Incredible Health Benefits of Eating Mushrooms
Densely packed with micronutrients, easy to prepare, delicious, and healthy, mushrooms infuse recipes with great flavor and texture, from soups and sauces, to entrées and appetizers. There are also immense health benefits of eating mushrooms. These superfoods are nutritious, delicious, and a great source of protein which is especially helpful for the vegetarians. Scientific studies suggest that, compared to meat, mushrooms can be more satiating, help curb hunger, and enhance your feeling of fullness.
Mushrooms are neither vegetables nor fruits. They are actually fungi, with most edible mushrooms belonging to the family Agaricus. Due to the absence of chlorophyll, mushrooms depend on the processing of dead organic matter or living organisms for nutrients and growth.
Mushrooms and Satiety
According to scientific literature, protein is considered as the most satiating macronutrient. Therefore, researchers were keen to understand the relationship between protein content in meat and mushroom replacements to understand how protein actually impacted satiety. Researchers matched the protein content in servings of mushrooms and meat, and they matched both ingredients for calorie content as well.
Studies on satiety reveal that having a mushroom-rich breakfast can be more satiating than a meat-rich breakfast. Though previous studies suggested mushrooms to be more satiating than meat, the effect was not studied with protein-matched amounts. However, new studies suggest that replacing mushrooms with meat or replacing some part of the meat with mushrooms can be satiating, as well as nutritionally beneficial.
The study mainly focused on determining the satiety difference between a 10-day consumption of 28g meat and 226g white button mushrooms. The randomized crossover study involved 15 men and 17 women. They ate sliced mushrooms or 93 percent lean / 7 percent fat ground beef twice daily. The same quantity of protein and comparable calorie count was matched to determine the portion size.
At the end of the study, researchers found the participants who consumed a mushroom breakfast reported less hunger and increased fullness when compared to the meat breakfast. The study further suggests that mushrooms could help in weight loss and satiety, thus contributing to overall wellbeing. This quality of mushrooms could be especially beneficial for vegetarians.
Incredible Health Benefits of Eating Mushrooms
Mushrooms are a powerhouse of vitamins, proteins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, antibiotics, essential amino acids, beta-glucan, selenium, bioactive metabolites, phenolic compounds, terpenoids, and polysaccharides. They help boost immunity, fight fatigue, and support the body’s systems.
If you frequently experience extreme fatigue along with symptoms of brain fog, insomnia, anxiety, low energy level, a decrease in concentration levels, and stubborn weight gain, then you might be suffering from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). The NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response in your body helps to manage stress. When under stress the NEM Stress Response signals your adrenals to secrete cortisol to deal with stress. Eating mushrooms can help support healthy adrenals.
Mushrooms have a rich earthy taste, making them a great addition to any dish. Consider including a variety of mushrooms in your diet to gain the benefits of eating mushrooms.
Here are the remarkable health benefits of eating mushrooms:
Rich Source of Essential Nutrition – Mushrooms are rich in protein, micronutrients, potassium, selenium, niacin, germanium, iron, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B, copper, fiber, and antioxidants. Including these edible fungi in your diet provides your body with essential nutrients it needs.
Alleviating Adrenal Fatigue – For AFS sufferers, the benefits of eating mushrooms can be helpful in healing the adrenals. Loaded with nutrition and therapeutic properties, mushrooms can help alleviate adrenal fatigue by improving memory, relieving stress and inducing better sleep. Mushrooms can also be helpful for people with immune disorders as they contain beta-glucans which can help to lower the inflammatory responses due to poor diet, stimulants, stress, and other environmental factors. These superfoods enhance endurance and stamina by helping the body to produce ATP which is a primary fuel on which the body runs.
Shiitake mushrooms are loaded with vitamin B that helps convert the nutrients in food to usable energy which in turn supports adrenal function. Reishi mushrooms function as adaptogens by lowering cortisol levels, which help fight chronic stress and fatigue. Ancient Chinese medicine regard mushrooms to be “invigorants” as they function as a gentle stimulant and a tonic for increased energy levels and reduce fatigue.
Fighting Inflammation – One of the significant benefits of eating mushrooms is that they contain powerful the micronutrient ergothioneine which has natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Cooking helps to release these micronutrients. Extensive research suggests that mushrooms contain several bioactive molecules which have natural anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and antioxidant properties.
Cancer Prevention – Taking antioxidant-rich foods can help fight cancer. When compared to zucchini and bell peppers, mushrooms contain higher levels of antioxidants due to the presence of polyphenols. Further, mushrooms also contain a significant amount of conjugated linoleic acid and beta-glucans which have anti-carcinogenic properties that help fight prostate cancer as well as breast cancer. Mushrooms are natural cancer remedies as they inhibit the growth of cancerous cells, stop cell mutation, and protect DNA.
Weight Management – Mushrooms are rich in lean protein, fiber, and calcium, and they are low in carbohydrates. It’s a good combination for successful weight loss. People with AFS struggling with stubborn belly fat should consider including this definitive weight loss food. Moreover, mushrooms come with zero fat and low sodium making them a great addition to your weight management regime and adding to the benefits of eating mushrooms. Starting your day with a mushroom-rich breakfast gives you a feeling of fullness and satisfaction. Studies suggest that people who ate one cup of mushrooms per day had significant weight loss and could maintain their new weight better than with other crash diets.
Lower Cholesterol – Unlike meat, mushrooms are good sources of lean protein and fiber which help to lower bad cholesterol and support a healthy heart. They also contain the compound sterol which helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels. The presence of phytonutrients in mushrooms helps to enhance blood circulation, prevent plaque buildup and maintain healthy blood pressure.
