If you haven’t already, it’s time to start eating more mushrooms.
“Most commonly considered a non-starchy vegetable, mushrooms are actually an edible fungus that contain fiber and various nutrients for supporting good health,” says Mary Wirtz, RD, and consultant for Mom Loves Best.
Mushrooms are also a great source of important nutrients including B vitamins, phosphorus, vitamin D, selenium, and potassium. What’s more “mushrooms have been well-researched in helping to fight free radicals that cause cellular damage,” Wirtz says.
And she goes on: “From a nutrition perspective, mushrooms are very low in calories and a rich source of dietary fiber; therefore a fantastic method for reducing caloric intake and helping to control weight and obesity.”
Eating mushrooms regularly may also be a boon for your brain health. “While there is no specific agreed upon recommendation for the number of servings of mushrooms per week, consuming more than two servings of mushrooms per week is linked with a lower risk of cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s,” says Wirtz, pointing to this research .
And, then, all nutritious benefits aside, there’s the fact that mushrooms are absolutely delicious. Shiitake, crimini, oyster, trumpet, morel—these fungi are some of the most meaty, umami-packed foods outside of the animal-protein kingdom. Skipping mushrooms all together because you once had a bad experience with a raw white mushroom at a chain restaurant salad bar is depriving your health—and your gustatory wealth.
Variety is the spice of life, and consuming a wide array of mushrooms may offer variegated health benefits. “Consider adding mushrooms to your morning egg scramble, chicken salad at lunch, or homemade veggie burgers at dinner,” Wirtz said.
Ahead, 11 amazing mushrooms to load up on for your health.
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Mushrooms are the only item in the produce aisle that feature immune supporting vitamin D, and maitakes are particularly loaded with the essential nutrient, says Pam Smith, RDN, author Eat Well, Live Well.
“One serving—1 cup diced—of maitake mushrooms offers nearly a full day’s recommended allowance of vitamin D (99 percent), which helps to strengthen bones, and regulates the production of proteins your body needs to kill bacterial and viral infections,” Smith says.
They’re also gorgeous and delicious, often called as ‘hen of the woods’ with their wild, rippling, feathery look with fan-like caps. They have a rich, woodsy taste perfect for grilling or broiling.
“They are one of the best as they contain many of the same amino acids (protein-building blocks) as meat and therefore are a wonderful meat alternative,” says Melissa Mitri, RD, of FinvsFin.com.
They are a rich source of sterols, plant compounds that have been associated with reduced cholesterol levels in some studies. They also contain polysaccharides, a type of carbohydrate that may aid the immune system, Mitri says.
Shiitakes are also a good source of fiber, B vitamins, and essential minerals. Riffing off Mitri, Wirtz commented that research has shown that regular consumption of shiitake mushrooms increases immunity and decreases total body inflammation.
These puffball-shaped mushrooms have a spongy texture and taste incredible grilled. You’ll find them in powdered form within supplements too. But just know this about mushroom supplements in general: While there’s some promising research emerging, there’s not enough science yet to conclude that taking mushroom supplements will benefit your brain or body in any way. Real mushrooms, on the other hand, have a strong backing from science.
“Reishi are another medicinal mushroom often used in a supplement powder form,” says Mitri. “Studies show reishi mushrooms may help sleep, anxiety, boost mood, and improve focus,” she says, sharing that this may be attributable to a compound in reishi mushrooms called triterpene. Just know that many of these studies have been conducted on rodents, so the findings still need to be successfully replicated in humans.
There are a few varieties of these long-stemmed mushrooms out there (the golden chanterelle is pictured here). All of them contain decent doses of immunity-supporting vitamin D—and all of them are incredibly delicious sauted simply in butter and seasoned with salt and pepper.
Wirtz says that morel mushrooms offer unique health benefits, including phytochemical-rich nutrients such as tocopherols, ascorbic acid, and also vitamin D. “Phytochemicals are believed to protect cells from free radical damage and reduce the risk of certain cancers,” she says. These mushrooms are rare in their fresh form, but you can buy them dehydrated. When you’re ready to cook, just soak them in hot water for 15 minutes, drain, chop, and then sizzle them into an omelet or in oil and scatter across a steak.
This supermarket staple is an excellent go-to for your health. “A nutrient powerhouse, white button mushrooms have been well-researched in helping to strengthen the immune system by protecting and repairing body tissue,” says Wirtz, pointing to this research.
Also known as portabella, portobello mushrooms are one of the most consumed mushrooms, says Alyssa Wilson, RD, metabolic success coach at Signos.
“They’re an excellent source of the B vitamin, riboflavin, and the antioxidant selenium. They’re also a good source of phosphorus, copper and niacin, and phytochemicals, such as L-ergothioneine and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).”
Expanding on that, Smith says “their contribution of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) has a protective effect for the body’s cells.”
As Wilson suggests, they also make a great substitute for meat. Swap whole, de-stemmed, de-gilled portobello mushrooms for hamburgers or chop them up and add to ground beef in your favorite bolognese recipe.
“Preliminary research has suggested that regular consumption of oyster mushrooms may have a positive effect on cardiometabolic parameters, including blood pressure and lipid metabolism,” says Wirtz. For an easy weeknight supper, try sautéed oyster mushrooms and spinach with garlic.
If you’re not familiar with this type of mushroom, it’s well worth adding these nutrient-packed fungi into your routine. “Chaga is a type of mushroom that benefits the body because it contains high concentrations of B vitamins, flavonoids, phenols, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc, and iron. Most notably, chaga contains the very powerful anti-oxidative enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD) in quantities over 10 times that of most SOD pills,” says Wilson, citing this research. “The easiest way to include this powerhouse in your diet is through brewing it into a tea or taking it as a tincture or extract.”
“Crimini is an excellent source of the antioxidants selenium, copper, phosphorus, B vitamin’s riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid. One mushroom contains 4.9 mg of the antioxidant ergothioneine,” says Wilson.
This mushroom provides a wonderful, nuanced flavor that we especially love roasted with olive oil and fresh herbs.
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