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What We Know About Using Mushrooms For Heart Health
Nov 20, 22
This article has been vetted by the Onnit Advisory Board. Read more about our editorial process.
Author: Sony Sherpa

What We Know About Using Mushrooms For Heart Health

  • by Sony Sherpa

    Medically reviewed by

    Sony Sherpa

    Dr. Sony Sherpa is a board-certified Clinical Doctor and dedicated advocate for holistic medicine, specializing in functional mushrooms. Her blend of medical expertise and passion for alternative wellness lends authenticity to her role as a contributor for Natures Rise.

  • |
  • 18 min read
What We Know About Using Mushrooms For Heart Health

Mushrooms are a heart-healthy food that can contribute to a balanced diet to maintain good cardiovascular health. They're rich in essential nutrients, including fiber, antioxidants, potassium, and vitamin D, which collectively support heart health. Fiber helps manage cholesterol levels, antioxidants combat oxidative stress, potassium aids in maintaining healthy blood pressure, and vitamin D is linked to good heart health. 

Several scientific studies suggest a connection between regular mushroom consumption and a decreased risk of heart disease. However, it's important to note that maintaining heart health involves a holistic approach, which includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and regular check-ups with your healthcare provider. 

In this article, we'll delve deeper into the heart-healthy benefits of mushrooms and how they can be a flavorful addition to your diet. We will explore the various types of edible mushrooms and their specific nutrient profiles. We will also touch upon some scientific studies supporting the role of mushrooms in promoting heart health and how you can seamlessly incorporate these delightful fungi into your meals.

Heart Health: A Global Concern

Heart Health: A Global Concern

Heart disease remains a significant global health concern, with cardiovascular diseases accounting for many deaths worldwide. It is essential to recognize that heart health is closely linked to lifestyle choices and dietary habits, which can exacerbate or mitigate cardiovascular risk factors.

Understanding Heart Diseases: Causes and Risk Factors

Cardiovascular diseases are often the result of accumulated damage to the heart and blood vessels. High blood pressure, for instance, puts undue stress on the heart by forcing it to work harder to pump blood throughout the body, leading to potential damage over time. 

Moreover, high total cholesterol and specifically high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol—often referred to as 'bad' cholesterol—can build up in the walls of your blood vessels, leading to a condition known as atherosclerosis, which can further impact blood circulation and strain the heart.

In addition to blood pressure and blood cholesterol, several other cardiovascular risk factors contribute to the development of heart disease. These can be broadly categorized into modifiable and non-modifiable risks. While factors such as age, gender, and genetics cannot be changed, we can control several cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking, physical inactivity, poor diet, obesity, and uncontrolled diabetes.

Lifestyle and Diet: The Pillars of Heart Health

Adopting a healthy lifestyle is instrumental in managing these cardiovascular risk factors. Regular exercise, smoking cessation, stress management, and a healthy diet can all contribute to better heart health.

A heart-healthy diet is diverse and balanced. It includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. It's also crucial to limit the intake of sodium, added sugars, and unhealthy fats. Eating this way can help regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reducing cardiovascular risk.

The humble mushroom is one food that is making waves for its heart benefits. Rich in essential nutrients, low in calories, and high in flavor, mushrooms could be a worthy addition to a heart-healthy diet. In the upcoming sections, we'll delve deeper into the role of mushrooms in maintaining cardiovascular health and how you can incorporate them into your diet to prolong life and enjoy a healthier future.

The Historical and Cultural Significance of Mushrooms

The Historical and Cultural Significance of Mushrooms

Mushrooms have a rich history of use in different cultures around the globe. Especially notable is their prevalence in traditional Eastern medicine. For thousands of years, medicinal mushrooms have played a significant role in traditional Chinese medicine, valued for their perceived healing properties and ability to boost overall health.

Functional Mushrooms: A Gourmet's Delight

Fast forward to the present, edible mushroom consumption is not only a culinary delight but is also linked to potential health benefits. Many of these fall into a category known as functional mushrooms. 

