Top 11 Amazing Mushroom Health Benefits

Mushrooms are fungi that come in various shapes, colors, and sizes. Edible mushrooms can range from everyday fare to a costly delicacy. For centuries, people have used mushrooms for their flavors and ability to provide several essential nutrients.

Edible fungi come in interesting textures and flavors, from meaty and dense Portobellos to earthy hen-of-the-woods to delicate chanterelles and lobster-like Lion's mane mushrooms. Beyond the diet, mushrooms feature in some Eastern traditional medicine.

More and more people are now attracted to consuming mushrooms. The 2020 Industry Report estimates the global mushroom consumption market annual growth of 41% between 2018 and 2026. (1)

So, what do mushrooms do for your body? And how are mushrooms good for your health?

From a sharper brain to a healthier gut, the health benefit of mushroom is numerous. Here are the top 11 perks you may enjoy by adding mushrooms to your plate:

Top 11 Health Benefits Of Mushrooms

1. Mushrooms Provide Immense Nutritional Value

One of the essential benefits of mushrooms is that they are a storehouse of excellent nutrients.

Like anti-oxidants(e.g., choline, selenium, and vitamin C), minerals (e.g..copper, phosphorus, and zinc), and vitamins. But even with the wealth of macro and micronutrients, they are fat-free, low in calories, and cholesterol-free.

Mushrooms are also rich in fibers, especially the soluble fiber beta-glucan. They also have a low glycemic index, with a little negative impact on insulin response or blood glucose due to their low carbohydrate content.

Edible mushrooms contain Vitamin C in abundance. Other important vitamins in mushrooms are B vitamins like pyridoxine B6), riboflavin (B1), niacin (B3), and pantothenic acid (B5). Combining these vitamins helps protect heart health, healthy skin, and the digestive system.

2. They Boost Your Immune System

Giving your immune system a push is one of the many significant mushroom health benefits.

Beta-glucan(2), found in mushrooms like Turkey Tail, Reishi, Oysters, Maitake, and Shiitake, boosts the immune system. These fibers, also called biological response modifiers, are now recognized as anti-tumor and anti-infective drugs, protecting against infection by bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms.

Numerous scientific studies have found that edible fungi stimulate the immune system's macrophages, enhancing its functions. Macrophages are specialized cells that eat and destroy foreign bodies, microbes, viruses, and other intruders, making you less susceptible to severe illnesses.

Additionally, mushrooms contain macronutrients that support a healthy immune system. Like, selenium helps your body make anti-oxidant enzymes to prevent cell damage. These are primarily found in Cremini or Portobello mushrooms. In addition, vitamin B6 in mushrooms like Shiitake and Maitake helps your body form red blood cells, proteins, and DNA and can stimulate the immune system.

3.Edible Fungi Aids In Weight Loss

Many people are attracted to the ability of the mushrooms to aid weight loss. In addition, they are beneficial for those following a plant-based diet.

So, how mushrooms can help you lose weight while still eating well?

We already know that mushrooms are tremendously low in calories yet, contain dietary fiber, protein, and several other indispensable nutrients. This means you can get much of what you need from mushrooms without venturing into different, less healthy food categories.

Furthermore, recent studies have shown that consuming mushrooms helps people feel fuller for longer due to their dietary fibers.

Anyone on their weight loss journey who has tried to stick to a diet knows that one of the most challenging parts is dissatisfaction or not feeling full after eating. Mushrooms keep you feeling full while still eating healthy. This is a win-win and can relieve people looking to lose weight but who don't know how to deal with the continuous feeling of hunger while dieting.

Mushrooms also help to burn fat in the body. This is because their nutrients help to regulate glucose levels in the blood. The excellent nutritional value of edible fungi will keep you energized and allow you to work out for longer

4. Packed With Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Another reason mushrooms are good for you is their ability to combat inflammation in the body.

Several studies(3) have demonstrated that beta-glucans in mushrooms can help suppress inflammation. The anti-inflammatory effect of the mushrooms is mediated by regulating various inflammatory proteins, such as interleukins, nitric oxide, interferon-gamma, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha. It also regulates the activity of prostaglandin E2, a naturally occurring steroid.

5. Mushrooms Help Prevent Cancer Proliferation And Spread

Emerging evidence suggests adding fungi to your diet may help prevent particular cancers.

The anti-oxidants in the mushrooms could protect cells from damage and the subsequent development of tumors.

