Are Mushrooms Good For You? 7 Benefits Of Eating Mushrooms 2023
Are mushrooms good for you? Interestingly, mushrooms might be the world’s most underestimated and underappreciated food. Yet, many throughout history have considered them a superfood, and practitioners have used mushrooms for thousands of years because of their healing and medicinal properties. Plus, they pack a big nutritional punch.
In a meal, mushrooms work to create rich and savory dishes ranging from everyday affordable side dishes to costly and decadent main dishes. They can also provide an excellent accompaniment to any meat, fish, soup, salad, risotto, or cheese.
Most people view mushrooms as a vegetable, but they are instead a type of fungi. Mushrooms can be bad for you if you accidentally consume poisonous wild mushrooms. In addition, these varieties can be challenging to determine in the wilderness. Therefore, only consuming mushrooms are purchased from reliable grocery stores.
Here are the top 7 benefits of eating mushrooms, nutrition facts, preparation tips, and how to serve mushrooms.
7 Surprising Benefits Of Mushrooms
In the grocery store, you will find that mushrooms come in a variety of shapes and sizes, all with unique flavor profiles. All mushrooms are good for you because they contain low calories and fat yet include fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Perhaps the most interesting nutritional aspect of mushrooms is their plant substances which include
Studies have shown these plant compounds to be powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, they can prevent various diseases, including cancer.
Improve Brain Health
Mushrooms are rich in polyphenols. Polyphenols are compounds found in plants that have protective qualities.
For example, a study published last year found that polyphenol-rich foods (mushrooms, red wine, coffee, etc.) are associated with cognitive preservation.
This is thought to be due to protective compounds in diets rich in polyphenols and their benefits to gut microbiota and metabolism, which both help to preserve cognitive health.
In 2020 a meta-analysis was performed and evaluated the effects of a polyphenol-rich diet on the cognitive health of young and middle-aged adults.
The results found a good correlation between polyphenol-rich interventions and improved cognitive functions—specifically, the brain’s neural networks’ ability to change through growth and reorganization.
Edible mushrooms are very high in antioxidants and indoles. Antioxidants are our body’s ally against free radicals. Free Radicals are unstable molecules that can cause diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer if they become too abundant.
Indoles are a phytochemical type mainly associated with a reduced risk of cancer. Cancer is the leading cause of mortality worldwide, accounting for almost 15% of deaths worldwide.
Per the National Cancer Institute, a diet high in antioxidants can help prevent many cancer tumor cells, including prostate, lung, and breast cancer cells.
If you have cancer and are undergoing treatment, antioxidants (like the ones in mushrooms) also have a place. An analysis published in 2018 evaluated 174 peer-reviewed studies, 93 clinical trials, 56 animal studies, and 35 in vitro studies.
This data concluded that antioxidants have a superior potential for eliminating chemotherapeutic-induced toxicity. Also, antioxidant supplementation during chemotherapy promises higher therapeutic efficiency and increased patient survival rates.
Portobello mushrooms and oyster mushrooms are especially good for you when it comes to cancer prevention as they hold the highest amount of antioxidants.
Improve Gut Health
The gut microbiome is a unique ecosystem of bacteria and organisms in your digestive tract. A healthy microbiome (one with a good balance of good and bad bacteria) has been linked to fantastic benefits such as a robust immune system, mood stability, mental health, and improved digestion.
On the other hand, an unhealthy microbiome can lead to
- Mood instability
- Chronic gut discomfort
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Auto-immune disorders
One way to ensure a healthier gut microbiome is by eating prebiotics. Prebiotics are various fibers and natural sugars that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in your intestines.
Research shows the natural sugar (polysaccharides) found in mushrooms is a potent prebiotic that stimulates the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
Unfortunately, most natural sugars are destroyed when they come into contact with stomach acid. However, the polysaccharides in mushrooms can withstand stomach acid and reach the colon, encouraging healthy bacteria growth. The mushrooms with the highest levels of polysaccharides are reishi and maitake.
Improve Heart Health
Mushrooms contain about 5% of your daily needs for potassium. Potassium is a mineral that is essential for heart health, healthy blood pressure, and the regulation of the circadian clock in human red blood cells.
Studies have shown that increasing potassium can lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart disease. This is because potassium helps prevent plaque buildup in the artery walls (atherosclerosis), which causes high blood pressure. This is the number one cause of a stroke as plaque buildup in the arteries narrows blood flow.