These include popular varieties such as shiitake mushrooms and others like reishi, cordyceps, and maitake. Each medicinal mushroom brings unique flavors to the table, along with a host of beneficial bioactive compounds.

Med mushrooms, as they're colloquially known, are often used in cooking to provide a burst of umami flavor and a meaty texture, making them an excellent addition to various dishes. For example, our 15 Lion's mane mushroom recipes allow the creation of delectable dishes that an entire family can enjoy. The fruiting bodies of these edible mushrooms are harvested and consumed and can be found fresh, dried, or in powdered form in markets worldwide.

The Nutritional Bounty of Mushrooms

Edible mushrooms are not just about flavors and textures—they offer great nutritional value, too. They are high-protein, low-fat foods packed with dietary fiber, essential amino acids, and many bioactive compounds, making them a true superfood in the eyes of many nutritionists.

The dietary fiber found in mushrooms can contribute to a healthy digestive system and may assist in maintaining healthy levels of high-density lipoprotein, or 'good' cholesterol. The fiber in mushrooms also improves gut health. Furthermore, essential amino acids and high protein content make them a valuable addition to vegetarian and vegan diets.

Moreover, the bioactive compounds in functional mushrooms are believed to provide various health benefits. From supporting immune health to potentially improving heart health, these medicinal mushrooms are a worthy addition to any diet.

In the context of heart health, the low-fat content of edible mushrooms aligns with recommendations for low-fat foods, and the various bioactive compounds present in these functional foods could support cardiovascular wellness. In the following sections, we will explore the impact of regular edible mushroom consumption on heart health and how you can make the most of these nutritional powerhouses.

Mushrooms and Heart Health: Unearthing the Connection

Mushrooms and Heart Health: Unearthing the Connection

Growing evidence in cardiovascular medicine points out the therapeutic benefits of edible mushroom consumption for heart health. Various studies have identified medicinal mushroom species, such as Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) and others, as potential allies in the fight against cardiovascular disease.

Scientific Studies: Heart Health and Mushrooms

Many scientific studies have linked functional mushrooms to better heart health. Researchers have found that(1) mushroom species rich in antioxidant activity can help combat oxidative stress, a key contributor to coronary artery disease. 

Other studies have suggested that the regular intake of these functional mushrooms might help reduce overall cardiovascular risk by improving metabolic markers associated with heart health.

For instance, some studies note a reduced mean blood pressure in individuals who incorporated certain mushroom species into their diet, suggesting a potential role for mushrooms in blood pressure reduction

Another study found that(2) the fatty acids in certain mushrooms might help manage blood glucose levels, which is crucial for individuals with metabolic syndrome, a condition often associated with increased cardiovascular risk.

Nutrients in Mushrooms and Their Heart Health Benefits

There are several essential nutrients found in mushrooms that support heart health:

  • Fiber and Heart Health: Dietary fiber can help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, or "bad" cholesterol, reducing the risk of developing coronary artery disease.
  • Antioxidants and Heart Health: Functional mushrooms are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants help the body to combat harmful free radicals, reduce inflammation, and protect the health of your blood vessels, thereby supporting a healthy heart.
  • Potassium and Heart Health: Mushrooms are a good source of potassium, a mineral that can help control blood pressure by counteracting the effects of sodium in the body.
  • Vitamin D and Heart Health: Some mushroom species are a rare plant-based source of Vitamin D, which has been linked to lower rates of heart disease. The vitamin D in mushrooms may also improve overall health in individuals.

Mushrooms: Aiding in Reducing Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Functional mushrooms can play a significant role in mitigating certain risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Their anti-inflammatory properties can help combat chronic inflammation, often associated with(3) increased heart disease risk. Moreover, the health properties of these medicinal mushrooms are being recognized more and more in the world of dietary supplements.

Best Mushrooms for Heart Health: Maintaining the Perfect Beat Through Life

Best Mushrooms for Heart Health: Maintaining the Perfect Beat Through Life

Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms are rich in compounds such as eritadenine and sterols, which can help lower cholesterol. They also contain lentinan, a type of beta-glucan that can bolster the immune system and have anti-inflammatory effects, thus indirectly supporting heart health.

