Food. Medicine. Spiritual conduit. Over the course of thousands of years, people valued mushrooms for their utility. And while mushrooms provide a variety of benefits, they still remain underrated as a nutrient source.
Edible mushrooms are rich in fibers, vitamins, and minerals, making them one of the true superfoods. They offer a diverse array of nutrition benefits, making them a welcome addition to the diet of practically anyone.
Mushroom Vitamin Content
Mushrooms are an excellent source of various vitamins. As such, it will benefit you immensely to add more mushrooms to your diet.
Also known as riboflavin, vitamin B2 is vital in cell growth, development, and other cellular functions. Aside from that, this vitamin helps convert food into energy.
Vitamin B3 or Niacin performs a variety of roles in the human body. For starters, it helps in the conversion of food into energy. On top of that, it aids in keeping the digestive and nervous systems and the skin healthy.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb and retain phosphorous and calcium, two minerals essential for bone health. Apart from that, the vitamin also helps in reducing inflammation, and infection containment, and even reducing the growth of cancer cells.
Vitamin B5, also known as pantothenic acid, helps convert the food you eat into energy. The vitamin also plays an important role in breaking down fat. Additionally, vitamin B5 is essential in producing red blood cells and some hormones. And according to studies, the vitamin can help lower cholesterol in the human body.
Mushroom Mineral Content
Aside from being a good source of different vitamins, mushrooms also contain a few important minerals vital for different bodily functions.
Copper is one of the essential minerals that your body needs. For starters, it helps in the production of energy. It also aids in the development of blood vessels and connective tissues. Copper also plays an important role in immune and nervous system health, brain development, and gene activation.
Potassium is necessary for maintaining the normal level of fluids in the cells. On top of that the mineral aids in muscle contraction. Other benefits this mineral offers include maintaining normal blood pressure, slowing down the onset of osteoporosis, preventing the development of kidney stones, and preventing strokes.
Selenium is a mineral that can be naturally found in the soil. The mineral has generated interest for its potential antioxidant properties. However, current research hasn't proven that selenium can provide protection from cancer.
That doesn't mean that selenium is not beneficial. In fact, the mineral is recommended for people suffering from Crohn's disease, HIV, and other conditions that deplete selenium in the body.
Other Nutrients Found in Mushrooms
Aside from containing a few of the most important vitamins and minerals, mushrooms also possess a few other vital nutrients.
Beta-glucans is a type of sugar compound that can be found in algae, plants, yeast, and mushrooms. Scientists are exploring the possibility of using this nutrient to reduce cholesterol and remedy various skin conditions like wounds, eczema, and radiation therapy burns.
Aside from that, beta-glucans are believed to help the immune system ward off bacteria while promoting the activity of natural killer cells. These killer cells are believed to have the ability to recognize and contain cancer cells.
Finally, beta-glucans can help improve gut health by providing food to the beneficial bacteria found in the digestive system.
Ergothioneine is a type of amino acid that is found in mushrooms. Although this amino acid is believed to help with a variety of conditions like diabetes, heart disease, liver damage, joint pain, wrinkles, cataract, and Alzheimer's disease, there is no conclusive proof that ergothioneine provide such health benefits.
Currently, researchers are looking into the possibility of using the amino acid as an anti-inflammatory targeting key organs like the brain, kidneys, liver, and lungs.
Mushrooms contain a minimal amount of fats. Even better, the fat content of mushrooms is mostly polyunsaturated fats. This type of fat is considered healthy because they reduce bad cholesterol levels while lowering the risks of stroke and heart disease.
Mushrooms contain a moderate amount of protein which is essential for a variety of bodily functions, including muscle building.
Raw mushrooms contain a good amount of carbs. But what makes these fungi a good source of carbs is that they have a low glycemic index. Essentially, this means that mushrooms have little to no effect on your blood glucose level.
Vitamin D and Mushrooms
Most people rely on sunlight for their dose of vitamin D. However, in some parts of the world, people suffer from vitamin D deficiency, especially during the winter season when it is practically impossible to get out.
Although it is possible to get the vitamin from foods like cheese, eggs, and oily fish, most people rely on sunlight to get this essential vitamin.
When you expose yourself to the sun's ultraviolet light, your body begins the production of the vitamin D precursor known as cholecalciferol which will be eventually converted into vitamin D3. Take note that the vitamin secured from sunlight or from food is not readily active. It needs to be activated through two chemical processes.
How mushrooms produce their own vitamin D
Some of the mushrooms sold in supermarkets contain little to no vitamin D. To produce vitamin D, mushrooms need to be exposed to ultraviolet light.
One unique thing about mushrooms is that they can readily absorb sunlight and convert it to vitamin D2. Although some types of wild mushrooms contain a small amount of this vitamin, exposure to UV light ramps up their production of the vitamin.
