5 Amazing Health Benefits of Mushrooms
New research is giving us more and more reasons to load up on this funky fungus.
Pictured recipe: Greek-Style Stuffed Mushrooms
A common rule of thumb when it comes to nutrition is to "eat the rainbow," but there are certainly a few exceptions. Though they aren't bursting with color, mushrooms are full of vitamins and minerals and can certainly be considered a part of a healthy diet!
We're not talking about special, hard-to-find functional or "medicinal" mushrooms here, either. We're talking about the wonderful variety you can find in your produce section, like like button, cremini, oyster, portobello and shiitake mushrooms (but wild mushrooms work, too). Here are five reasons to add one or more of these mushroom varieties to your next grocery list:
Mushrooms Are an Excellent Source of Vitamin D
A 2018 study from Curtin University in Australia found mushrooms could offer between 50-100% of our daily Vitamin D needs. This is an important finding, as approximately 40 percent of adults in the U.S are Vitamin D deficient, which can reduce 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, so consuming mushrooms can help boost our supply in the wintertime and for those who don't get their 10-15 minutes in the sun every day. 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 a pretty important part of a plant-based diet.
Mushrooms May Have Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Even though mushrooms aren't 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. Selenium is a pretty powerful antioxidant, thought to prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline and thyroid disease.
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 in countries 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!
Related: Your Anti-Aging Diet
Mushrooms Boost Gut Health
Many studies out there tout fresh mushrooms as powerful prebiotics for feeding our microbiome. Prebiotics serves as food for our body's good gut bacteria-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 it repopulate with a host of various healthy bacteria.
One meta-analysis focusing on the health benefits of mushrooms found strong correlations between the prebiotic power of the fungus and immune function, weight, gut inflammation, colon cancer and neurological disease risk.
Mushrooms Are A Great Source of B Vitamins
Mushrooms are rich in the B vitamins riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid. 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, 18% of our daily niacin requirement and 15% for pantothenic acid. 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!
Related: Healthy Mushroom Recipes
Mushrooms Are Full of 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 have even more potassium than a medium-sized banana!
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 protection from stroke, osteoporosis and kidney stones.
The Bottom Line
There are a whole bunch of health claims surrounding mushrooms, so it's important to do your research before buying into functional foods and supplements. Thankfully, there is some pretty solid research out there to show we should be eating more mushrooms in their natural form, and we have some pretty delicious recipes containing 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. And if you're looking for more inspiration, check out our Healthy Vegetarian Mushroom Recipes to help you finally start participating in Meatless Monday.