In a review of multiple studies published on September 2021(4), people with a higher intake of mushrooms had a 34 percent lower risk of cancer than those who ate the least. This was particularly true in the case of cancer in the breast. In addition,Some mushrooms also inhibit the proliferation and spread of cancerous cells. For instance, Lion's mane mushrooms cause apoptosis of cancer cells, a mechanism in which the cells undergo self-induced and spontaneous death.

Likewise, Cordycepin, a compound present in Cordyceps mushroom, can induce the death(5) of cancer cells in the bladder, liver, stomach, kidney, breast, and lungs. The compound also stops growth by arresting the proliferation cycle.

Similarly, the Reishi mushroom has potent anti-angiogenesis properties. It stops the proliferation and formation of new blood vessels that feed the cancer cells.

6. Mushrooms Promote The Health Of The Gut

We will now move on to how mushroom benefits gut health.

Consuming mushrooms may help populate your GI tract with the right balance of beneficial bacteria. This will help your GI tract be healthy and strengthen your immune system.

In a critical review(6) of the gut health-promoting benefits of edible mushrooms published in 2017, researchers found that mushrooms are rich in carbohydrates, like hemicellulose, chitin, alpha and beta glucans, xylans, mannans, and galactans. Mushrooms can therefore act as a prebiotic to stimulate gut microbiota growth and confer health benefits to the host.

7. They are Rich In D Vitamin

Mushrooms can produce vitamin D by absorption from the sun. The vitamin has many health benefits, including boosting the immune system.

After exposure to UV radiation, mushrooms generate vitamin D(7), much like the skin of humans. Therefore, the vitamin D2 level of fresh mushrooms is likely higher than most other vitamin D-containing foods.

That is why mushrooms have the potential to be the only unfortified, non-animal food source of vitamin D that can provide a considerable amount of vitamin D2 in a single serving. Vitamin D supports muscle and bone function and may have anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, and heart-protective properties.

8. Edible Fungi Are A Great Vegan Alternative For Proteins

Not only do mushrooms provide an excellent alternative for protein, especially for people who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet they are also a good source of essential amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. They are gluten-free and contain a complete amino acid profile akin to meat.

Oyster mushrooms have one of the highest amounts of protein, followed by white button mushrooms and Morel mushrooms. Portobello, Shiitake, and Maitake are not too far behind.

Many food manufacturers now use mushrooms as an ingredient in vegan products. These include mushroom-protein meatballs, nuggets, sausages, and meat-free bacon.

9. They Help Fight Depression And Anxiety

Mushrooms have anti-depressant effects and are being studied as a potential treatment for mental disorders like anxiety, depression, and stress.

Lion's mane mushrooms are known to help increase dopamine, the happy hormone, according to a 2018 animal-based study(8). The anti-inflammatory effects can also help temper inflammation in depression(9). Additionally, they also increase nerve regeneration(10) in the depression-affected regions of the brain.

Similarly, researchers have found that Lion's mane mushrooms showed anxiolytic benefits(11). This could be related to the increased production of neurons. stimulated by the medicinal fungus.

Several medicinal mushrooms (like Lion's mane, Reishi, and Turkey Tail) are adaptogens, increasing the body's resistance to stress and protecting against stress-related damage. In addition, Adaptogen fungi help to stabilize cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and help the body reach equilibrium.

10. Mushrooms Have Incredible Brain-boosting effects

How is mushroom good for you and your brain, you may wonder. Scientific studies show that Chaga, Reishi, and Lion's Mane mushrooms are the three most effective medicinal fungi for boosting brain health.

Lion's mane mushroom contains two bioactive compounds: Erinacines and Hericenones, widely known for their ability to boost brain function. In addition, the fruiting body of Lion's mane has also been demonstrated to have anti-dementia activity(12).

This incredible medicinal mushroom is also known to enhance cognitive function, protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, and improve mental performance, including memory, focus, and clarity.

Likewise, Lingzhi or Reishi mushroom combats mental stress. Ganoderic acid, a type of triterpenes found exclusively in Reishi, provides the apoptogenic potential of the mushroom. The mushroom also decreases inflammation(13) linked to depression and protects the brain against oxidant damage.

11. They Contribute To A Healthy Heart

Mushrooms have an abundance of potassium, a mineral known for reducing the negative impact of sodium on your body. Potassium also lowers the tension in blood vessels, potentially helping to decrease blood pressure. In addition, more potassium in your diet encourages sodium excretion in your urine.

The health benefits of mushrooms on the heart(14) don't just stop here. Mushrooms may also help improve triglyceride and cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation. This may translate to decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and heart attack.

