National Men’s Health Week: Men, Umami and Hokto Mushrooms

National Men’s Health Week is celebrated each year as the week leading up to and including Father’s Day, which this year occurs between June 14th and June 22nd. The purpose of Men’s Health Week is to increase awareness of preventable health problems and to encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.  Research has shown us that a diet high in plant foods can help lower risk for disease such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes. Good dietary habits can begin at any age and mushrooms may contribute significantly towards better health.


If your man is more of a meat eater, Hokto mushrooms have much to offer in terms of flavor and nutrition.  All mushrooms are a rich source of umami (ooh-MA-mee) the fifth basic taste after sweet, salty, bitter and sour. Mushrooms make a good meat substitute, contributing a broth like, meaty, savory flavor that blends well with other tastes. Umami is also unique in that it is a flavor enhancer and is known to contribute to satiety (feeling satisfied after a meal) giving you that “ahhhhhh” kind of feeling. Cooking methods such as roasting, sautéing or grilling transforms and concentrates the flavor.  All of Hokto’s mushrooms contain umami; however the darker the mushroom the more umami it contains, so if you’re looking for a more intense flavor, the King Trumpet (King Trumpet) and Maitake will provide a higher yield than the Brown Beech (Bunashimeji) or White Beech (Bunapi) variety.


They may be 90 percent water, but mushrooms are getting significant scientific attention. Laboratory reports and animal studies show that compounds in mushrooms may do everything from improve immune function to suppress prostate cancer to decrease tumor size.  Mushrooms contain large amounts of an antioxidant called L-ergothioneine and also contains vitamin D – both related to immune function. The scientific buzz is that fungi, for the moment, are the only foods that contain both these compounds. While almost all cancers are related to environmental factors, (such as smoking, pollution and exposure to chemicals), 30-40% are directly linked to the diet. Antioxidants found in mushrooms help to neutralize free radicals, (unstable oxygen molecules) that are associated with increased risk for disease.


Don’t let fear of fungi scare you away. Hokto mushrooms are grown so they are bug and dirt-free.  No washing, no peeling – just pop them on the grill, pot or pan and you are ready to savor the intense flavor or compliment a main meal. In addition to vitamins and minerals, Hokto mushrooms are high in beta-glucan (a unique polysaccharide), shown to demonstrate improvement in immune function (ability to fight infection), and may also contribute to resistance against allergies. Animal studies have demonstrated glucose-lowering effects.


While scientists work out just how much is needed, there are plenty of reasons to enjoy mushrooms.  Laboratory reports and animal studies show improvement of insulin sensitivity – important for people with diabetes and metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance. Hokto’s King Trumpet, Maitake and Beech varieties are rich in potassium which may contribute to blood-pressure lowering effects in people with hypertension – a condition that affects 1 in 5 people in the US.

Besides adding a wonderful taste and earthy flavor to meals, mushrooms contribute a significant nutritional value. Hokto mushrooms are a good source of B vitamins, including riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid, which help to provide energy by breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates.  Hokto mushrooms also are a great source of phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and selenium, nutrients often lacking in our highly processed-food diets. In addition, mushrooms contain virtually no fat or cholesterol. Naturally low in sodium, mushrooms are also a good source of fiber.


While it’s true that most mushrooms have health-promoting properties, certain varieties have more muscle. The Maitake variety is especially high in antioxidants such as ascorbic acid, tocopherols, phenolic compounds, carotenoids and L-ergothioneine. Mushrooms uniquely provide a natural source of vitamin D and are the only vegetable or fruit to make that claim. Similar to the way that we absorb sunlight on our skin and convert it to vitamin D, mushrooms contain a plant sterol, ergosterol, that is converted to vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet light.  Hokto mushrooms are grown in a controlled environment, and exposed to UV light, which helps develop the vitamin D levels in each crop.


There are plenty of reasons to enjoy Hokto mushrooms regularly and reap the benefits. Whether you are trying to eat less meat or increase vegetables, it’s easy to add mushrooms to any meal. With their firm texture and savory taste, mushrooms can be an ideal, healthy, meat substitute. Add Hokto mushrooms to pasta, risotto, grilled meats, soups, the variety is endless!

* Add sliced mushrooms to soups and pasta dishes

* Enhance flavors to burgers

* Include sliced mushrooms in a stir-fry

* Sliced mushrooms add pizzazz to pizza

* Whole mushrooms add interest to soup

* Grill with onions, bell peppers, and pineapple
In my next posting, I’ll share some of the highlights of Hokto’s culinary seminars at the San Diego County Fair on June 15th, 22nd and 29th.  Stay tuned!