What are mushrooms and their nutritional benefits?
Mushrooms nutritional benefits are numerous and important for our health. Mushrooms belong to the fungi kingdom and come in many varieties. They are low in calories but high in nutrients like B vitamins, copper, potassium, selenium, antioxidants and vitamin D. Mushrooms contain vitamin B5 which helps break down carbohydrates and fats, providing energy. They also contain vitamin B2 and folate which help support cell growth and many other bodily functions.
Mushrooms have one of the highest antioxidant contents of any vegetable. Antioxidants help prevent cell damage and provide anti-inflammatory effects. Mushrooms also contain ergothioneine, an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage and supports healthy aging. Consuming mushrooms regularly may help boost immunity and reduce cancer risk according to several studies. Mushrooms have been used medicinally for centuries and continue to be studied for their many possible health benefits.
Vitamins and minerals in mushrooms
Mushrooms are packed with many important vitamins and minerals that are essential for our health.
Mushrooms are high in B vitamins, especially vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) and vitamin B2 (riboflavin). Vitamin B5 helps break down fats and carbohydrates for energy. Vitamin B2 also helps convert food into energy and is important for healthy skin, eyes, and red blood cells.
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||16%|
Mushrooms are the only plant-based source of vitamin D. Oyster, shiitake, and portobello mushrooms are especially high in vitamin D when exposed to light after being harvested. Vitamin D deficiency is common and this vitamin is essential for bone health and may help prevent diseases like osteoporosis.
Shiitake mushrooms (4 mushrooms): 40% DV of vitamin D
Portobello mushrooms (1 mushroom): 35% DV of vitamin D
Mushrooms, especially portobellos, are a good source of selenium. Selenium helps support the immune system and acts as an antioxidant. Just one portobello mushroom provides about 50% of your daily needs.
Portobello mushroom (1 mushroom): 33 mcg (50% DV)
Mushrooms also contain potassium, an important mineral for blood pressure regulation and healthy heart function.
Potassium (1 cup raw white mushrooms): 8% DV
Mushrooms also contain copper, a mineral important for red blood cell production, nerve health, and immune function.
Copper (1 cup raw white mushrooms): 21% DV
Mushrooms have high amounts of antioxidants like ergothioneine which helps protect cells from damage. Antioxidants provide anti-aging benefits and help reduce disease risk. According to studies, portobello, shiitake and oyster mushrooms have the highest antioxidant activity.
In summary, mushrooms contain many vitamins, minerals and other beneficial compounds that are important for health. Adding mushrooms to your diet is an easy way to gain more of these nutritional benefits.
Health benefits of mushrooms
Mushrooms provide many health benefits due to their nutritional content. Here are some of the major health benefits of eating mushrooms:
Mushrooms contain compounds like beta-glucans that help strengthen the immune system. Studies show that consuming shiitake and oyster mushrooms helps produce greater amounts of antibodies and stimulates the production of both T cells and natural killer cells. The vitamin D in mushrooms also helps support immune function.
Reduced cancer risk
Mushrooms contain antioxidants and compounds like ergothioneine that may help reduce cancer risk. Mushrooms may be particularly beneficial for preventing breast and prostate cancer. In a study of over 36,000 Japanese men, those who consumed 1/2 cup of fresh mushrooms per week had a 64% lower risk of advanced prostate cancer.* Mushrooms are also high in selenium, which is vital for prostate health and may help reduce cancer risk.
Improved heart health
The high amount of B vitamins, potassium, and antioxidants in mushrooms contribute to heart health. Potassium helps lower blood pressure, decreasing the risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Antioxidants help prevent the oxidation of LDL or “bad” cholesterol in the blood. Studies show that eating a diet high in mushrooms and other vegetables is linked to a lower risk of coronary heart disease.
Better digestive health
Mushrooms are a source of prebiotic compounds that promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Mushrooms contain polysaccharide compounds known as beta glucans, which help support the immune system and feed the good bacteria in our gut. The good bacteria boosted by mushrooms can improve digestion, lower inflammation in the gut, and enhance absorption of nutrients.
Mushrooms contain compounds such as vitamin B12, niacin, and antioxidants like ergothioneine that are important for brain and memory health. Some studies suggest that lion’s mane mushroom in particular may help enhance memory and cognitive ability. Lion’s mane mushroom contains compounds that stimulate the growth of new neural connections in the brain to improve memory and mental clarity. *
In summary, mushrooms may help boost immunity, reduce disease risk, improve heart and gut health, enhance memory, and provide other important benefits thanks to the variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other beneficial compounds they contain. Adding mushrooms to your diet is an easy way to support whole body health.
Mushroom recipes for a healthy diet
Mushrooms are versatile and work well in many recipes. Here are a few healthy mushroom recipes to try:
Risotto is a creamy Italian rice dish, and mushrooms pair perfectly in this recipe. Risotto gets its creaminess from the starch released by the rice as it cooks. Sautéed mushrooms are often folded into risotto, adding an earthy and savory flavor. Mushroom risotto is healthy, containing rice, mushroom nutrition, and broth. For extra nutrition, use vegetable broth instead of chicken and add spinach.
Ingredients: Arborio rice, mushrooms (shiitake and cremini), shallots, garlic, broth (vegetable/chicken), parmesan cheese, parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Mushroom soup is a hearty, comforting dish. Use a mix of mushrooms for extra flavor and nutrition. Shiitakes and oysters provide an intense mushroom flavor, while creminis add bulk. Vegetable broth creates a healthy vegan base. Mushroom soup provides potassium, B vitamins and other minerals. For a creamy soup without the added fat, puree some of the mushrooms rather than adding cream. Garnish your soup with fresh herbs.
Ingredients: Mushrooms, onions, garlic, broth (vegetable/chicken), olive oil, herbs like rosemary and thyme, salt and pepper.
For a quick and easy mushroom meal, make a mushroom omelet. Whip up eggs and pour them into a pan with sautéed mushrooms, spinach and cheese. Mushroom omelets contain protein from the eggs, fiber and nutrients from the mushrooms and spinach. Use cheese sparingly and choose a low-fat cheddar or goat cheese. Serve the omelet with a salad or hash browns.
Ingredients: Eggs, mushrooms, spinach, cheese of your choice, onions or shallots, butter or olive oil, herbs like chives, salt and pepper.
For an impressive savory dish, make a mushroom tart. Sautéed mushrooms, cheese and eggs or custard are nestled into a crisp flaky crust. Mushroom tarts contain mushrooms, cheese, and eggs which provide nutrition like protein, B vitamins, selenium, potassium, and vitamin D. Balance the richness with a simple arugula salad.
Ingredients: Mushrooms, onions, cheese like goat or gruyere, eggs or custard, fresh or frozen puff pastry or crust, olive oil, herbs such as rosemary, salt and pepper.
In summary, mushrooms work well in many foods from soups and omelets to risottos and tarts. When combined with healthy ingredients, mushroom recipes can be part of a balanced diet, providing beneficial nutrition. Trying new mushroom recipes is an easy way to boost both flavor and nutrition.