The Powerful Benefits of Adding More Mushrooms to Your Diet
- Mushrooms provide important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber with very few calories.
- Mushrooms are low in carbohydrates, making them ideal for low-carb and keto diets.
- Research shows mushrooms offer health benefits for immunity, cancer, heart health, diabetes, inflammation and cognition.
- There are many types of edible mushrooms, each with a unique nutrient profile. Eat a variety.
- It's easy to add more mushrooms to your diet. Enjoy them raw, cooked, or dried in diverse dishes.
Mushrooms are an Important Food
Mushrooms have been a staple in many international cuisines, from Chinese stir fries to Italian risottos. If you're interested in a specific variety, learn more about the most popular types of edible mushrooms on our blog. Evidence shows mushrooms were consumed in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Mushrooms have become ubiquitous ingredients in many international cuisines - from Chinese stir fries to Italian risottos to Mexican tacos. This article dives into the impressive nutritional qualities of edible mushrooms, their low carb appeal, the mounting research on their health advantages, the unique properties of different mushroom varieties, and how you can easily incorporate more of them into your daily diet. Read on to learn about the potential rewards of making mushrooms a staple in your kitchen!
Nutritional Profile of Mushrooms
While not typically seen as protein or calcium powerhouses, mushrooms offer a number of important nutritional benefits. For a deeper dive into the nutritional benefits of mushrooms, the Mushroom Council provides a comprehensive overview of their health advantages.
In terms of macronutrients, mushrooms are low in calories, fat, and carbs. A 1 cup serving of raw sliced white mushrooms contains only:
- 22 calories
- 0 fat
- 3 grams of carbohydrate
- 3 grams of protein
The modest protein and carb content makes them well-suited for low-carb diets. Mushrooms really stand out when it comes to their micronutrient content. They provide significant amounts of important vitamins and minerals.
Mushrooms are an excellent source of vitamins
Mushrooms contain selenium and copper. Selenium plays a key role in thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA production, and protecting against oxidative damage and infection. Copper helps form red blood cells, keeps the immune system healthy, and enables effective iron absorption.
Mushrooms also provide phosphorus, potassium, and B vitamins like riboflavin, folate, and pantothenic acid. These nutrients support energy production, bone health, muscle function, and red blood cell synthesis.
One of the biggest nutritional benefits
of mushrooms is that they are an abundant source of dietary fiber. A 1 cup serving delivers 2 grams of fiber, which is important for digestive health, glucose regulation, and heart health. The fiber and nutrients in mushrooms can help you feel full and satisfied on fewer calories.
Overall mushrooms offer a number of impressive vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and compounds like ergothioneine that contribute to their diverse health benefits.
Why Mushrooms are Considered Low-Carb
Dietary carbohydrates get broken down into glucose and play a key role in energy balance. While carbs are important, eating too many refined carbs can lead to blood sugar spikes. Compared to vegetables like peas, plantains, squash and potatoes, mushrooms are remarkably low in digestible carbohydrates.
Mushrooms are Low Carbs
A 1 cup serving of raw sliced mushrooms contains only 3 grams of total carbs. Subtracting out indigestible fiber content, the net digestible carb content is only 2 grams per cup. To put that in perspective, 1 medium banana contains 27 grams of net carbs - over 10 times that of mushrooms!
The low carbohydrate content makes mushrooms a fantastic addition to low-carb, ketogenic, diabetic, or Paleo diets. You can liberally add them to meals without worrying about significantly impacting blood glucose levels.
Research shows that low-carb diets that replace excess refined carbs with high fiber veggies offer several science-backed benefits including:
- Losing excess body weight and fat mass
- Reducing blood sugar and insulin levels
- Keeping energy levels steady rather than having energy crashes
- Lowering triglycerides and other heart disease risk factors
Consuming nutrient-dense, low-calorie mushrooms as part of a healthy low-carb diet can help manage weight and blood sugar while providing steady natural energy.
The Many Health Benefits of Consuming Mushrooms
Modern scientific research continues to uncover health benefits associated with eating different mushrooms varieties:
Mushrooms contain unique polysaccharides and compounds that exhibit antiviral, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Human and animal studies indicate mushrooms may boost immunity by enhancing the production of antibodies, activating T-cells, and combatting pathogens. Mushrooms contain high amounts of selenium, vitamin D, and vitamin B6, which are essential for a healthy immune system as highlighted by WebMD.
2. Cancer Prevention
Compounds in mushrooms may suppress tumor growth by blocking production of cancer-promoting molecules and boosting carcinogen-eliminating antioxidants. Research points to potent anti-cancer effects from the phytochemicals and polysaccharides found in shiitake and other mushroom varieties.
3. Heart Health
The fiber, potassium and antioxidants in mushrooms promote heart health. Population studies link higher mushroom consumption with lower cholesterol levels and decreased risk of hypertension. Extracts have been shown to inhibit LDL oxidation while raising beneficial HDL cholesterol. The fiber, potassium, and antioxidants in mushrooms promote heart health, and as WebMD mentions, mushrooms are a rich source of potassium, which can help reduce the negative impact of sodium on the body.
4. Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Chronic inflammation drives many modern diseases. Ergothioneine and other unique compounds abundantly found in mushrooms exhibit anti-inflammatory properties that may help lower risk and severity of certain diseases.
