Even if you’re eating them raw in salads, mushrooms are on fire right now. In 2019, sales of mushrooms and mushroom-based products grew by 33% compared to the previous year, the trade magazine Nutritional perspectives reported in 2021.
Nutrition experts are thrilled with mushrooms. “Mushrooms are low in calories. They also provide a wide range of macro and micronutrients, most notably B vitamins, selenium, zinc and copper, ”says Katherine Brooking, RD, registered dietitian in New York City and co-creator of the weekly syndicated news series Appetite for Health. B vitamins are important in the production of energy in cells, he explains. And selenium is a powerful antioxidant, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), while zinc and copper are essential for a strong immune system.
It is clear that whole mushrooms that are eaten raw or cooked for use in recipes are beneficial to health, and these, rather than processed mushrooms, are what we are focusing on in this story. Other forms, such as supplements, nutraceuticals, and mouth sprays, may provide other benefits, but more research is needed.
The most popular mushroom produced in the United States is the white mushroom, says Kim Bedwell of the Mushroom Council. “Other varieties, such as cremini, also known as baby bella, and portobello are becoming increasingly popular,” she says. You’re also more likely to find specialty mushrooms (like shiitake, oysters, and maitakes) at traditional grocery stores, she says. You have many choices, depending on your taste preferences, and that means many ways to enjoy the following seven health benefits of mushrooms.
1. Mushrooms support immunity and bone health
When exposed to UV rays, mushrooms generate vitamin D, according to a review publication in October 2018 Nutrients. (A half cup of UV-exposed white raw mushrooms contains 46 percent of the daily value of D, notes the NIH.) And that’s an incredible nutritional benefit for a vegetable (er, mushrooms). “There aren’t really many dietary sources, particularly plant-based, of vitamin D,” says Brooking. “The vitamin plays an incredibly crucial role in immune and bone health.” As the Nutrients The research review points out that the recommended amount of vitamin D supports muscle function, reduces the risk of falls, and may have anti-cancer, anti-diabetes and heart-protective properties.
Your body itself produces D from sun exposure, but several factors can influence your risk of a deficiency in this vitamin. You may be deficient if you’re not getting enough sunlight, aren’t eating enough in your diet, or have certain medical conditions that affect absorption, such as Crohn’s disease, osteoporosis, or chronic kidney or liver disease, according to MedlinePlus.
When shopping for vitamin D-rich mushrooms, look for this information on the front or bottom of the package, Bedwell says. Another way to tell if your mushrooms are high in vitamin D is if they cover at least 20 percent of the daily value, or DV, per serving. You can find this information on the nutrition facts label. Make sure you also pay attention to the expiration date and eat the mushrooms before this time, as this will ensure you are still getting a good amount of vitamin D, the Nutrients study notes.
2. Mushrooms can promote gut health
Your gut contains trillions of bacteria, and consuming mushrooms can help populate your gastrointestinal tract with the right balance of bacteria to keep your gastrointestinal tract healthy and strengthen your immune system, notes a review in September 2017. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. “Research on fungi and gut health is early but really compelling. Fungi contain prebiotics, which are the nutrients that probiotics feed on, “says Brooking. Therefore, prebiotics in fungi can promote the growth of these beneficial bacteria. Probiotics are live microorganisms, or bacteria, that can have benefits for the body health, as they aid digestion and produce nutrients, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
3. Mushrooms are good for blood pressure
A whole portobello mushroom – those famous big mushrooms – provides 306 milligrams (mg) of the important mineral potassium, according to the USDA. Potassium helps control blood pressure by counteracting the effects of sodium and improving blood vessel function, according to the American Heart Association. Such as? More potassium in the diet encourages the excretion of sodium in the urine. The heart health benefits don’t stop there. Mushrooms may also help improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels and reduce inflammation, according to a May 2021 review. American Journal of Medicine.
4. Mushrooms have been linked to cancer prevention
Consider adding mushrooms to your cancer prevention diet. In a meta-analysis of 17 studies in a meta-analysis of 17 studies, people who routinely ate more mushrooms had a 34% lower risk of cancer than those who ate less, especially in the case of breast cancer. . Advances in Nutrition published September 2021. Mushrooms are rich in antioxidants, especially ergothioneine and glutathione, which can protect cells from damage.
That said, not all research has found positive associations. In a prospective cohort study involving more than 100,000 men and women, the researchers concluded that participants who ate five servings of mushrooms per week had no lower risk of 16 different types of cancer than those who rarely ate mushrooms. for Cancer Prevention Research as of August 2019.
5. Mushrooms can promote longevity when substituted for red meat
Mushrooms add an umami, or savory, meaty flavor to foods. “They are the perfect extender to add instead of or in addition to meat in so many recipes,” says Brooking. As part of a large prospective cohort study published in April 2021 in Journal of NutritionThe researchers found that study participants who consumed one serving of mushrooms per day compared with those who consumed one serving of processed or red meat had a 35% lower risk of death from any cause.
The possible reason is that in addition to containing those antioxidants ergothioneine and glutathione, mushrooms are also low in calories, sodium and fat and high in fiber, the study authors report. At the same time, people who consume mushrooms tend to follow healthier diets, so it is unclear whether mushroom consumption alone was responsible for the participants’ longer lifespan.
6. Mushrooms can increase brain health
We all want to stay awake as we age, but 12 to 18 percent of people aged 60 and over have mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that is sometimes a precursor to Alzheimer’s and affects memory. , on thinking skills and judgment, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. A healthy diet is important for an aging brain, and mushrooms can be part of it. In a study of 663 adults aged 60 and over in Singapore, those who reported consuming more than two servings of mushrooms per week were 57% less likely to develop MCI than those who ate them less often than once a week, according to a March 2019 study in Alzheimer’s disease journal. (The study used gold, oyster, shiitake, white button, dried, and canned mushrooms.)
A possible reason for their cognitive protective properties? Ergothioneine, which is not only an antioxidant, but also has anti-inflammatory properties, both of which can protect against neuronal damage.
7. Some psychoactive mushrooms are a possible treatment for mental health conditions
There is a lot of talk about the use of psilocybin, a hallucinogenic compound found in “magic mushrooms”, as a psychedelic treatment for conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. And, when performed under careful supervision, these therapies hold some promise: in a small study (59 people) published in New England Journal of Medicine in April 2021, the six-week psilocybin treatment was as effective as escitalopram, a standard antidepressant, in relieving depression. (Aside from being a small study, there wasn’t even a placebo, which limits the strength of the results.)
Currently, large research facilities, such as the Center for the Neuroscience of Psychedelics at Massachusetts General Hospital, are studying psilocybin as a therapy for treatment-resistant depression, as psychedelics may be useful in facilitating new neural connections. That said, this type of treatment is in the future. Although psilocybin may be used in certain specific research settings, it is currently a Schedule 1 substance (meaning it is illegal for personal use right now in the United States) and is not approved for medical use, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. .