Lower Blood Pressure – Studies suggest that various types of mushrooms including maitake and shiitake mushrooms have high potassium content. Potassium is known to function as a vasodilator, relaxing any tension in the blood vessels thus reducing blood pressure. Maintaining healthy blood pressure level is crucial to prevent strokes and cardiac arrest.
Enhanced Memory – People with AFS often experience drop in concentration levels and brain fog. Studies suggest that potassium has the ability to stimulate neural activity and enhance memory. Mushrooms are rich sources of potassium which can help boost your brain health. Further, shiitake mushrooms contain B vitamins which helps improve cognitive performance and fight brain fog by balancing the hormones naturally in your body.
Enhanced Iron Absorption – Iron deficiency can cause fatigue, unhealthy bones and anemia. Mushrooms are rich sources of iron and copper. Copper helps to stimulate iron absorption in food and also assists in releasing it from the body’s primary storage spots including the liver.
Boosts the Immune System – Mushrooms are loaded with a powerful antioxidant, ergothioneine, which plays a significant role in fighting off free radicals and boosting the immune system. This master antioxidant is basically an amino acid with sulfur content which helps in removing dangerous compounds from the body. Mushrooms are natural antibiotics which help protect against fungal and bacterial infections. The presence of beta-glucans and polysaccharides in mushrooms helps to heal ulcerous wounds and prevent further infection. These nutritious edible fungi also have a good combination of B-complex vitamins and vitamin A and C, which strengthens the immune system.
Helps Prevent Diabetes – The benefits of eating mushrooms also extend to those with diabetes. They contain certain enzymes and natural insulin which help to break down starch and sugar in food. Further, certain compounds found in mushrooms aid healthy functioning of the pancreas, liver and endocrine glands, which in turn helps proper secretion and regulation of insulin in the body. Those with diabetes are sometimes prone to infections and require a longer healing time. Mushrooms, being rich in natural antibiotics, help protect against such infections.
Aids Nutrient Absorption – Besides being rich in phosphorus and calcium, mushrooms also contain vitamin D which is rarely found in other foods. Vitamin D helps in the absorption and metabolism of phosphorus and calcium.
Which Mushrooms Are Edible?
Out of the roughly 5.1 million species of mushrooms, science is familiar with fewer than five percent of them, and scientists are studying only 100 species for potential health benefits. Mushrooms come in various shapes, sizes, textures, colors, and with varying properties. However, only a few of them are edible.
Not liking the flavor of a certain mushroom? There are several edible varieties to choose from. Adding just a handful of them to your recipes is enough to enhance flavor and enjoy the benefits of eating mushrooms.
Here is a list of edible mushrooms:
Shiitake – Prominently used in Asian cuisine, shiitake mushrooms are sold fresh or dry and are available all year. They have a rich flavor and are now gaining popularity in western countries as well due to their profound health benefits. Shiitake mushrooms have high nutritional benefits. They contain linoleic acid, eight essential amino acids, b-glucan, eritadenine, ethyl acetate, phytonutrients, B vitamins, vitamin D and selenium.
Reishi Mushrooms – Used in traditional Chinese medicine, reishi mushrooms are true superfoods with rich medicinal properties. They contain beta-glucans, adaptogens, and triterpenes which help fight inflammation, tumor growth, cancer, and cardiac problems. Reishi mushrooms help fight cancer, allergies, inflammation, infections, and fatigue including chronic fatigue syndrome.
Porcini – These gourmet mushrooms are brown or reddish brown with a thick stem and large cap. Due to their meaty texture and slightly nutty flavor, porcini are excellent for risotto, pasta, and soup.
Oyster – These wild mushrooms grow in the fall. These are also cultivated and available throughout the year. Thinly sliced oyster mushrooms are great for stir-fries.
Matsutake – These mushrooms do not grow in the wild, making them expensive. These mushrooms are greatly valued and have high demand in Japan.
Morels – They grow in the forests of Europe and North America. Morels have a unique flavor and are highly valued in French cuisine. These mushrooms are best cooked in butter or battered and fried.
Chanterelle – These wild mushrooms from coniferous forests grow in late summer and throughout the fall. Rich in flavor, chanterelle tastes great in butter or cream.
Truffle – These are wild mushrooms and grow underground. Due to their strong flavor and high price, these mushrooms are used sparingly.
A Word of Caution
There are concerns that commonly available mushrooms may contain the compound agaritine in minute amounts. However, only high doses of agaritine are cacogenic. Further, cooking or freezing the mushrooms causes most of the agaritine to decompose. Hence it is advisable to cook these foods before consuming.
Make sure you choose only edible mushrooms as the inedible ones can be poisonous and prove fatal.
Mushrooms are edible fungi loaded with essential compounds, nutrients, proteins, and antioxidants. There are immense health benefits of eating mushrooms. These amazing superfoods can significantly contribute to healthy heart, brain health, and overall well-being. Studies suggest that eating a mushroom-rich breakfast gives a higher satiety level and fullness feeling when compared to a meat breakfast. People with AFS should consider including this nutrient-dense food in their diet. Among the several varieties of mushrooms, only a few of them are edible. Make sure to stay away from inedible mushrooms as they can be highly toxic and prove fatal.
© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
What are the surprising benefits of eating mushrooms?
There are several surprising benefits of eating mushrooms. They can help flush toxins from the body by cleansing the liver, promote healthy hair, skin, and bone, treat anemia, enhance metabolism, and fight against plaque and early aging.