Mushrooms look a little strange compared to common superfoods like apples or cucumbers, but edible fungi are delicious, savory ingredients. There are different kinds of mushrooms, and they offer health benefits such as improving your brain health and keeping your bones strong.
Unlike other white foods that you’re supposed to avoid (e.g., sugar or white bread), mushrooms are full of nutrients, such as copper, iron, phosphorus, potassium and selenium, which aren’t usually found in plant-based foods.
Detailed below are six reasons to add mushrooms to your diet.
They can help fight the signs of aging
According to a 2017 study published in the journal Food Chemistry, mushrooms are rich in two potent antioxidants: ergothioneine and glutathione.
Both ergothioneine and glutathione help protect your body from physiological stress that causes wrinkles — one of the many visible signs of aging.
They can boost your memory
In a 2019 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, scientists from the National University of Singapore reported that consuming two 3/4 cup servings of cooked mushrooms each week helps lower your risk of developing mild cognitive decline.
They can improve your brain health as you age
Ergothioneine and glutathione can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, according to researchers from Penn State University (PSU). They found that consuming at least five button mushrooms per day helps lower your risk of developing neurological disorders as you age.
For optimum results, grill the mushrooms to preserve their nutritional benefits. (Related: Can reishi mushrooms help prevent cancer and other life-threatening diseases?)
They can give you a natural energy boost
Mushrooms are full of the following B-vitamins:
- Thiamine (vitamin B1)
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- Niacin (vitamin B3)
- Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
- Folate (vitamin B9)
Your body needs these B-vitamins to utilize energy from the food you eat. B-vitamins also help with the production of red blood cells which help carry oxygen throughout your body.
They’re good for your cardiovascular health
If you’re looking to cut your sodium intake, you can replace salt with mushrooms. Edible fungi give recipes a flavor boost because they contain glutamate ribonucleotides, which are amazing compounds that give food a savory, umami taste. One cup of mushrooms contains only five milligrams of sodium.
You can eat mushrooms to curb your cravings for red meat. Replacing meat with mushrooms helps lower your calorie, cholesterol and fat intake. To control your blood pressure and lower your risk of heart disease, add mushrooms to your diet and take it easy on the salt.
Here are some mushrooms that can boost your overall health:
- Bamboo fungus (Phallus indusiatus) – Bamboo fungus helps lower your “bad” cholesterol levels.
- Maitake (Grifola frondosa) – Maitake mushrooms have anti-cancer and anti-viral properties.
- Monkey head mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) – Monkey head helps lower your blood sugar levels.
- Snow fungus (Tremella fuciformis) – Snow fungus may help relieve dry cough and palpitations.
They can boost your bone health
Mushrooms labeled “UVB” were exposed to sunlight during their growth period, ensuring that they have converted ergosterol directly into vitamin D.
Eat at least three ounces of UVB-exposed mushrooms to meet your daily vitamin D requirement and make your bones stronger.
How to incorporate mushrooms into your diet
Mushrooms are versatile ingredients. Here are some things that you can try to boost your intake of mushrooms.
- Chop mushrooms to give them the consistency of ground beef, then blend them into the meat you’re cooking. Start with this swap to get your palate used to mushrooms and reduce your intake of meat.
- Add sliced mushrooms to pasta sauce.
- Cut up a small mushroom and mix it into a quiche or some scrambled eggs.
- Use mushrooms to give side dishes a texture and flavor boost.
If you’re not an experienced forager, don’t eat mushrooms from the wild. Unless you’re 100 percent sure about the difference between edible and poisonous mushrooms, buy organic mushrooms at your local grocery store or from a farmers market.
Boost your brain health and curb your intake of red meat by eating more mushrooms.