What is a mushroom? It’s located in the vegetable section of the grocery store but does it really count as a vegetable? A mushroom is actually a fungi, which is more closely related to yeasts and molds than plants. The documentary Fantastic Fungi explores the underground network these organisms create and how they help support plant life.
They are a very unique food because they are one of the only plant-based sources of vitamin D and they also contain compounds not found in other foods that offer a range of health benefits.
Here are 7 reasons to incorporate mushrooms into your diet:
- Boosts Immunity: They are a rich source of beta-glucans. Beta-glucans are polysaccharides that stimulate the immune system by activating natural killer cells and macrophages. These cells help protect the body against infection and disease.
- Reduces Inflammation: Mushrooms contain compounds like ergothioneine and hericystin that have potent anti-inflammatory effects. These compounds can help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, arthritis, and cancer.
- Fights Cancer: Mushrooms contain a number of compounds that have been shown to fight cancer. For example, beta-glucans stimulate the immune system to attack cancer cells and lentinan is an anti-tumor compound that has been shown to slow the growth of tumors.
- Improves Digestion: Mushrooms are a good source of fiber which is important for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Fiber helps to bulk up stool and prevents constipation and is good for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. Additionally, mushrooms contain compounds like chitin and chitosan which can help to improve gut health by reducing inflammation and balancing the microbiome.
- Boosts Brain Health: Mushrooms are a good source of copper, which is essential for brain health. Copper helps to maintain myelin, the protective sheath that surrounds nerve cells. It also helps to support cognitive function and reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
- Lowers Cholesterol: Mushrooms contain compounds like lovastatin and eritadenine which have been shown to lower cholesterol levels. These compounds work by inhibiting the synthesis of cholesterol in the liver.
- Improves Heart Health: The compounds in mushrooms can also help to improve heart health. For example, ergothioneine is an antioxidant that protects the heart from damage and hericystin reduces inflammation of the arteries.
While we may not think of mushrooms as being particularly nutritious, they are a low calorie food packed with antioxidants and other essential nutrients. Just one cup of cooked mushrooms contains: 2 grams of fiber, 40% of the recommended daily intake for copper and selenium, 22% of the recommended daily intake for potassium, and a whopping 15% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin B2 (riboflavin).
There are many different types of mushrooms available including white button mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, and porcini mushrooms. Each type of mushroom offers different health benefits.
Portobello mushrooms , for example, are a good source of iron and make a great meat alternative in sandwiches and burgers. MCLEAN is proud to introduce our new Organic Beef & Mushroom “flexitarian” Burger. It’s a 241! Only 190 calories, 7% of your daily fiber requirement, and 15 grams of protein. Portobello mushrooms are also a good source of antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties.
Oyster mushrooms, on the other hand, are a good source of zinc and vitamin B12. They also contain compounds that may boost cognitive function and protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Shiitake mushrooms are native to East Asia and have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. They have a distinct flavor and can be eaten raw, cooked, or dried. Shiitake mushrooms contain a compound called lentinan which has been shown to boost the immune system and slow the growth of tumors.
Porcini mushrooms are a type of gourmet mushroom that is prized for its flavour; rich and woodsy with subtle nutty undertones. They can be found fresh or dried and are often used in soups, sauces, and risottos. Porcini mushrooms are a good source of fiber, protein, and vitamins B2 and B3 and ergothioneine which has been shown to protect cells from damage.
When buying mushrooms, make sure to look for ones that are firm and have a uniform colour. Avoid mushrooms that are bruised or discoloured as this is an indication of age. Fresh mushrooms should last up to a week when stored in the fridge. If you’re looking for a longer shelf life, dried mushrooms can be stored for up to six months.