Mushrooms are more than a fungus that sprouts up when it rains. From fresh wild mushrooms to dried medicinal mushrooms, these plants have a robust amino acid profile and contain a variety of natural compounds, vitamins, and antioxidants.
If you regularly eat mushrooms, you can improve your health and reduce your risk of developing all kinds of health conditions. Read on to learn more about the nutritional benefits of certain mushrooms for improved immune function, better heart health, enhanced nervous system function, and healthier cells.
The researchers behind this systematic review published by The American Journal of Medicine looked at seven peer-reviewed studies and found positive results when it comes to the effects of edible mushrooms on heart health and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Specifically, they found that mushrooms had a positive effect on people’s lipid profiles and helped to lower cholesterol levels. Most wellness professionals agree that high cholesterol is connected to an increased risk of heart disease, so lowering cholesterol by upping one’s dietary intake of mushrooms could be beneficial.
Reduced risk of hypertension
In the same study cited above, researchers also found that certain mushrooms could lower blood pressure. This may be due to their powerful antioxidant effects and is good news for those who want to reduce their risk of developing issues related to elevated hypertension (heart attacks, strokes, etc.).
Reduced risk of anemia
Mushrooms are also a good source of iron. One cup of cooked button mushrooms contains approximately 2.7 mg of iron — 15 per cent of the recommended daily intake.
Iron promotes the healthy formation of red blood cells (RBCs). RBCs deliver oxygen throughout the body and remove carbon dioxide.
If a person doesn’t get enough iron in their diet, they may not make enough RBCs and could become anemic. Anemia causes fatigue, an elevated heart rate, slow childhood development, and, in some cases, heart failure.
Improved gut health
Over the last several years, people have started taking their gut (or digestive tract) health more seriously. An improper balance of bacteria in the gut can lead to all kinds of problems, from depression to chronic pain.
Incorporating mushrooms into the diet is a great way to support the gut. This is especially true of medicinal mushrooms like turkey tail and lion’s mane.
Turkey tail is a good source of beta-glucans, a type of soluble fibre that supports the gut and improves immune system function. Lion’s mane, on the other hand, can prevent the growth of helicobacter pylori (or H. pylori), a common bacterial infection that can affect the digestive tract.
Anti-inflammatory compounds in mushrooms can prevent people’s risk of developing certain types of cancer, including breast cancer and prostate cancer.
A cancer prevention study from Penn State University revealed that mushrooms are the world’s highest dietary source of the antioxidant ergothioneine, which protects the body’s cells and reduces oxidative stress caused by damaging free radicals. The study also showed that those who ate mushrooms regularly were significantly less likely to develop breast cancer than those who did not.
Another study published by the International Journal of Cancer showed that men who consumed mushrooms 1-2 times per week (approximately 3 ounces per serving) had an 8 per cent lower risk of developing prostate cancer. Those who ate them three or more times per week had a 17 per cent lower risk.
Reduced risk of cognitive decline
For those who are concerned about brain health, adding mushrooms to their diet is a great choice.
A study published by the National University of Singapore found that seniors who consumed at least two servings of mushrooms (about 300 grams per serving) each week had a 50 per cent reduced chance of developing mild cognitive impairments. The researchers suspect that ergothioneine, the same compound that reduces breath cancer risk, may be responsible for mushrooms’ positive impact on brain health.
Increased vitamin D levels
Raw mushrooms and cooked mushrooms are both excellent sources of vitamin D. In fact, they’re one of the only food sources of this essential vitamin — which is also produced by the skin after exposure to UV light.
Meeting your daily vitamin D needs has been shown to prevent certain types of cancer, such as colon cancer. It also supports the immune cells, improves mood, can lower cholesterol, increases energy, and supports bone health by assisting with calcium absorption.
There are more than 10,000 different types of known mushrooms — far beyond what you can find in grocery stores. Of the known mushroom varieties, though, the following are considered to be some of the healthiest:
- Shiitake mushrooms: Great source of vitamin D and B vitamins
- Portobello mushrooms: Good source of daily vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and selenium
- Button mushrooms: Contains vitamin D, antioxidants, and anti-tumour compounds
- Oyster mushrooms: Source of vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B3 (niacin), and iron
- Turkey tail mushrooms: Rich in antioxidants, immune system-boosting polysaccharides, and prebiotics that support beneficial gut bacteria
- Reishi mushrooms: A good source of B vitamins, immune system-boosting compounds, and compounds that combat high blood pressure
- Lion’s mane mushrooms: Contains compounds that improve cognitive function and mood while reducing cancer risk
If you’re looking for a plant food that offers a lot of nutritional bang for your buck, any healthcare professional will tell you that you can’t go wrong with these mushroom types.
Tips for adding mushrooms to a healthy diet
Don’t like the taste or texture of fresh mushrooms? You’re in luck. There are lots of other ways to add mushrooms to your diet and enjoy these plant foods’ delicious umami flavour.
- Add them to meat dishes (ground beef, meatloaf, meatballs, hamburgers, etc.)
- Mix them into scrambled eggs or omelettes
- Saute them in olive oil, toss in some added salt, and then stir them into soups or pasta dishes
- Dry them, grind them into a mushroom powder, and blend them into broths
If you don’t want to mix button mushrooms or shiitake mushrooms with food, these supplements can be good alternatives. They’re easy to incorporate into your daily routine and provide all the health benefits without the taste or texture of mushrooms if that doesn’t appeal to you.
Now that you know more about the health benefits of mushrooms, from improving gut health to decreasing the risk of anemia, are you ready to increase your mushroom consumption?
At Beams Co., we make eco-friendly mushroom coffees and liquid extracts to help you experience the nutritional benefits of mushrooms.
Our products are made with organically grown ingredients and delivered straight to your door. Head to our shop today to check them out.