Some of the most popular mushroom varieties like oyster mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms can immensely benefit from UV light exposure, in terms of upping their production of vitamin D.
Take note that vitamin D levels will vary from one mushroom species to another. For example, wild mushrooms like morel mushrooms and chanterelle mushrooms contain more vitamin D compared to common mushrooms like shiitake mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, and white button mushrooms. The main reason behind that difference is that wild mushrooms are often naturally exposed to sunlight while some mushrooms sold in groceries are grown in dark conditions.
Even when dried, some mushrooms retain their vitamin D levels. But what about cooking mushrooms? That depends on the method of cooking. For example, if you cook mushrooms in water, their vitamin D levels remain essentially the same. However, if you cook mushrooms in oils like olive oil, for example, the vitamin D levels can become depleted.
Vegans, in particular, can immensely benefit from consuming more mushrooms. For one, raw mushrooms can provide a sizeable amount of vitamin D. And if you want to supplement vitamin D instead of consuming fresh mushrooms, you can opt for supplements that get the vitamin from mushrooms. Some of the vitamin D supplements currently available in the market are made using sheep wool wax.
Health Benefits of Mushrooms
Mushrooms provide a variety of health benefits. However, the actual benefits these fungi provide will depend on the nutrient content of a particular mushroom species. Here is a brief list of the health benefits of eating more mushrooms.
Mushrooms have anti-inflammatory properties that help the body's immune system become more efficient. According to some studies, mushrooms can activate the macrophages in your body and boost their ability to ward off harmful microorganisms. In turn, you don't succumb to diseases easily.
Regulate blood pressure
Mushrooms are a good source of potassium. This mineral can help counter the adverse side effects of high sodium levels in the body. Aside from that, potassium can also help the blood vessels relax. All in all, these benefits can lead to lower blood pressure.
Adding more mushrooms to your diet, especially when combined with exercise, can help you lose and keep off excess weight. Mushrooms contain a good amount of fiber that can help you feel fuller for a longer time, enabling you to control your cravings. Additionally, mushrooms contain antioxidants that can lower your risk for hypertension.
Food and drinks rich in polyphenols like coffee, red wine, and mushrooms can help stave off the effects of cognitive decline, especially among the elderly.
Additionally, it was discovered that the antioxidants found in mushrooms may be able to prevent Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
In another research done by Singaporean scientists, it was discovered that eating as little as two servings of cooked mushrooms can minimize your chances of succumbing to cognitive decline.
In another study conducted in 2021, researchers discovered that people who regularly consumed mushrooms were less likely to succumb to depression. According to the researchers, the possible reason behind this is that mushrooms contain antioxidants that help in reducing depression symptoms.
Improve cardiovascular health
Looking to minimize your salt consumption? Why not consider using mushrooms to flavor dishes? Mushrooms add umami, a savory flavor, that can add a new dimension to your favorite meals. And with lower sodium levels in your body, you can significantly lower your risk for heart disease.
Even better, you can use mushrooms as a substitute for meat, allowing you to minimize your fat and cholesterol consumption.
Improve bone health
Shopping for mushrooms? Consider buying mushrooms sold in supermarkets that are marked UVB. This means that these mushrooms have been exposed to UV light which in turn means that they contain vitamin D.
Reduce the risk of diabetes
Consuming more fiber can lower the risk of diabetes 2. According to experts, adding more fiber to your diet can help lower blood glucose levels.
What Are Medicinal Mushrooms?
Various civilizations have used mushrooms, not only as an ingredient for dishes but also as medicine for hundreds if not thousands of years. Medicinal mushrooms have figured prominently in Asian medicine. In recent years, scientists have tried to catch up with their knowledge of how to use mushrooms to treat or even prevent certain ailments.
Like edible mushrooms, medicinal mushrooms are fungi that are used as a base for powders and extracts. In turn, these are used for treating a variety of conditions.
However, medicinal mushrooms aren't fit for eating. For starters, they have an awful taste that can muddle the flavor of a dish. Second, their texture makes it difficult to chew them.
Like edible mushrooms, medicinal mushrooms provide a host of health benefits due to their anti-allergic, antioxidative, and anti-inflammatory properties. These mushrooms can also protect various organs in the body.
Many medicinal mushrooms contain a good amount of compounds, including antibiotics, lectins, alkaloids, and lactones.
Here is a brief list of some of the more popular medicinal mushrooms and their health benefits.
Lion’s Mane mushrooms
Lion’s Mane mushrooms are one of the more popular medicinal mushrooms in China. Recently, this mushroom species has been used as a primary ingredient for supplements. There have been claims that these mushrooms can improve brain health and functions.