5. Diabetes Management
Mushrooms have been shown to help moderate insulin and glucose levels. Animal studies found reduced markers of diabetes progression and organ damage. The fiber slows digestion while compounds appear to support insulin production and function.
6. Digestive Health
The insoluble fiber content of mushrooms feeds beneficial gut bacteria which supports overall digestive health. The rich antioxidant content may also limit gastric damage caused by H. pylori bacteria.
7. Brain Health
Compounds like ergothioneine, glutathione and vitamin D in mushrooms may help reduce cognitive decline. Rodent studies show improved learning, memory and nerve growth factor levels. More human research is still needed.
Due to this broad range of evidenced benefits, diets incorporating more mushrooms are linked to lower risks of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
Recent studies, such as this one from NCBI, highlight the potential health advantages of mushroom proteins, including their antioxidant and antitumor properties.
The Most Common Edible Mushroom Varieties
There are over 10,000 types of fungi that produce the fleshy fruiting bodies we call mushrooms. Here are some of the most common edible varieties and their notable nutrients and benefits:
White Button Mushrooms - This mild mushroom is a good source of potassium and copper. Popular raw or cooked, it provides modest amounts of B vitamins.
Shiitake - Meaty shiitake packs all 8 essential amino acids. It's an excellent source of immunity-boosting lentinan polysaccharides and B vitamins like B2, B5 and B6.
Portobello - The mature form of cremini mushrooms, portobello are the "steak" of mushrooms. High amounts of potassium, phosphorus and B vitamins with a powerful umami flavor when grilled.
Oyster - These delicate mushrooms offer the natural pigment blushin that acts as an anti-inflammatory. They are also impressively high in vitamin D, with 100g meeting the RDA.
Maitake - Also known as "hen of the woods", maitake offer antiviral and immunity benefits from beta-glucan polysaccharides. They contain lots of potassium, calcium, magnesium and niacin.
Enoki - With a crunchy texture and mild taste, these mushrooms provide potent antioxidants like ergothioneine. Great in stir fries, broths and salads.
Porcini - Foraged porcini are treasured for their earthy flavor profile. They contain anti-inflammatory polysaccharides and the antioxidant glutathione, which supports immunity and heart health.
The nutrients and bioactive compounds vary between mushroom species, so try to eat a diverse mix. For those interested in gathering Morel mushrooms, check out our guide on tips for gathering morel mushrooms.
How to Incorporate More Mushrooms Into Your Diet
Here are some easy ways to eat more mushrooms for their stellar nutritional benefits:
- Sauté mushrooms in olive oil and garlic for a simple side dish
- Add sliced mushrooms to omelets, breakfast hashes and scrambles
- Mix mushrooms into ground turkey or beef for burger patties and meatballs
- Stuff large portobello caps with veggies, cheese or meat
- Add mushrooms to soups, stews, pasta sauces, pizza and casseroles
- Roast whole mushrooms with olive oil, salt and pepper for 20-30 mins
- Grill or broil portobello slices brushed with oil as a steak alternative
- Include shredded mushrooms in tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas and burritos
- Use mushroom powder to add umami flavor to dips, sauces and dressings
Fresh mushrooms last 5-7 days in the fridge. You can also utilize dried mushrooms for a longer shelf life - just rehydrate in hot water before using. For specific cooking techniques, explore our posts on how to cook shiitake mushrooms and how to cook oyster mushrooms.
Some Important Precautions
For most people mushrooms present little risk and provide research-backed health benefits. However, you should take these precautions:
- Only eat mushrooms from reputable grocery stores and farms. Never consume foraged wild mushrooms unless positively identified.
- Avoid mushrooms if you have an allergy or sensitivity. Reported symptoms include skin reactions, gastrointestinal upset and respiratory distress.
- Don't overeat mushrooms. As with any food, moderation is key to gaining benefits while avoiding potential adverse effects.
It's crucial to know how to spot bad mushrooms to avoid potential health risks.
Conclusion: Embrace the Many Benefits of Mushrooms
Mushrooms are versatile and can be incorporated into various dishes. For more culinary inspiration, explore our recipes that showcase mushrooms as the star. They are low in calories and carbs, deliver important micronutrients and fiber, and contain compounds linked to improved immunity, heart health, inflammation, cognition and cancer risk. Their versatility makes it easy to incorporate mushrooms into your diet. Consider using mushrooms more often to unlock their unique health rewards!
Frequently Asked Questions About Mushrooms
Q: Why are mushrooms healthy?
A: Mushrooms provide nutrients like B vitamins, selenium, antioxidants and fiber. Compounds like ergothioneine offer anti-inflammatory benefits.
Q: Are mushrooms low in carbohydrates?
A: Yes, mushrooms are low carb with only 2g net carbs per serving, making them ideal for keto/low-carb diets.
Q: How can mushrooms benefit immunity?
A: Compounds in mushrooms have antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory effects that support immune function.
Q: What are the most nutritious mushroom varieties?
A: Shiitake, oyster, portobello, maitake, and enoki mushrooms have strong research-backed health benefits.
Q: How should you cook with mushrooms?
A: Sauté, stuff caps, add to eggs/soups/ground meat, roast, grill, or enjoy them raw in salads.