Reishi Mushrooms

Known as the "mushroom of immortality" in traditional Chinese medicine, Reishi mushrooms can aid in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. They contain triterpenes, which have been linked to anti-hypertensive and anti-cholesterol effects. Reishi mushroom also fights diabetes, a common risk factor for heart problems.

Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms are a good source of beta-glucans and other fibers that can help regulate cholesterol levels. They also contain specific peptides that can inhibit an enzyme called ACE, thus potentially aiding in blood pressure regulation.

Maitake Mushrooms

Maitake mushrooms, also rich in beta-glucans, are known for their potential to support a healthy immune system and lower cholesterol. Some research(4) suggests they may also help regulate blood sugar levels, which is essential to maintaining overall cardiovascular health.

Cordyceps Mushrooms

Cordyceps is a traditional Chinese medicine that has been linked to improved heart function and better blood flow. Some studies suggest(5) they may help fight inflammation and oxidative stress, both associated with heart disease.

Chaga Mushrooms

Chaga mushrooms are rich in antioxidants, which can help combat oxidative stress, a key contributor to heart disease. They are also thought to help lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation. Chaga tea fights weight loss, a key risk factor associated with heart disease.

How to Use Mushrooms for Heart Health: Selecting, Storing, Preparation, and Avoiding Side Effects

How to Use Mushrooms for Heart Health: Selecting, Storing, Preparation, and Avoiding Side Effects

Selection and Storage: Get the Best Mushrooms and Maintain Their Quality

It's essential to select high-quality mushrooms and store them properly for optimal health benefits, including those for heart health. When shopping for mushrooms, look for ones that are firm, free of mold, and have a fresh, earthy smell. Avoid any that appear slimy or have dark spots.

Proper storage of mushrooms can help maintain their mineral elements and other nutritional qualities. They should be stored in the refrigerator in a paper bag, which helps to absorb any excess moisture and keeps the mushrooms fresh for longer.

Heart-Healthy Mushroom Recipes

Incorporating mushrooms for heart health into your diet can be a delicious endeavor. From savory stir-fries and salads to hearty stews and soups, countless recipes celebrate mushrooms' robust taste and flavors while benefiting your heart.

For instance, a simple mushroom and garlic sauté can be a robust heart-healthy dish. Garlic is known for its anti-inflammatory activities and can enhance the immune system, complementing the health benefits of mushrooms.

Another heart-healthy mushroom recipe could be mushrooms, spinach, and tomato frittata packed with vitamin C and other nutrients. The combination of eggs, vegetables, and mushrooms offers a balanced meal that supports heart health and overall well-being.

Boosting Your Meals with Mushrooms

Boosting edible mushroom consumption in your everyday meals can be easier. Here are a few ways to add more mushrooms to your diet:

  • Salads and Stir-Fries: Add sliced mushrooms to salads or stir-fries for an extra layer of flavor and texture.
  • Breakfast Dishes: Incorporate mushrooms into your morning routine in dishes like omelets or avocado toast.
  • Soups and Stews: Enhance the nutritional profile of soups and stews by adding a handful of mushrooms.
  • Supplements: If fresh mushrooms aren't to your taste, consider mushroom supplements. Reishi extract, for example, is often used in traditional medicine and can be consumed in capsule form.

Balance is Key: The Role of a Diversified Diet

While consuming mushrooms can provide numerous health benefits, including support for heart health, it's crucial to remember the importance of a balanced diet. The human body thrives on diverse nutrients, many of which come from different food groups. Consequently, while mushrooms are a valuable addition to your meals, they should be part of a diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.

Understanding Potential Allergies and Adverse Effects

Like any food, mushrooms can cause allergies or adverse reactions in some individuals. While rare, mushroom allergies can cause symptoms ranging from mild (such as skin rash or itchiness) to severe (like difficulty breathing or anaphylaxis).