Several medicinal mushrooms are known to lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels and prevent blood clots. Animal studies have demonstrated that Lion's mane mushroom(15), Reishi(16), and Chaga(17) have cardioprotective effects.

How To Eat Mushrooms?

There are several ways to eat mushrooms for health benefits.

There are several ways to eat mushrooms for health benefits. Edible mushrooms can be enjoyed raw or cooked, sliced or unsliced. However, you should remember that not all mushrooms can be eaten uncooked, especially wild or medicinal mushrooms.

For the remaining, they can be simmered in a pot of water until soft or sautéed in a hot skillet. Moreover, they can be added to other meals for additional flavor and texture.

If you are someone who wants to reap the benefits of the mushroom but, for various reasons, cannot whip up a meal, you can always opt for mushroom supplements. Many medicinal mushrooms are widely available in the form of capsules, powders, tablets, and tinctures. So pop those supplements in your bag and take them as you go.

FAQs

Why Mushroom Is A Superfood?
Is Mushroom Good For Everyday?

Mushrooms are low in calories, savory, and a good source of vitamins and minerals, making them a good everyday food.

Are Mushrooms Healthy For You?

Mushrooms are associated with several scientifically proven health benefits like anti-inflammatory effects, cancer prevention, memory and mental health boost, gut health promotion, and immunostimulatory properties. All of these make it a healthy food option.

Final Thoughts

Several mushroom health benefits make it a growing favorite amongst many people. From aiding in weight loss to its anti-cancer benefits, mushrooms are rightly considered a superfood. Additionally, they help combat inflammation and are rich in proteins, minerals, fiber, and vitamins.

If mushrooms are not yet a regular item in your diet, you’re missing all these amazing health benefits!

References

  1. 2020 Industry Report: Mushroom,(1) https://cdn.tridge.com/market_report_report/40/ea/8d/40ea8d79df9592c9434372a6555800b53d57dfc2/210203_Mushroom_Report.pdf
  2. Stimulatory Effect of β-glucans on Immune Cells, (2) https://immunenetwork.org/DOIx.php?id=10.4110/in.2011.11.4.191
  3. An insight into anti-inflammatory effects of fungal beta-glucans, (3) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0924224414001939
  4. Higher Mushroom Consumption Is Associated with Lower Risk of Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies, (4)https://academic.oup.com/advances/article-abstract/12/5/1691/6174025?redirectedFrom=fulltext
  5. Anti-tumor and anti-metastatic roles of cordycepin, one bioactive compound of Cordyceps militaris, (5) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1319562X1830127X?via%3Dihub
  6. A Critical Review on Health Promoting Benefits of Edible Mushrooms through Gut Microbiota, (6) https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/18/9/1934
  7. A Review of Mushrooms as a Potential Source of Dietary Vitamin D, (7) https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/10/10/1498
  8. Erinacine A-Enriched Hericium erinaceus Mycelium Produces Antidepressant-Like Effects through Modulating BDNF/PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β Signaling in Mice, (8) https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/19/2/341
  9. Cytokines in major depression, (9) https://www.biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com/article/0006-3223(94)90652-1/pdf
  10. Neurotrophic properties of the Lion's mane medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia,(10) https://www.dl.begellhouse.com/journals/708ae68d64b17c52,034eeb045436a171,750a15ad12ae25e9.html
  11. Hericium erinaceus Extract Reduces Anxiety and Depressive Behaviors by Promoting Hippocampal Neurogenesis in the Adult Mouse Brain, (11) https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/jmf.2017.4006
  12. Erinacine A-enriched Hericium erinaceus mycelium ameliorates Alzheimer's disease-related pathologies in APPswe/PS1dE9 transgenic mice, (12) https://jbiomedsci.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12929-016-0266-z
  13. Modulation of neuroinflammatory pathways by medicinal mushrooms, with particular relevance to Alzheimer's disease, (13) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0924224420305586
  14. Mushroom Consumption and Cardiovascular Health: A Systematic Review, (14) https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(20)31092-5/fulltext
  15. Yamabushitake Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) Improved Lipid Metabolism in Mice Fed a High-Fat Diet, (15) https://academic.oup.com/bbb/article/74/7/1447/5940067
  16. Differential effects of ganodermic acid S on the thromboxane A2-signaling pathways in human platelets, (16) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006295299001367?via%3Dihub
  17. Phytochemical characteristics and hypoglycaemic activity of fraction from mushroom Inonotus obliquus, (17) https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jsfa.3809
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