Shiitake mushrooms are considered both edible and medicinal mushrooms. They are heavily used in Asian medicine because it offers several health benefits, including anti-cancer, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties. Additionally, these mushrooms help boost immunity and improve dental health.
Cordyceps mushrooms are considered to be among the rarest mushrooms because they can only be found growing in the Himalayas.
These mushrooms have gained attention because they contain a compound known as cordycepin. Some researchers believe that this mushroom compound can prove to be beneficial, especially among endurance athletes like runners and cyclists.
Practitioners of Asian medicine have long prescribed reishi mushrooms to their patients who wish to improve their vitality and overall health and wellness.
Western science seems to confirm the claims made about reishi mushrooms. According to analysis, these mushrooms are rich in antioxidants as well as other compounds that may help manage or prevent diabetes and neurological disorders.
Chaga mushrooms are used extensively by traditional medicine practitioners in China, Russia, and Korea. According to studies, these mushrooms show promise in containing diabetes, infections, and some forms of cancer.
Magic mushrooms refer to mushrooms that belong to the Psilocybin family. These mushrooms are known for their psychedelic effects, including euphoria and hallucinations.
Although shrooms have long been used for religious rituals and for recreational purposes, researchers believe that they can be used for the treatment of various conditions, including depression, anxiety, and substance misuse.
Currently, magic mushrooms are classified as Schedule I substances which means that they are illegal in most places. However, there are various cities in the world that have decriminalized these mushrooms.
Are Mushrooms Safe to Eat?
Generally, mushrooms are safe to eat, especially those sold at the supermarket. However, if you have a mushroom or mold allergy, it is best to avoid eating them.
When it comes to mushrooms, the greatest risk you'll encounter is mistaking poisonous or magic mushrooms for edible mushrooms. Poisonous mushrooms can cause gastrointestinal issues, organ damage, or even fatalities. Magic mushrooms, on the other hand, can cause hallucinations, nausea, drowsiness, and muscle weakness.
Foraging mushrooms is a rewarding hobby. On one hand, you get free access to delectable mushrooms. And on the other hand, there is a certain pride in finding ingredients for your dishes.
However, foraging mushrooms is by no means an easy task. If you want to hunt for mushrooms, consider joining local groups with experienced members. Additionally, take the time to learn how to distinguish magic mushrooms from edible and poisonous mushrooms.
If you are unsure if a particular mushroom is edible, err on the side of caution and don't pick it. It is always better to miss out on the opportunity of eating mushrooms rather than risk hurting yourself.
How to Add More Mushrooms to Your Diet
Whether you want to enhance the flavor of your food or enjoy the aforementioned benefits of eating mushrooms, one challenge you might face is how to eat more of them.
You can start by making mushrooms as meat extenders. To do that, chop your mushrooms into smaller pieces, similar to ground meat. From there, you can mix them with ground meat.
For larger mushrooms like portobello mushrooms, you can slice them into thin pieces and use them as toppings. Smaller mushrooms can be cut up and mixed with egg dishes. Finally, you can add mushroom slices to your favorite pasta dishes.
When buying mushrooms, look for those that are firm and dry. Do not buy mushrooms that look slimy or have begun to decompose. Fresh mushrooms are best stored inside the fridge. Wash them only when you are about to use them.
Although mushrooms are among the cleanest food ingredients, it is best to wash them before preparing them for cooking. This will help remove dirt and debris stuck on them.
Mushrooms: A Culinary Treasure
Although mushrooms don't look as appealing as other ingredients, they more than compensate for that flaw with their nutrient content. Unless you are allergic to them, you should strongly consider adding them to your diet and enjoy their nutritional benefits.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the health benefits of Psilocybin mushrooms?
Although further research needs to be conducted, scientists are optimistic that magic mushrooms can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including depression, alcoholism, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and substance abuse.
What do magic mushrooms do?
Shrooms are classified as hallucinogenic drugs. Essentially, that means that they can alter your senses, especially your sense of sight, hearing, and feeling.
However, the effects of psychedelic mushrooms will vary, depending on a few factors, including mushroom species, dosage, metabolism, age, weight, and immediate environment.
Are shrooms legal?
Magic mushrooms are classified as Schedule I substances which makes them illegal in most places. However, there are areas like Ann Arbor, Denver, and Santa Cruz that have decriminalized shrooms. Take note that decriminalization is not the same as legalization.
How long do magic mushrooms stay in your system?
Psilocybin, the active compound in magic mushrooms, can stay in the human body for up to 24 hours. However, there are some variables at play, including dosage, metabolism, and age.
How long are shrooms detectable by drug tests?
That depends on the type of drug test administered. Most routine drug tests do not screen for shrooms. However, there are some specialized tests that do. Detection type varies.