Additionally, it's essential to remember that not all mushrooms are created equal. While there are many edible mushroom species, there are also numerous poisonous varieties. Therefore, foraging for mushrooms in the wild without adequate knowledge can lead to ingesting toxic species, resulting in severe illness or even death.

The Importance of Professional Healthcare Advice

When making significant dietary changes, consulting with a healthcare professional is highly recommended. This is particularly important for individuals with existing health conditions, pregnant or breastfeeding, or taking medication that could interact negatively with certain foods.

While mushrooms are generally considered safe, a healthcare professional can provide personalized dietary advice that considers your health status, dietary needs, and potential risks. Remember: What works well for one person may not be suitable for another, as each person's health and nutritional requirements are unique.

Mushrooms For Heart Health Video

FAQs About Mushrooms for Heart Health

Can Cooking Methods Impact The Heart Health Benefits Of Mushrooms?

Indeed, the cooking method can impact the nutritional content of mushrooms and, thus, their heart health benefits. For example, grilling or microwaving mushrooms can help retain their antioxidant properties better than boiling. 

However, most cooking methods do not significantly degrade the fiber content, which benefits heart health. It's best to avoid frying mushrooms in large amounts of oil, as this can add unnecessary fats to your diet.

Can People With Specific Health Conditions Like Diabetes Benefit From Adding Mushrooms To Their Diet?

Yes, people with conditions like diabetes can benefit from mushrooms' nutritional profile. Mushrooms have a low glycemic index and are high in fiber, which can help regulate blood sugar levels. 

Some types of mushrooms, such as maitake, have been studied for their potential to lower blood sugar. However, individuals with chronic conditions like diabetes must consult a healthcare provider before making significant dietary changes.

Are There Any Interactions Between Heart Medications And Mushroom Consumption?

While mushrooms are generally safe to consume, certain compounds in mushrooms could interact with heart medications. For instance, some types of mushrooms may have blood-thinning properties, which could interact with anticoagulant medications. 

Therefore, discussing your mushroom consumption with your healthcare provider is essential, especially if you're on medication for heart conditions.

Is There An Optimal Amount Or Frequency Of Mushroom Consumption For Heart Health Benefits?

There's no universally recommended amount or frequency of mushroom consumption specifically for heart health benefits. However, including mushrooms in your diet, several times a week can contribute to an overall balanced diet, which is beneficial for heart health

As part of a varied diet, they can help ensure you get a broad spectrum of nutrients. Remember, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional for personalized dietary advice.

Key Takeaways

mushrooms bring great nutritional benefits, including their potential to support heart health. With their rich nutrient profile, they offer an impressive mix of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can work in concert to bolster cardiovascular health, regulate blood pressure, and manage cholesterol levels.

You're investing in your well-being by incorporating nutrient-dense foods like mushrooms into your diet. However, remember that mushrooms are not a cure-all, and their benefits are best enjoyed as part of an overall healthy lifestyle and balanced diet.

Now it's your turn to join the conversation. Have you tried incorporating mushrooms into your diet for their heart health benefits? Do you have any favorite mushroom recipes that you'd like to share? We would love to hear from you. Feel free to drop your comments, questions, or insights below. 

We Would Love To Here Your Comments Leave A Comment


  1. Reactive oxygen species and antioxidant properties from mushrooms, (1) 
  2. The Effects of Major Mushroom Bioactive Compounds on Mechanisms That Control Blood Glucose Level, (2) 
  3. Inflammation and Cardiovascular Diseases: The Most Recent Findings, (3) 
  4. Fraction SX of maitake mushroom favorably influences blood glucose levels and blood pressure in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats, (4) 
  5. Anti-Inflammatory Properties of the Medicinal Mushroom Cordyceps militaris Might Be Related to Its Linear (1→3)-β-D-Glucan, (5)

Let Us Know Your Comments

1 Response

Donald Domangue | June 08, 2023

Great info! Thank you. My wife has had AFIB, rhythm shock worked, then the meds. Hopefully this info will help us with the heart!