When they’re in our omelets or topping our salads, we tend to think of mushrooms as a vegetable. Mushrooms are actually fungi, but they offer a rich source of nutrients like many vegetables do. Culinary television hosts and dietitians will tell you to add plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables to your plate because bright colors indicate high antioxidant content, but it’s important not to forget about mushrooms.
What’s in a Mushroom?
Most of us can find a wide variety of mushrooms at our local supermarkets or produce stands. Luckily, most varieties offer about the same nutrients with each serving. Those nutrients include a rich supply of B vitamins like riboflavin, folate, thiamine, pantothenic acid, and niacin. Mushrooms are the only natural, non-fortified edible source of vitamin D, and they contain beneficial minerals like selenium, potassium, iron, copper, and phosphorus.
These fungi also supply choline, a nutrient that has been found to help improve sleep, muscle movement, memory, and learning. Internally, choline works to maintain cellular membrane structure, support adequate fat absorption, help transmit nerve impulses, and reduce chronic inflammation.
Mushrooms and Your Health
A growing number of studies confirm that eating a variety of plant-based foods is linked with reduced risk of lifestyle-related health problems. Like tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, and other colorful vegetables, mushrooms are rich in antioxidants.
Mushrooms are among those plant-based foods that help us avoid obesity, heart disease, and mortality in general. A plant-rich diet can do more than merely reduce risks: Eat your veggies, and you may soon find you have healthier hair, a clearer complexion, more energy, and a slimmer waist.
Because mushrooms are rich in selenium, eating them helps boost liver enzyme function. This liver action can help detoxify cancer-causing compounds. Additionally, selenium helps reduce or prevent inflammation and stunt tumor growth rates.
The vitamin D content in mushrooms also lends itself to cancer inhibition; vitamin D has been demonstrated to help regulate the cell growth cycle.
Folate content helps with DNA synthesis and repair, which aids in preventing cancer cells and DNA mutations from forming in the first place.
Your cardiovascular health gets a boost from the potassium, vitamin C, and fiber present in mushrooms. Along with with sodium, potassium helps to regulate blood pressure. Because mushrooms are high in potassium and low in sodium, eating mushrooms can help decrease the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
The high fiber content in mushrooms – about 3 grams in one cup – can help people with type 1 diabetes lower their blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetics can see improved blood glucose, lipids, and insulin levels.
Diabetes isn’t a prerequisite to load up on fiber, however. Current dietary guidelines recommend a daily intake of 25 grams of fiber for women and 38 grams for men.
Satiety and Weight Loss
Eating fiber helps you feel full, which can make a significant impact if you’re trying to lose weight. The two kinds of dietary fiber in mushrooms – beta-glucans and chitin – both increase satiety and reduce hunger pangs. Eating them can help you feel full and therefore reduce your daily caloric consumption.
The selenium content in mushrooms also helps boost your immune system’s response because it stimulates t-cell production. Mushrooms’ beta-glucans fibers also stimulate the immune system, helping you fight cancer cells and prevent tumors from developing.