Mushrooms: 10 amazing health reasons you should eat them

Mushrooms may be almost always overlooked in many dishes, but they are actually deemed as a superfood. When it comes to their nutritional value, mushrooms are not at the bottom of the list as they are rich in B vitamins, fiber, immune-enhancing sugars and other bioactive compounds. 

All around the world, there are over 10,000 types of mushrooms, but only one to two percent are considered safe to eat. Mushrooms are edible fungi, making them a viable source of antioxidants and nutrients that contribute to optimal health. In fact, to convince you, even more, to eat mushrooms, check out the following ten reasons. 

1. Can keep you young 

Antioxidants are known to help with longevity, and mushrooms are packed with those. Mushrooms contain a super-high concentration of two antioxidants: ergothioneine and glutathione [1]. With their antioxidant content, mushrooms are great as a body protector against physiological stress that can cause visible signs of aging like wrinkles. 

What can we say about the taste? Mushrooms have umami, a savory and meaty flavor, making them a great ingredient in dishes. They are great extenders in meat recipes that can absolutely help you eat more vegetables in your meals. 

In fact, you should eat the latter when choosing between meats and mushrooms, as per research. A study conducted in April 2021 revealed that people who eat one serving of mushrooms every day lowered their risk of death from any cause by 35 percent compared with those who consumed one serving of processed or red meat [2].

The explanation of the research results is credited to the antioxidant content of mushrooms, not to mention they are also low in calories, sodium and fat and high in fiber. 

Mushrooms can keep you young

2. Protect the brain against cognitive decline 

As you age, your risk of cognitive decline increase and eating mushrooms can do wonders. Mushrooms are found to be helpful in protecting your brain against cognitive decline and other mental health issues. 

In a 2019 study in Singapore, the researchers found that eating two 3/4 cup servings of cooked mushrooms every week may lower your odds of mild cognitive decline (MCI) by 50 percent [3]. The mushrooms consumed were golden, oyster, shiitake and white button mushrooms. 

Moreover, in another study from Spain, the researchers found that polyphenols-rich foods like mushrooms may be used to protect against cognitive decline in older adults after long-term research in 2021 [4]. 

Health experts further discovered that as the risk of having MCI is reduced, so is developing Alzheimer’s disease, as MCI is a precursor of the disease. In addition, the antioxidant content of mushrooms, ergothioneine and glutathione, are also known to help prevent Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

The researchers recommend eating at least five button mushrooms every day to lower your risk of neurological illness over time [5]. 

3. Decrease the risk of cancer

Another reason to eat mushrooms is that they are found to lower your risk of developing cancer – the claim derived from an analysis of over 17 cancer studies between 1966 to 2020.

Eating 18 grams of mushrooms every day, which is equal to about a 1/8 cup or two medium mushrooms, may reduce your risk of cancer by as much as 45 percent [6]. 

The antioxidant content of mushrooms can prevent or slows down cellular damage, which helps in cancer prevention. Hence, health experts recommend eating a variety of mushrooms in your daily diet.

Some types of mushrooms you can add to your diet are shiitake, oyster, maitake and king oyster – all these have different amounts of antioxidants. 

4. Promote lower cholesterol and blood pressure

As mentioned earlier, mushrooms are preferable to eat rather than red meat as they are low in calories, fat and cholesterol. Consequently, eating mushrooms can promote lower cholesterol and blood pressure. 

Research suggests that eating shiitake mushrooms help keep cholesterol levels low. The type of mushroom has compounds that inhibit cholesterol production, block cholesterol from being absorbed and reduce the overall amount of cholesterol in the blood.

Moreover, mushrooms are great sources of potassium which is a nutrient known for lowering the negative impact of sodium in the body. Potassium is known to lessen the tension in blood vessels, helping to decrease blood pressure.  

5. Can reduce the risk of depression

After studying 25,000 people in 2021, the researchers found that those who regularly ate mushrooms had a reduced risk of depression. Again, the credit goes to ergothioneine, an antioxidant content of mushrooms that lowers oxidative stress.