One study published in 2017 gave mice a low or high potassium diet and a high cholesterol diet. The mice who consumed a low potassium diet showed a more significantly increased calcification and artery stiffness than those who were given the high potassium diet.
White mushrooms are especially good for you regarding potassium. White mushrooms, which account for about 90% of the mushroom consumption in the U.S., have the most potassium at 300 mg per serving.
More studies need to be completed, but a type of dietary fiber called beta-glucans may help lower cholesterol.
Further, they might be able to develop a way to treat patients with dyslipidemia. This would be exciting as they are naturally occurring and, therefore, don’t have adverse side effects.
Certain mushrooms, such as shiitake mushrooms (especially the stem), are specifically good for you in this regard as they are a great source of beta-glucans
Boost Immune Health
Mushrooms are rich in polysaccharides, as discussed earlier. These polysaccharides can increase the number and variety of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
These healthy bacteria can do several different functions that benefit our immune system, such as
- Promote Anti-inflammatory activity
- Enhance intestinal barrier
- Activate immune cells
- Regulate immune cells
These functions are vital for improving and maintaining a healthy immune system. Of note, canned mushrooms are not good for you in this respect as the polysaccharides are structurally altered by their food processing conditions.
High Choline Sources
It is difficult to get enough choline in your diet if you are a vegan. High choline sources include red meat, liver, egg yolks, chicken, and fish. Choline plays an integral part in many bodily functions, such as
- Cell integrity and support
- Making, transporting, and metabolizing fat
- DNA synthesis
- Heartbeat regulation
- Muscle Movement
- Nervous system health
Mushrooms are a great vegan source of choline. For example, one entire cup of shiitake mushrooms contains about 20% of your daily choline needs.
High Amounts of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is another nutrient that is tough to obtain from plant foods. Besides animal products, the only way to get vitamin D is through mushrooms, sunshine, fortified milk, and cereals.
Vitamin D is essential for your health as it provides the following functions in the body
- Absorbs calcium to maintain teeth and bone health
- Supports good immune function
- Supports healthy bone mineralization
Like us, mushrooms exposed to UV light (sunlight) enrich their vitamin D levels. White button mushrooms are especially good for you regarding vitamin D levels as they attract and possess the highest vitamin D levels after exposure to sunlight.
For the most significant amount of vitamin D, expose white button mushrooms to sunlight for a minimum of 15 minutes before eating. Of note, maitake mushrooms naturally have high amounts of vitamin D without needing to be exposed to sunlight.
Mushroom Nutrition Facts
Nutritional information provided by the United States Department of Agriculture
Serving size, 100 grams (approximately 1 cup chopped white button mushrooms)
- Calories: 25 kcals
- Fat: 0 grams
- Protein: 3 grams
- Carbohydrate: 4 grams
- Phosphorus: 93 milligrams
- Potassium: 373 milligrams
- Selenium: 20 micrograms
- Magnesium: 10 milligrams
How To Prepare And Eat Mushrooms?
Mushrooms are one of the most versatile foods on the planet and can be used in various cooking methods. You can eat raw mushrooms, cooked mushrooms, sliced, or whole.
Many vegans or vegetarians will use portobello mushrooms instead of meat as they already have a similar meaty flavor.
Try mushrooms in multiple ways, such as
- Marinated with balsamic vinegar, added salt, and olive oil.
- Stuff mushrooms with cheese and spinach for a fancy appetizer
- Prepare mushroom risotto
- Prepare portobello mushrooms as a replacement for burgers, given their meaty texture
- Slice portobello mushrooms and sautee together with bell peppers for a twist on fajita night
- Throw cooked baby Bella mushrooms into stir-fries
- Top salad with slivered mushrooms
- Add cooked mushrooms to your morning scrambled eggs
- Add grilled portobello mushrooms to wraps
- Use powdered dried mushrooms in place of coffee
There are multiple varieties of mushrooms and various ways to prepare these fungi. Play around with new types of mushrooms and recipes. Try adding mushrooms to several items daily to provide health boosts to your body.
Of note, one preparation method you should not try is fried mushrooms. Fried mushrooms are not good for you as the frying process destroys their nutritional value.
Before starting a new diet plan, talk with your doctor or other wellness professionals first. Mushrooms can be a significant boost to your everyday health. The nutritional benefits of mushrooms include a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and polyphenols.
