Human beings have used mushrooms for their healing properties for millennia. They were referred to as “the plant of immortality” by the ancient Egyptians. Not only are they good for you, but they have medicinal qualities that classify them as “functional foods.” This term may apply to as much as 50% of edible mushrooms means that they can have health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Believe it or not, humans are closely related to mushrooms, and we have been consuming the essential molecules in these fungi for so long that our bodies have become dependent on them. Innumerable scientific studies document how these superfoods can improve overall health and treat and prevent grave health conditions.
What Nutrition Do Mushrooms Provide?
Many people think of mushrooms as an occasional pizza topping or something that they sometimes see in a salad without realizing just how packed with nutrients they are. They are a terrific source of protein and fiber, which makes them an ideal addition to plant-based diets, and they’re low in calories to boot. Individuals who seek to add natural antioxidants to their diet typically think of brightly colored fruits and vegetables as the best source of these substances. Still, earth-toned mushrooms are full of them as well. In addition to these components, mushrooms are also rich in vital nutrients such as vitamin C, copper, potassium, selenium, choline, and B vitamins.
Mushrooms Help Boost the Immune System
One of the many advantages of eating mushrooms is the impressive effect on boosting the immune system. The Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Florida conducted a clinical study on shiitake mushrooms that showed eating them every day had a positive effect on immunity that current pharmaceutical drugs cannot supply.
Individuals who regularly eat fungi like the common button mushroom have experienced anti-inflammatory effects, and it is commonly reported that consuming mushrooms aids in the prevention of respiratory infections. These white mushroom health benefits are why many individuals begin including fungi as part of their daily meal plan.
As if that wasn’t enough, studies on gut health have shown that including mushrooms in your diet can also help treat obesity by altering gut bacteria. The nourishment they provide to these bacteria is a result of the fact that they are a prebiotic. Balancing the Bifidobacterium and Acidophilus in the microbiome is one of their primary functions in gut health.
Losing Weight with Mushrooms
Fungi are an excellent food to help individuals achieve weight loss because of low mushroom calories, very little fat content, and the fact that they are packed with nutrients. They also contain dietary fibers such as chitin and beta-glucans that suppress the appetite and help you feel full. A study published in Appetite reported that individuals had lower cholesterol and blood pressure, less occurrence of diabetes, and had lost weight after a year in which the meat on their diets had been reduced and replaced with mushrooms. Participants also reported a greater overall sense of well-being.
Mushrooms Can Benefit Pregnancy
Folate is known to improve fetal health, and many pregnant women take folate supplements, folate, or folic acid during their pregnancy to achieve these benefits. What few realize, however, is that eating mushrooms can produce the same desired effects. It is recommended that adults consume 400 micrograms (mcg) of folate every day, and a cup of raw, whole mushroom contains 16.3 mcg. Adding extra mushrooms to your diet in place of supplements is a great way to get to the daily recommended goal.
Consuming Mushrooms Is Good for Your Heart
In addition to the ways that eating mushrooms are great for women’s’ health, there are also mushroom benefits for men. Heart disease accounts for about one in every four male deaths in the United States, which is the leading cause of male fatalities. Cardiovascular health in men and women is improved by the vitamin C, potassium, and fiber that mushrooms offer. A reduction in sodium and an increase in potassium can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and hypertension and regulate blood pressure.
A 2016 study found that if individuals had a deficiency in vitamin C, cardiovascular disease was more common. It further suggested that consuming vitamin C through foods such as mushrooms helped prevent this disease but found no evidence that reduced risk could be achieved by taking vitamin C supplements. Beta-glucans, present on the cell walls of many fungi, such as shiitake mushrooms, may also lower blood cholesterol levels. The stems of the shiitake are especially rich in these substances.
Managing Diabetes with Mushrooms
Individuals with type 2 diabetes need fiber in their diet to help manage their condition. Fiber helps reduce blood glucose levels, which is essential in treating type 2 diabetes. In addition to that, a meta-analysis review published in 2018 found that individuals who consume a high-fiber diet are at a lower risk of developing the disease. Mushrooms are an ideal way to get extra fiber into your diet. A cup (70 grams) of sliced raw mushrooms contains about one gram of fiber.
Rice, beans, and whole grains are another great source of dietary fiber, so dishes prepared with a combination of these food items can help individuals reach their daily fiber goal. Age and sex influence the recommended amount of fiber that should be consumed, but the Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests anywhere from 22.4 to 33.6 grams per day for most adults.
Mushrooms Can Help You to Live Longer
The fact that including mushrooms in your diet adds antioxidants that help your body avoid the oxidative stress that can damage healthy cells, and offers cells protection from free radicals means they can help you live a long, vibrant life. Seven mushrooms, in particular, offer the most beneficial level of antioxidants that help to improve longevity.
This list of mushrooms includes:
- Golden oyster
Add Mushrooms to Your Daily Meal Plan to Achieve Their Health Benefits
There are many ways to work mushrooms into your diet and start reaping the benefits they can have on your health. Be sure to eat mushrooms you purchase or grow on your own that you know are edible. There are many types of fungus growing in the wild that can be poisonous to humans. Wild mushrooms should only be harvested and eaten by individuals who are properly trained.
Recipes that include mushrooms range from sautés and soups to casseroles, additions to crepes and egg dishes, and meat substitutes. Organic mushrooms provide the best benefits, and it is a good idea to mix up the varieties you eat to get the optimal effects. You may also find dried mushrooms and mushroom powders that you can use in your cooking, although fresh mushrooms often provide the most nutrients you need for improved health. If you haven’t been including these beneficial fungi in your cooking, now is the time to start.