Mushrooms and the world of fungi can be an overlooked area when it comes to wanting to add healthy and nutritious food into our diet. Yet they are packed full of goodness and are extremely versatile to cook with. It doesn’t take too much imagination to find ways of adding these little toadstools into your diet.
What’s the scoop with mushrooms?
First off, mushrooms are a highly nutrient dense food that are also low in calories, double win! They are also an excellent source of protein, fibre, vitamins such as vitamin D and B vitamins, and minerals such as selenium and potassium.
In addition to their impressive nutrient profile, mushrooms also contain bioactive compounds such as beta-glucans, polysaccharides and phenolic compounds which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immune boosting properties.
Some studies have suggested that certain types of mushrooms many have anti-cancer properties, and may be beneficial in the prevention and treatment of various types of cancer.
The unique feature of mushrooms is their ability to synthesise vitamin D when exposed to sunlight or UV light, which is especially important for individuals who do not get enough sun exposure.
The combination of nutrients and bioactive compounds in mushrooms, along with their potential health benefits, have led to their classification as a superfood.
The wide-ranging health benefits of mushrooms
- Nutrient-dense: As already mentioned they are packed full of goodness and low in calories.
- Boost Immune System: Some types of mushrooms, such as shiitake and maitake mushrooms, contain beta-glucans that have been shown to boost the immune system and improve its response to infection.
- Anti-inflammatory: Mushrooms contain bioactive compounds such as polysaccharides, phenolic compounds, and ergothioneine, which have shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
- Cancer Prevention: Some studies suggest that certain types of mushrooms, such as reishi and chaga mushrooms, may have anti-cancer properties and may help in the prevention and treatment of various types of cancer.
- Improve Brain Function: Mushrooms contain compounds such as ergothioneine and hericenones, which have been shown to improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
- Manage Blood Sugar Levels: Some studies suggest that mushrooms may help regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, which can be beneficial for individuals with diabetes.
- Promote Heart Health: Mushrooms contain compounds such as beta-glucans and ergothioneine, which have been shown to have cholesterol lowering properties and may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Overall, incorporating mushrooms into your diet can offer a range of health benefits and can be a delicious and nutritious addition to a balanced diet.
Do you know your shiitake from your reishi?
Different types of mushrooms offer unique health benefits due to their individual nutrient profile and bioactive compounds. Some of the most popular varieties of mushroom and their specific benefits include:
- Button: Are rich in antioxidants such as ergothioneine which can help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.
- Shiitake: Are a good source of beta-glucans, which have been shown to boost the immune system, lower cholesterol levels, and have anti-cancer properties.
- Reishi: Contain triterpenoids, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. They may also help reduce stress and improve sleep quality.
- Maitake: Contain beta-glucans, which have been shown to improve the immune system’s response to infection and may help in the prevention and treatment of cancer.
- Lion’s Mane: Contain hericenones and erinacines, which have been shown to improve cognitive function and may help reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
- Oyster: Contain ergothioneine, a potent antioxidant that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and may help protect against oxidative stress and chronic diseases.
- Portobello: Are a good source of vitamin D, which is important for bone health, immune function, and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
Including a variety of mushrooms in your diet can offer a range of health benefits due to their unique nutrient profiles and bioactive compounds.
Adding them to your diet
There are a wide variety of ways to add or increase mushrooms into your diet. They can be incorporated into a variety of dishes, such as stir-fries, salads, soups and stews, or used as a meat substitute in vegetarian and vegan recipes.
There is no specific recommended daily intake of mushrooms, but including them in your diet regularly can offer health benefits. A general guideline is to consume 1-2 servings of mushrooms per day, which is about half to one cup of cooked mushrooms. If you don’t eat mushrooms often and that sounds like a lot of mushrooms to consume, just start by including them 2-3 times a week and take it from there, after all something is better than nothing!
However, it’s important to note that the nutrient content and health benefits of mushrooms can vary depending on the type of mushroom and how it is prepared. Therefore, it’s recommended to include a variety of different mushrooms in your diet and to prepare them in different ways, such as sauteing, grilling, roasting or adding them to soups or stews.
Overall, mushrooms are a highly nutritious and versatile food that can offer a range of health benefits when included as part of a balanced diet.