Are mushrooms healthy?
Are Mushrooms Healthy? A Guide to the Nutritional and Medicinal Benefits of Fungi
Mushrooms are more than just a tasty addition to your favorite dishes. They are also a nutritious and versatile food that can offer many health benefits. Whether you enjoy them raw, cooked, or as a supplement, mushrooms can help you boost your immunity, lower your blood pressure, fight cancer, and more. Here are some of the reasons why mushrooms are good for you and how to include them in your diet.
Mushrooms are rich in nutrients
Mushrooms are low in calories and fat, but high in protein and fiber. They also contain many vitamins and minerals that are essential for your health. Some of the nutrients found in mushrooms include:
- Selenium: This mineral acts as an antioxidant, protecting your cells from damage and reducing inflammation. Selenium also supports your thyroid function and immune system. Mushrooms are one of the best plant sources of selenium, especially button, crimini, and shiitake varieties.
- Vitamin B6: This vitamin helps your body make neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that regulate your mood, sleep, and appetite. Vitamin B6 also helps your body produce red blood cells and hemoglobin, which carry oxygen throughout your body. Portobello, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms are good sources of vitamin B6.
- Riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid: These B vitamins are involved in many metabolic processes, such as breaking down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for energy. They also help maintain healthy skin, hair, eyes, and nerves. Mushrooms are rich in these B vitamins, especially crimini, portobello, shiitake, and oyster varieties.
- Potassium: This mineral helps regulate your fluid balance, blood pressure, and nerve and muscle function. Potassium also helps prevent kidney stones and osteoporosis. Mushrooms are a good source of potassium, especially portobello, crimini, shiitake, and chanterelle varieties.
Mushrooms also contain other beneficial compounds that have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and anticancer properties. These compounds include polysaccharides (such as beta-glucans), sterols (such as ergosterol), terpenoids (such as triterpenes), phenolic compounds (such as flavonoids), and lectins.
Mushrooms may prevent or treat various diseases
Mushrooms have been used for centuries as a traditional medicine in many cultures. Modern research has confirmed some of the medicinal effects of mushrooms and their extracts. Some of the diseases that mushrooms may prevent or treat include:
- Alzheimer’s disease: Mushrooms may help improve cognitive function and memory by enhancing nerve growth factor (NGF) production and reducing amyloid-beta plaque formation in the brain. NGF is a protein that supports the survival and growth of neurons, while amyloid-beta is a toxic substance that accumulates in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Some of the mushrooms that may have this effect include lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus), reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis), and maitake (Grifola frondosa).
- Heart disease: Mushrooms may help lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure by inhibiting the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase (which is involved in cholesterol synthesis) and activating the enzyme nitric oxide synthase (which is involved in blood vessel dilation). Mushrooms may also prevent blood clots by inhibiting platelet aggregation. Some of the mushrooms that may have this effect include shiitake (Lentinula edodes), oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus), enoki (Flammulina velutipes), and maitake (Grifola frondosa).
- Cancer: Mushrooms may help fight cancer by stimulating the immune system to produce natural killer cells (which destroy tumor cells) and cytokines (which regulate immune responses). Mushrooms may also inhibit tumor growth by inducing apoptosis (programmed cell death) and angiogenesis (new blood vessel formation). Some of the mushrooms that may have this effect include turkey tail (Trametes versicolor), reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), chaga (Inonotus obliquus), agaricus (Agaricus blazei), and maitake (Grifola frondosa).
- Diabetes: Mushrooms may help lower blood sugar levels by enhancing insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake by cells. Mushrooms may also prevent diabetic complications by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. Some of the mushrooms that may have this effect include maitake (Grifola frondosa), reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis), and shiitake (Lentinula edodes).
How to eat mushrooms
Mushrooms are delicious and versatile, and you can enjoy them in many ways. You can eat them raw, cooked, dried, or powdered. You can also take them as a supplement in the form of capsules, tablets, liquids, or extracts. Here are some tips on how to eat mushrooms:
- Choose fresh, organic, and edible mushrooms from reliable sources. Avoid wild mushrooms unless you are an expert at identifying them, as some of them can be poisonous or hallucinogenic.
- Store fresh mushrooms in a paper bag in the refrigerator for up to five days. Do not wash them until you are ready to use them, as they can absorb water and lose flavor. Brush off any dirt and rinse them lightly before cooking.
- Cook mushrooms in a variety of ways, such as sautéing, roasting, grilling, baking, or stir-frying. You can also add them to soups, salads, sandwiches, pizzas, pastas, casseroles, omelets, and more. Use herbs, spices, garlic, onion, lemon juice, vinegar, or soy sauce to enhance their flavor.
- Eat mushrooms regularly, but in moderation. Aim for about one cup of cooked mushrooms per day. Too much of anything can be harmful, and some people may be allergic or sensitive to mushrooms or their components.
- Consult your doctor before taking mushroom supplements, especially if you have a medical condition or are taking any medication. Some mushroom supplements may interact with drugs or have side effects.
Mushrooms are healthy and tasty foods that can offer many benefits for your body and mind. Try different types of mushrooms and experiment with different recipes to enjoy their flavor and nutrition.