As a result, the likelihood of having depression is reduced, as well as its symptoms [7]. To further note, eating button mushrooms can help reduce anxiety with their potassium content. 

On the other hand, there are different discussions on using psilocybin, a hallucinogenic compound in magic mushrooms, as a psychedelic treatment for mental conditions such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. 

6. Boost the heart health

Having too much sodium in your body can cause you to retain excess fluid, resulting in an increase in blood pressure. Hence, if you aim to lower your sodium intake, consider eating mushrooms on a daily basis because they are naturally low in sodium. 

In fact, an entire cup of white button mushrooms only contains five milligrams of sodium. The type of mushroom provides a savory flavor that can lower the need for added salt in keeping your blood pressure low.

A study conducted by the Culinary Institute of America and UC Davis researchers shows that switching half of the meat to eating mushrooms in a traditional ground beef recipe can retain flavor whilst reducing sodium intake by 25 percent [8]. 

7. Assist in strengthening bones

Having enough vitamin D in your body allows proper calcium absorption to maintain and build strong bones. Many people depend on taking supplements or exposing themselves to the sun to get vitamin D, but eating mushrooms can supply you with vitamin D. 

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White button, portabella and cremini mushrooms are types of mushrooms that can provide the most vitamin D as they are exposed to UV light or sunlight.

In order for you to get the recommended daily amount, slice three mushrooms or only one portabella and expose them to the sun for at least 15 minutes.

Mushrooms can strengthen bones

8. Help give energy

As a good source of B vitamins which include riboflavin (B2), folate (B9), thiamine (B1), pantothenic acid (B5) and niacin (B3), mushrooms can aid in using body energy from the food you consume and produce more red blood cells–technically, those that carry oxygen throughout the body.

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The source of energy support in mushrooms is, by far, cordyceps or also known as the Olympic mushroom. Mushrooms provide the body with an ultimate bioavailable compound called cordycepin. It is almost molecularly identical to adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the currency of cellular energy.

There are various mushrooms containing high levels of B vitamins, but shiitake stands out among them. Shiitake mushrooms have a higher concentration which makes them the best pick for gaining energy.

9. Stimulate a healthier gut

The gut microbiome contains organisms and bacteria that contribute to your overall health and mood. One of the many best ways to keep your gut healthy is by stimulating the growth of healthy bacteria; you must achieve more diverse, good species, like the ones you can get from eating mushrooms as a prebiotic. 

Research suggests that mushroom polysaccharides, the most abundant carbohydrate, can promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. While a lot of foods break down when they reach stomach acid, the polysaccharides in mushrooms may pass through the stomach unchanged and can reach the colon to encourage bacteria growth there [9]. 

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From another perspective, having a diverse and good balance between good and bad microorganisms in the gut can promote weight loss because of improved digestion. Long and short-term studies have found that mushrooms, when paired with regular exercise and other good lifestyle choices, may have an important impact on weight loss. 

For instance, a study asked its participants to substitute 20 percent of their beef consumption with mushrooms. In the end, the researchers reported that the participants had improvements in their BMI and belly circumference.

Also, the antioxidants found in mushrooms may lower the risk of hypertension and experiencing other metabolic disorders.

10. Support a healthy immune system

Mushrooms are rich in macronutrients that help support a healthy immune system. Some macronutrients you can get from eating mushrooms are: 

  • Selenium – can help the body produce antioxidant enzymes that prevent cell damage. Better choose cremini or portabella mushrooms to reap more antioxidants. 
  • Vitamin D – can assist cell growth, boost immune function and lower body inflammation.
  • Vitamin B6 – can aid the body in forming red blood cells, proteins and DNA

It is shown that the anti-inflammatory effect of mushrooms can significantly improve the immune system’s efficiency. Research has found that mushrooms help boost macrophages in the immune system, which can enhance its ability to defeat foreign bodies, making the body less susceptible to serious illnesses. 


Photograph: tycoon101/Envato
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