Are Mushrooms Good for You?

Medically reviewed by Natalie Butler, RD, LD on May 3, 2016Written by Rena Goldman

mushrooms on a cutting board

Mushrooms come in lots of different shapes, sizes, and colors. The ones that aren’t toxic happen to be quite healthy, and tasty too.

For many years they’ve been used for their unique ability to add flavor in lots of different cultures’ cuisines. Although they’re actually fungi, mushrooms are lumped in the vegetable category for cooking purposes. Mushrooms allow you to add extra taste without sodium or fat.

Poisonous mushrooms can be hard to identify in the wild, so you should always buy from a reliable grocery store or market. The most common types found in grocery stores are:

  • shiitake
  • portobello
  • crimini
  • button or white mushroom
  • oyster
  • enoki
  • beech
  • maitake

They each have a unique look and taste.

When choosing your mushrooms, make sure they feel firm, aren’t moist to the touch, and are mold-free. They can be stored in a paper bag inside the fridge for about five days. Brush the dirt off and rinse them lightly when you’re ready to use them.

Nutritional benefits of eating mushrooms 

You can’t go wrong with mushrooms. They’re fat-free, low-sodium, low-calorie, and cholesterol-free. They’re also packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Nutritional benefits vary depending on the type of mushroom. But overall, they are a good source of the following nutrients.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants help protect the body from damaging free radicals that can cause conditions like heart disease and cancer. They also protect you against damage from aging and boost your immune system. Mushrooms are rich in the antioxidant called selenium. In fact, they are the best source of the mineral in the produce aisle.

Beta glucan

Beta glucan is a form of soluble dietary fiber that’s been strongly linked to improving cholesterol and boosting heart health. It can also help your body regulate blood sugar, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Oyster and shiitake mushrooms are believed to have the most effective beta glucans.

B vitamins

Mushrooms are rich in the B vitamins: riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. The combination helps protect heart health. Riboflavin is good for red blood cells. Niacin is good for the digestive system and for maintaining healthy skin. Pantothenic acid is good for the nervous system and helps the body make the hormones it needs.

Copper

Copper helps your body make red blood cells, which are used to deliver oxygen all over the body. The mineral is also important to other processes in the body, like maintaining healthy bones and nerves. Even after being cooked, a 1-cup serving of mushrooms can provide about one-third of the daily recommended amount of copper.

Potassium

Potassium is extremely important when it comes to heart, muscle, and nerve function. There’s about as much potassium in 2/3 cup of cooked Portobello mushroom as there is in a medium-sized banana.

How to eat mushrooms 

Mushrooms are incredibly versatile. You can prepare them in so many ways and pair them with tons of different ingredients. Slice them up raw and toss them in a salad, grill them, sauté them, or roast them. Add them to soups, sandwiches, wraps, casseroles, and Italian dishes. Mushrooms work well as a side dish, or as the main course for vegetarians. Portobello mushrooms are often served as “burgers” or “steaks” because of their meaty texture.

Try mushrooms several ways with these healthy recipes.

  • The simple marinade goes a long way in these grilled mushroom skewers. Use them at your next cookout as a side dish or a vegetarian dish. View the recipe.
  • These creamy spinach-stuffed mushrooms are made with meaty cremini mushroom caps. The cheesy center is easy to prep, and the combo makes an impressive appetizer. View the recipe.
  • You can’t get much healthier than this vegan mushroom risotto. It’s dairy-free and gluten-free, making it great for people with dietary restrictions. The risotto isn’t short on creaminess or taste. View the recipe.
  • Instead of using a meat or tofu, mushrooms are the main stars of these roasted teriyaki mushrooms and soba noodles. Let the mushrooms shine in this Asian-inspired dish. View the recipe.
  • These Italian roasted mushrooms and veggies make the perfect hearty side. The dish is full of flavor, pairing Italian herbs with mushrooms, tomatoes, and cauliflower. View the recipe.
  • Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, these baked portobello mushrooms make a satisfying main course. View the recipe.
  • If you’re looking for a light and healthy side, this mushroom, lemon, and lentil salad is it. Pair it with a variety of different main courses. View the recipe.
  • This simple mushroom and garlic sauté lets the mushrooms shine. There are only five ingredients, including the mushrooms. Use it as a side, or eat a whole bowl as a main course. View the recipe.

If you don’t eat a lot of mushrooms now, they’re definitely worth exploring. Experiment with different recipes and add extra nutrients into your meals. 

Rena
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