Are mushrooms good for you? Can they make you gain weight? Are they a superfood? Those are some of the most common questions about mushrooms that I find in my inbox. I am not surprised: nutrition is becoming increasingly important, and there isn’t that much information about mushrooms available. I looked into this for you, and you will find the answers in this article.
ARE MUSHROOMS GOOD FOR YOU?
Mushrooms are great for you. They are natural sources of vitamins and minerals, low-calorie but contain proteins and fiber, which makes them a choice dietary meal. They are a superfood.
VITAMINS IN MUSHROOMS
Mushrooms contain vitamins D, B2 (Riboflavin), B5 (Pantothenic acid), and PP (Niacin). A cup of dry mushrooms contains about enough of those vitamins to satisfy their recommended daily intake. Mushrooms also contain a rather small amount of vitamin C and a huge amount of provitamin D, which the human body can turn into vitamin D.
Vitamin D allows the human body to absorb calcium and build bones. It is also helpful in the nervous, muscle, and immunity systems. Only a few other foods contain vitamin D, making mushrooms rather exceptional, especially for those on a vegan or vegetarian diet.
However, exposure to sunlight is required for vitamin D to develop in the mushrooms. And cultivated mushrooms are usually grown in the dark. If you purchase mushrooms in the store, put them on your window for a couple of minutes to allow vitamin D to develop in them.
Riboflavin is key to body growth. It also helps blood cell production and the release of energy from proteins.
Because riboflavin is water-soluble and leaves the body easily, our body only has a small amount of this vitamin stored in reserve. Therefore, we need a regular intake of riboflavin.
Pantothenic acid deficiency is rare in humans and therefore not really well researched, but we know it causes nervous problems in animals.
Pantothenic acid probably helps with a long list of conditions. These include acne, asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, pink eye, or ADHD.
Just like riboflavin, it is water-soluble, and we need a regular intake of this vitamin.
Niacin is important to produce good cholesterol and to prevent a niacin deficiency disease, pellagra.
MINERALS IN MUSHROOMS
On average, minerals make 8% of mushrooms’ dry matter. The content is similar to the values in vegetables. The main minerals contained are potassium, phosphor, sulfur, and magnesium, followed by calcium, copper, iron, and zinc. Except for sulfur, all of those are an essential part of human nutrition.
We need potassium for our muscles to contract properly. This includes the most important muscle of all: potassium helps the heart to contract regularly. It also plays a key role in the nutrition of the cells and the maintenance of osmotic pressure.
Phosphorus plays a key role in the formation of bones and teeth. It is a part of ATP, the body’s energy-storing molecule, and it is needed to make the protein that is used to grow and repair cells and tissues.
Fun fact: Phosphorus makes about 1% of human weight and about 1% of mushroom dry matter weight.
Magnesium participates in numerous biochemical reactions in the human body. Above all, it is important for nerve and muscle function, regular heartbeat, and bone strength.
FIBER IN MUSHROOMS
Mushrooms, in general, contain just a low amount of saccharides. Most of the saccharides they do contain are polysaccharides, which are very beneficial to humans. Our body isn’t able to break up the polysaccharides from mushrooms, and so they pass through undigested as fiber, an important component of the human diet.
One group of these polysaccharides, beta-glucans, has enormous medicinal potential, which humanity has tapped only partially so far.
MEDICINAL PROPERTIES OF MUSHROOMS
For centuries, mushrooms have been used in folk medicine to treat diseases. Today, we know that they have a plethora of medicinal effects. Those are being researched more in recent decades, which has led to the development of numerous medicinal drugs and the introduction of many mushroom-based nutritional supplements to the market.
It all started in the 1970s when research in Japan has shown that several polysaccharides contained in some mushroom species can inhibit the growth of or destroy cancer cells. Since then, a lot more research has been done. We now know there is a number of mushrooms with antitumor effects.
Mushrooms are the most hopeful potential source of a future cure for cancer and many more drugs. They are already being used in supportive treatment for cancer successfully.