All these health benefits of mushrooms make for a nutritional powerhouse capable of aiding in heart health, weight loss, immune system function, and cancer prevention. Try adding more mushrooms to your diet today.
If you are leery of mushrooms, check out these great supplements to still provide the benefits of mushrooms in your diet.
+ 16 sources
Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here
- González‐Domínguez, R., Castellano‐Escuder, P., Carmona, F., Lefèvre‐Arbogast, S., Low, D.Y., Du Preez, A., Ruigrok, S.R., Manach, C., Urpi‐Sarda, M., Korosi, A., Lucassen, P.J., Aigner, L., Pallàs, M., Thuret, S., Samieri, C., Sánchez‐Pla, A. and Andres‐Lacueva, C. (2021). Food and Microbiota Metabolites Associate with Cognitive Decline in Older Subjects: A 12‐Year Prospective Study. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, [online] 65(23), p.2100606. doi:10.1002/mnfr.202100606.
- Ammar, A., Trabelsi, K., Boukhris, O., Bouaziz, B., Müller, P., M Glenn, J., Bott, N.T., Müller, N., Chtourou, H., Driss, T. and Hökelmann, A. (2020). Effects of Polyphenol-Rich Interventions on Cognition and Brain Health in Healthy Young and Middle-Aged Adults: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Clinical Medicine, [online] 9(5), p.1598. doi:10.3390/jcm9051598.
- Kaushik, N., Kaushik, N., Attri, P., Kumar, N., Kim, C., Verma, A. and Choi, E. (2013). Biomedical Importance of Indoles. Molecules, [online] 18(6), pp.6620–6662. doi:10.3390/molecules18066620.
- Singh, K., Bhori, M., Kasu, Y.A., Bhat, G. and Marar, T. (2018). Antioxidants as precision weapons in war against cancer chemotherapy induced toxicity – Exploring the armoury of obscurity. Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal, [online] 26(2), pp.177–190. doi:10.1016/j.jsps.2017.12.013.
- Hills, R., Pontefract, B., Mishcon, H., Black, C., Sutton, S. and Theberge, C. (2019). Gut Microbiome: Profound Implications for Diet and Disease. Nutrients, [online] 11(7), p.1613. doi:10.3390/nu11071613.
- National Institutes of Health (NIH). (2015). Sodium/Potassium Ratio Linked to Cardiovascular Disease Risk. [online] Available at: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/sodium/potassium-ratio-linked-cardiovascular-disease-risk
- National Institutes of Health (NIH). (2017). How too little potassium may contribute to cardiovascular disease. [online] Available at: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/how-too-little-potassium-may-contribute-cardiovascular-disease.
- Sima, P., Vannucci, L. and Vetvicka, V. (2018). β-glucans and cholesterol (Review). International Journal of Molecular Medicine. [online] doi:10.3892/ijmm.2018.3411.
- Bak, W.C., Park, J.H., Park, Y.A. and Ka, K.H. (2014). Determination of Glucan Contents in the Fruiting Bodies and Mycelia of Lentinula edodes Cultivars. Mycobiology, [online] 42(3), pp.301–304. doi:10.5941/myco.2014.42.3.301.
- Friedman, M. (2016). Mushroom Polysaccharides: Chemistry and Antiobesity, Antidiabetes, Anticancer, and Antibiotic Properties in Cells, Rodents, and Humans. Foods, [online] 5(4), p.80. doi:10.3390/foods5040080.
- The Nutrition Source. (2020). Choline. [online] Available at: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/choline/.
- Ueland, P.M. (2010). Choline and betaine in health and disease. Journal of Inherited Metabolic Disease, [online] 34(1), pp.3–15. doi:10.1007/s10545-010-9088-4.
- The Nutrition Source. (2020). Choline. [online] Available at: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/choline/.
- Cardwell, G., Bornman, J., James, A. and Black, L. (2018). A Review of Mushrooms as a Potential Source of Dietary Vitamin D. Nutrients, [online] 10(10), p.1498. doi:10.3390/nu10101498.
- Usda.gov. (2022). FoodData Central. [online] Available at: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1999629/nutrients
- Reid, T., Munyanyi, M. and Mduluza, T. (2016). Effect of cooking and preservation on nutritional and phytochemical composition of the mushroom Amanita zambiana. Food Science & Nutrition, [online] 5(3), pp.538–544. doi:10.1002/fsn3.428.