Are Mushrooms Good for You? Here's What Research Has to Say

Turns out that there are several tasty and nutritious reasons to load up on this funky fungus.

A common rule of thumb when it comes to nutrition is to "eat the rainbow"—meaning, eat a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. But there are certainly a few exceptions. Though they aren't bursting with vibrant color, mushrooms are full of vitamins and minerals and can certainly be considered a part of a healthy diet.

Of note, we're not talking about special, hard-to-find functional or "medicinal" mushrooms here. We're talking about the wonderful variety you can find in your produce section, like button, cremini, oyster, portobello and shiitake mushrooms—and wild mushrooms too.

Here's the nutrition breakdown of the most common types of mushrooms, plus five reasons to add one or more of these varieties to your plate.

Mushroom Nutrition Facts

Nowadays, you can find many different types of mushrooms in the grocery store, from classics like button mushrooms and cremini mushrooms, to more unique varieties like oyster mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms. Here's how the nutrition compares for the most commonly used mushrooms.

Portobello Mushroom Nutrition

The original vegetarian "burger," portobellos are delicious as an accompaniment to a meal or as the star of the show. These hearty mushrooms impart a meaty, umami flavor to dishes—without the meat. According to the USDA, one medium portobello mushroom cap contains:

  • 19 calories
  • 2 g protein
  • 0 g fat
  • 3 g carbohydrates
  • 1 g fiber
  • 306 mg potassium
  • 4 mg niacin

Baby Bella Mushroom Nutrition

Also called a cremini mushroom, nutrition facts for this variety don't vary from that of portobellos all that much. This is because they're the same type of mushroom—creminis are just harvested earlier, while portobellos are left to grow longer to reach their larger size. According to the USDA, one cup of whole cremini mushrooms contains:

  • 19 calories
  • 2 g protein
  • 0 g fat
  • 4 g carbohydrates
  • 1 g fiber
  • 390 mg potassium
  • 3 mg niacin

White Mushroom Nutrition

Also called a button mushroom, nutrition facts remain relatively similar for this variety, when compared to the previous two. According to the USDA, one cup of whole white button mushrooms contains:

  • 21 calories
  • 3 g protein
  • 0 g fat
  • 3 g carbohydrates
  • 1 g fiber
  • 305 mg potassium
  • 3 mg niacin

Shiitake Mushroom Nutrition

According to the USDA, five shiitake mushrooms, or about one large cup of whole shiitake mushrooms, contains:

  • 34 calories
  • 2 g protein
  • 0 g fat
  • 7 g carbohydrates
  • 3 g fiber
  • 304 mg potassium
  • 4 mg niacin

5 Amazing Health Benefits of Mushrooms

1. Anti-inflammatory Properties

Even though mushrooms are more earthy than vibrant, they are packed with antioxidants that tame the effects of free radicals. Cooked or raw mushrooms contain selenium—which isn't found in most fruits or vegetables. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), selenium is a powerful antioxidant, thought to prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline and thyroid disease.

According to a 2017 study published in Food Chemistry, mushrooms also have high levels of two other antioxidants, glutathione and ergothioneine. They are thought to be essential for anti-aging, as they prevent cognitive decline and oxidative stress. Research shows people who consume higher amounts of these antioxidants see fewer incidences of neurodegenerative diseases. Luckily, you just need to consume about five button mushrooms per day to reap the full nutritional benefits!

2. Boost Gut Health

A 2017 review published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences touts fresh mushrooms as powerful prebiotics for feeding our microbiome. Prebiotics serve as food for our body's good gut bacteria—aka probiotics—which help with digestion, maintaining a healthy immune system, longevity, and a host of other health benefits. Mushrooms can radically transform our microbiomes, helping them repopulate with a host of healthy bacteria.

One 2018 meta-analysis published in Food Science & Human Wellness focused on the health benefits of mushrooms and found strong correlations between the prebiotic power of the fungus and immune function, weight, gut inflammation, colon cancer and neurological disease risk.

3. Source of B Vitamins

Mushrooms are rich in the B vitamins riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid. According to the NIH, riboflavin is essential for energy production and how our body metabolizes fat, while niacin helps metabolize macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) in the body. Pantothenic acid aids in hormone production and assists the nervous system.

A 100g serving of white button mushrooms offers almost a quarter of our daily riboflavin needs, 23% of our daily niacin requirement and 30% of our daily pantothenic acid requirement, according to the FDA. Women especially can be deficient in B vitamins, so adding mushrooms to your next weeknight meal could give you just the boost your body needs.

4. Provide Potassium

Bananas are usually the poster child for potassium, but it turns out mushrooms offer a pretty hefty dose as well. One cup of cooked portobello mushrooms has even more potassium than a medium-sized banana.

According to the NIH, potassium is vital for electrolyte balance and muscle contraction, and it is often a popular nutrient for workout recovery. This mineral is also linked to lower blood pressure and blood glucose control, as well as protection from stroke, osteoporosis and kidney stones.

5. Source of Vitamin D

A 2018 study published in Nutrients found that mushrooms could offer between 50-100% of our daily Vitamin D needs. This is an important finding, as according to 2018 research published in Cureus, approximately 40% of adults in the U.S. are vitamin D deficient, which can negatively affect your bone health, increase your risk for certain types of cancers and even have a negative impact on your weight.

Our primary source of Vitamin D is sunlight. According to a 2019 study in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, it takes about 10-15 minutes in the sunlight with 22% skin exposure per day to get our vitamin D requirement. Consuming mushrooms can help boost our supply of vitamin D in the wintertime, and help out those who aren't spending time outside every day during warmer months. Not only are mushrooms a good source of vitamin D, but they're also the only true vegan food source of Vitamin D out there—so they could be an important part of a plant-based diet.

Bottom Line

There are a whole bunch of health claims surrounding mushrooms, so it's important to do your research before spending money on functional foods and supplements. Thankfully, there is some solid research out there showing that eating more mushrooms in their natural form can have some amazing health benefits—and we have some delicious recipes highlighting them.

Mushrooms are high in protein for a non-animal source, and we just love using them as a lighter yet still flavorful burger. They also make the perfect vehicle for stuffing with grains, cheese or anything else you can think of. Our Caprese-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms are the perfect appetizer for your next summer dinner party (try grilling them!) And if you're looking for more inspiration, check out our Healthy Vegetarian Mushroom Recipes to help you start a weekly meatless Monday tradition.

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