THE BENEFICIAL EFFECTS OF SELECT POPULAR MUSHROOMS (BASED ON RESEARCH)
Mushrooms have over one hundred medicinal uses, which include, above all, antioxidant, antitumor, immunomodulating, cardiovascular protection, antimicrobial, antifungal, detoxification, and anti-inflammatory effects.
|Common name(s)||Beneficial effects|
|Aniseed funnel||antitumor, antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidative|
|Beefsteak fungus||antitumor, heals gastrointestinal problems|
|Birch polypore||antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antiviral, laxative|
|Bitter bolete||anti-inflammatory, heals hepatopathy, helps against food poisoning|
|Button mushroom & other cultivated champignons||anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, antioxidant|
|Cat’s tooth fungus, tooth jelly fungus||antitumor|
|Cauliflower mushroom, hanabiratake||antitumor, boosts immunity, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-obesity|
|Chaga||antitumor, boosts immunity, anti-inflammatory, supports the treatment of cardiovascular sicknesses|
|Common morel, yellow morel, true morel||antitumor, improves bowel function|
|Common puffball||stops bleeding, antibacterial, stops sore throat, detoxication, detumescence|
|Enoki, velvet-shank, winter mushroom||Immunity stimulation, decrease of blood pressure, stimulates the pancreas, helps with nutritional allergies and liver disease|
|Field mushroom||antibacterial, antitumor, heals anemia, dermatophytosis, hypopepsia|
|Fly agaric mushroom||heals insomnia, antitumor|
|Golden chanterelle||improves vision, supports indigestion, heals infections of the respiratory and digestive system, antitumor|
|Hairy bracket||antifungal, antioxidative, antirheumatic, antitumor|
|Hen of the Woods||reduces the risk of cancer, decreases blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol|
|Honey mushroom||boost immunity, heals neurasthenia, insomnia, shoulder stiffness|
|King bolete, king cep, porcino||antitumor, heals wooden limbs, lumbago, and scleralgia|
|Late oyster||antitumor, boosts immunity|
|Lion’s mane mushroom||decreases blood pressure, antistress, antitumor, stomach aces, burping, nerve problems, increases appetite, boosts immunity|
|Lumpy bracket, umbrella polypore||antitumor, diuretic, urinary tract inflammation healing|
|Oyster mushroom||antitumor, decreases blood cholesterol and sugar|
|Paddy straw mushroom||antitumor, heals scurvy|
|Quilted green russula||improves vision, decreases fever, antitumor|
|Reishi||antitumor, immunity boost, supports the treatment of neurasthenia, insomnia, inflammation, muscle dystrophia, dizziness|
|Ringless honey mushroom||heals hepatopathy, antitumor|
|Saffron milk cap||antitumor|
|Scaly wood mushroom||antitumor, immunity boost, improve liver function|
|Scotch bonnet||antitumor, heals wooden limbs, lumbago, and scleralgia|
|Shaggymane inkcap, lawyer’s wig||anti-hemorrhoid, decreases blood sugar, appetite stimulant, prevention of atherosclerosis|
|Shiitake||antitumor, immunity boost, antivirus, antibacterial, boost libido, anti-allergic, anti-dizziness, increase energy levels|
|Split-gill fungus||antitumor, immunity boost, antifungal, antimicrobial, chemo-protective|
|Stinkhorn mushroom||analgetic, heals rheumatism, improves blood circulation|
|Tawny milk cap||antitumor|
|Tinder mushroom, hoof fungus||antitumor, heals blood stagnation|
|Turkey-tail mushroom||immunity boost, increase energy levels, suppress night sweating, improve breathing|
|White parasol mushroom||Improves indigestion|
|Wood blewit||antitumor, antibacterial|
|Wood ear||boosts immunity, decreases blood cholesterol, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasm, anti hemorrhoidal bleeding, improves healing, calms an upset stomach|
|Yellow jelly fungus||antitumor, immunity boost, antiallergic, antioxidative, decrease blood sugar and cholesterol, helps against neurasthenia and insomnia|
MUSHROOMS AS MEDICINE (VIDEO PRESENTATION)
I believe this presentation by Paul Stamets is both very informative and inspiring:
CAN YOU EAT TOO MANY MUSHROOMS?
The amount of cultivated mushrooms that is physically possible to eat is safe in every way, even for daily consumers. Some wild mushrooms may absorb poisonous compounds from the ground, and their intake should be limited, as they can cause cumulative poisoning.
In articles about such wild mushroom species on Mushroomgrove.com, I always mention the recommended amounts and types of locations where they are safe to forage.
MUSHROOMS CAN ENRICH YOUR DIET
Not only are mushrooms low-calorie, low-fat, and some of them actually reduce blood sugar and blood cholesterol, they are a great addition to the diet of any human who enjoys their delicate texture and umami taste.
But there is more:
Edible mushrooms are a source of protein, fiber, several important vitamins, and several essential minerals. Research proves that adding a mushroom serving to your diet increases the intake of several micronutrients without an increase in calories, sodium, or fat.
I believe that everyone should include mushrooms in their diet.