition to being an antioxidant, copper plays a role in the metabolism of iron, energy production and the formation of connective tissue. Selenium works as an antioxidant, protecting cells in the lining of blood vessels, and also helps to regulate thyroid hormone. Ergothioneine is uniquely produced by fungi and has strong antioxidant properties, reports Mushroom Info.
Research conducted by Professor Keith Martin, Ph.D., published in the July 2010 issue of the "Nutrition Journal" indicates that mushrooms helped to prevent the build-up of cells in inflamed blood vessels. This research supports the theory that "baby bellas" may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
In November 2010, "Experimental Biology and Medicine" published research by Keith Martin and S. Brophy that tested the effect of mushrooms on breast cancer cells. Their conclusion was that all the mushrooms, including crimini, portobella, oyster, maitake and button varieties, suppressed the growth of breast cancer cells.