Here Are 7 Possible Health Benefits Of Mushrooms

Organic Authority

Mushrooms belong to the kingdom Fungi, alongside yeasts, smuts, and molds, and apparently people can’t get enough of them. Whether eaten raw, cooped, whole or sliced, in 2019 alone, the industry magazine Nutritional Outlook shared that in 2021, mushroom sales were through the roof, growing an incredible 33 percent as compared to the year before.

One reason why could possibly be due to nutrition experts sharing their own enthusiasm about mushrooms. According to Katherine Brooking, RD, a registered dietitian in New York City, who also happens to be the co-creator of the Appetite for Health syndicated weekly news series, “Mushrooms are low in calories. They also provide a wealth of macro and micronutrients, particularly B vitamins, selenium, zinc, and copper.”

She goes on to explain that the B vitamins are quite important when it comes to the manufacturing of energy in cells. Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) office of Dietary Supplements shared that selenium is considered a powerful antioxidant, while copper and zinc are important for a strong immune system.

Experts share that whole mushrooms, when eaten raw, or other times cooked in a number of recipes, are extremely beneficial to one’s health over mushrooms in processed forms. While other forms, such as supplements, mouth sprays, nutraceuticals for example, could possibly provide other benefits. But they also explain that more research is needed to validate this.

Kim Bedwell of the Mushroom Council shares that withIn the United States, the most popular mushroom produced is the white button mushroom. She says, “Other varieties, such as cremini – also known as baby bella – and portobellos are becoming increasingly popular.” She also says that you will probably be able to find specialty mushrooms such as oysters, shiitakes, and maitakes in regular grocery stores.

Depending on your personal and taste preferences, there are tons of different kinds to choose from, plus these seven health benefits of mushrooms may just make you want to add them to your diet even more.


  1. They May Help Promote Gut Health

A review in the September 2017 International Journal of Molecular Sciences shares that your gut has trillions of bacteria, and eating mushrooms can help add the right balance of bacteria to your GI tract. As a result, it can help keep the proper balance of bacteria to keep your GI tract healthy while strengthening your immune system at the same time. Brooking shares, “The research on mushrooms and gut health is early but really compelling. Mushrooms contain prebiotics, which are the nutrients that probiotics feed off.”

Moreover, the prebiotics from mushrooms may help the growth of this “good” bacteria. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, probiotics, on the other hand, are live microorganisms or bacteria that also have health benefits for the body, which also help in digestion and generate nutrients.


  1. They Have Been Linked with Cancer Prevention

Experts also share that individuals should consider including fungi to your diet to help prevent cancer. In a meta-analysis of 17 studies in Advances in Nutrition that was published back in September 2021 found that people who consumed more mushrooms had a ‘34-percent lower risk of any cancer than those who ate the least, especially in the case of breast cancer.’ Mushrooms happen to be rich in antioxidants, more so glutathione and ergothioneine, which help protect cells from adverse damage.

However, not all the research found positive results. In another prospective cohort study – which involved over 100,000 men and women, the research group found that the study participants who ate at least five servings of mushrooms per week didn’t find any lower risk of 16 different kinds of cancers than those who hardly ate any mushrooms, said Cancer Prevention Research in August of 2019.


  1. They Support Bone Health and Immunity

According to another review publication in a 2018 October publication of Nutrients, mushrooms generate vitamin D when they are exposed to UV radiation. The NIH study shows that ‘a half cup of UV-exposed white raw mushrooms contains 46 percent of your daily value for D,’ which happens to be an incredible nutritional perk for a mushroom. Brooking adds, “There really aren’t that many food sources – especially plant sources – of vitamin D. The vitamins play an incredibly crucial role in immune and bone health.” As explained in theNutrients review, ‘the recommended of vitamin D supports muscle function, reduces the risk of falls, and may have anticancer, anti-diabetes, and heart-protective properties.’

While your body actually produces vitamin D from exposure to the sun, there are a bunch of other factors that can cause a deficiency. If you don’t have enough sunlight, if you aren’t eating enough in your diet, or have particular medical issues that affect absorption such as osteoporosis, chronic liver or kidney disease, they can all cause a vitamin D deficiency, explains Medline Plus.

Bedwell from the Mushroom Council suggests that when shopping from mushrooms, look for this information on the packaging. Another way to know if they’re high in vitamin D is if they cover at least 20 percent of the daily value, or DV, per serving, which you can see on the Nutrition Facts label. Moreover, be sure that you check the “best by” date and eat them before that to get the optimum amount of vitamin D.


  1. They Are Good for Blood Pressure

If you’re not too familiar with portobello mushrooms, they are the large and popular ones you find in the groceries and markets. One has 306 milligrams of potassium, according to the USDA. The American Heart Association explains that potassium has the ability to control blood pressure by counteracting the adverse effects of sodium, as well as improving the function of the blood vessels. That’s because the potassium in one’s diet boosts the body’s ability to excrete sodium through urine. But that’s not all, as shared in a review in the May 2021 American Journal of Medicine, mushrooms can also help improve triglyceride and cholesterol levels, as well as reduce inflammation.


  1. They May Help Boost Brain Health

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 12 to 18 percent of people who are aged 60 and above have been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). This is a condition that’s known to be a precursor to Alzheimer’s, a disease that impacts thinking skills, memory, and judgement. Since having a healthy diet is important to an aging brain, people should consider adding mushrooms.

A study from the March 2019 Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease shares that 663 adults aged 60 and above in Singapore found that people who consumed over two servings of mushrooms every week had 57 percent lower odds of developing MCI than those that ate them only once a week. Notably, the study used shiitake, white button, canned, oyster, golden and dried mushrooms. One main reason for their cognitive-protective properties is ergothioneine, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help protect against neuronal damage.


  1. When Substituted for Red Meat, They May Help Promote Longevity

Mushrooms have the ability to add a savory, meaty flavor to foods, which is considered “umami.” Brooking says, “They’re the perfect extender to add in place of or in addition to meat in so many recipes.” Researchers conduction another big prospective cohort study, published in the April 2021 copy of Nutrition Journal, and found that the study participants who consumed a serving of mushrooms every day as compared to those that consumed just one serving of processed red meat had a 35 percent lowered risk of death from any cause.

Aside from mushrooms having antioxidants like ergothioneine and glutathione, another reason why they promote longevity is because they are low in fat, calories, and sodium while being high in fiber. Moreover, people who eat more mushrooms tend to have healthier diets, but what is unclear is whether the consumption of mushrooms alone was the main reason for the longer life spans of the study participants.


  1. Some Psychoactive Mushrooms Are Now Possible Treatment for Mental Health Conditions

There have been a bunch of studies that talk about the use of psilocybin, which is the hallucinogenic compound found in “magic mushrooms,” as a psychedelic treatment for certain conditions such as PTSD and depression, but of course it has to be done under very careful doctor supervision. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine in April 2021, a small 59-person study found  that a six-week treatment using psilocybin was just as effective as escitalopram, which is a typical antidepressant used to relieve depression. However, since it was a small trial, there was no placebo, limiting the strength of the study’s results.

But in bigger research facilities, like that of the Center for the Neuroscience of Psychedelics at Massachusetts General Hospital, are also looking into psilocybin as a therapy for treatment-resistant depression since they could be useful in creating new neural connections. But regardless of the positive results, it’s still a type of treatment that still requires a lot of testing. It’s only in Schedule 1 substance which means that it’s still illegal for personal use in the United States as mandated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.