9 Healthy Benefits of Mushrooms
With over 2,000 varieties of mushrooms on the planet, there is an amazing diversity. Here at SuperLife, I have compiled a list of seven health benefits of mushrooms (the edible, medicinal varieties) can have on your health, and how you can add mushrooms to your SuperLife diet.
It is always fascinating to consider the history behind particular foods along with their nutritional benefits. Very often in my travels, I come across the centuries old traditions of superfood cultivation around the globe and how these nourishing species of the plant kingdom offer rich sources of minerals and antioxidants to promote vibrant health for its native residents. On the topic of mushrooms, according to Dr. Bernard Jensen’s book Foods that Heal, ‘they are thought to have first been cultivated as early as 600 A.D. in Asia and were also known to the elite in ancient Egypt as rather magical delicacies because of their qualities of sprouting up overnight.’ The famous French king, Louis XIV, and his court are believed to have been the first in Europe to formally cultivate these delicate champignons in underground cave ‘farms’ outside the city of Paris. Up to this point, only wild varieties were gathered in pastures and meadows.
Mushrooms are sometimes mislabeled as vegetables. They are actually a fungus.
Not all mushrooms are equal, and in fact some of them do produce bioactive compounds called mycotoxins that are toxic to humans. So unless you are an expert coming from a long family tradition of mushroom hunting in the Italian alps, I do not recommend going out and plucking your own meaty mushrooms to save money. In addition to leaving yourself open to the potential of misidentifying a edible mushroom versus a poisonous one, if the soil the mushrooms grow in has been contaminated with any heavy metal(s) or chemical residues, you’ll be eating those upon ingestion. That’s why this article discusses the healthy benefits of mushrooms specifically from the ones that are edible and medicinal (which are fortunately quite a few, such as shiitake, enoki, reishi, and lion’s mane, to name a few) and purchasing them from reputable, quality sources.
FOOD FACT: The button mushroom, or Agaricus bisporus, is the most eaten mushroom, accounting for about 40 percent of the mushrooms grown worldwide.
Here are some key health benefits of mushrooms to note:
- BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM. China, in fact, has for centuries long been including a wide variety of dried mushrooms in Chinese Medicine in the form of elixir teas to boost the immune system and promote overall well being. In recent studies, the protein in mushroom varieties exhibit anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. Shiitake mushroom, as a particular focus, boosts immunity according to a study done at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciencestry.
- PROVIDE MORE POTASSIUM THAN BANANAS: Bananas have the market cornered for being a source of potassium, an important mineral that helps your body maintain its fluid and mineral balance and controls blood pressure. But did you know that they aren’t one of the best options? Mushrooms actually contain more potassium than almost every other fruit and vegetable, including bananas! One medium Portabello mushroom contains more potassium than a banana.
- QUALITY SOURCE OF PROTEIN. Mushrooms are a significant source of protein.
- QUALITY SOURCE OF B VITAMINS. Mushrooms provide high levels of several B vitamins, which are necessary for many bodily functions. Here’s a description of the B vitamins in mushrooms from Carins Mushrooms:
“Vitamin B1 – Thiamin: Thiamin controls the release of energy from carbohydrate, which is needed for the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system. A 100g serving of mushrooms will give you 27% of your recommended daily dietary intake of thiamin.
Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin: Mushrooms are high in Riboflavin, a B-vitamin that helps to maintain healthy red blood cells and promotes good vision and healthy skin.
Vitamin B3 – Niacin: Niacin, another B-vitamin found in mushrooms, helps to control the release of energy from protein, fat and carbohydrate, which keeps the body’s digestive and nervous systems in good shape.
Vitamin B5 – Pantothenic Acid: Plays a number of essential metabolic roles in the human body, including providing assistance with the production of hormones; found naturally in mushrooms.
Vitamin B9 – Folate: Mushrooms are a rich source of Folate, which is essential for the formation of red and white blood cells in bone marrow. Folate is an important factor in healthy growth and development: pregnant women are encouraged to increase their Folate to assist with growth.”
Note: B vitamins are lost when cooked in boiling water. You maintain their valuable vitamin content by eating them raw.
- SOURCE FOR THE “SUNSHINE” VITAMIN D. Some mushroom cultivators expose their mushrooms to ultraviolet light which imparts the “sunshine” vitamin D into the highly porous and absorbable mushrooms. Most mushrooms you find in stores will not have had this exposure. You need to look for it on the packaging. Mushrooms can be found through speciality sources that provide an adequate source of Vitamin D, boosting your mood and combating depression and fatigue. Vitamin D also is necessary for healthy bones and teeth. The Mushroom Matrix company I recommend often exposes its medicinal mushroom varieties to ultraviolet light so they contain Vitamin D.
- HIGH MINERAL CONTENT. Calcium, potassium, magnesium, and amino acids are among the many trace minerals available in a mushroom.
- GOOD SOURCE OF FIBER: Mushrooms are actually a valuable source of dietary fiber! Fiber is not a sexy subject but it is actually critical for health and feeding your good gut bacteria.
- HIGH WATER CONTENT. Mushrooms are made up of about 73% water, which also hydrates you.
- ADAPTABILITY. Mushrooms are an adaptogenic herb. Adaptogens “increase the ability of an organism to adapt to environmental factors and to avoid damage from such factors.” Think of them as a health “wild card” of sorts for your body. They have broad uses for health, but must specifically reduce stress, both mental and physical. To put it simply: adaptogens help you adapt – and who doesn’t need that in the stressful, toxic world we live in! It’s one of my favorite things about mushrooms.
NOTES FROM THE KITCHEN.
Adding mushrooms to cook within the pot while making stews or soups, adding them to shakes or smoothies, or adding them to a hot cup of tea are all ways to enjoy the benefits of edible, medicinal mushrooms. Mushrooms are one of those foods where you gain benefits by cooking (like sauteing) or lightly steaming them, which produces more carotenoids and ferulic acid (both antioxidants). Cooking or lightly steaming them does take away some of the water soluble nutrients though. This is the perfect example for why you need so much variety in your food. Diversity in how you prepare your foods – and the choices you make – create the nutrient-dense diet you are aiming for. Powdered mushrooms are also a great source to use primarily as they are more easily bought and stored than fresh. I highly recommend the mushroom powders produced by Mushroom Matrix. It supplies certified organic, kosher, vegan, raw, gluten-free mushrooms with vitamin D (they are exposed to ultraviolet light). This is the brand of mushrooms that I recommend as a functional superfood (a superfood that can be taken to boost health daily) in my 10-Day Nutrition Program.
NOTES REGARDING CONSUMPTION
Do not consume mushrooms without talking to your doctor first if you have any medical conditions, especially if you have any auto-immune conditions. Mushrooms contain beta-glucans, which can stimulate immune function. This may be a risk for those with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, asthma, and multiple sclerosis. Researchers have yet to conclude whether or not large amounts of beta-glucan intake has any negative effects on these conditions.
Foods that Heal: A Guide to Understanding and Using the Healing Powers of Natural Foods by. Dr. Bernard Jensen, pg. 172
http://www.powerofmushrooms.com.au and http://www.powerofmushrooms.com.au/health-nutrition/health-nutrition/vitamins-minerals/
On adaptogens: Panossian, A.; Wikman, G.; Wagner, H. (October 1999). “Plant adaptogens. III. Earlier and more recent aspects and concepts on their mode of action” (PDF). Phytomedicine 6 (4): 287–300. doi:10.1016/S0944-7113(99)80023-3. PMID 10589450.