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Health Benefits of Mushrooms
Mushrooms aren’t actually a vegetable (although they are classified as a culinary vegetable), but rather the fruiting bodies of larger fungi, or macromycetes. There are four major phyla of the Fungi kindom—Chytridiomycota, Zygomycota, Ascomycota, and Basidiomycota. Most edible mushrooms belong to the Basidiomycota phylum (which includes approximately 30,000 known species of fungi), including the common mushroom (also called the white mushroom), shiitake, oyster, enoki, maitake, cremini, portabella, puffballs, boletus, and chanterelles. Truffles and morels and are among approximately 40,000 known species of fungi belonging to the Ascomycota phylum.
Mushrooms feature as a revered food dating back to earliest recorded history. In ancient Greece, mushrooms were reserved for warriors to provide them strength in battle. Egyptian pharaohs prized mushrooms as a delicacy. The ancient Romans reserved mushrooms for festive occasions as they were considered a “Food of the Gods.” In Chinese culture, mushrooms have long been valued as a health food and medicinal, effective to treat a variety of ills. And, as you’ll see in this post, mushrooms actually do earn this pedestal, offering us nutrients that are completely unique in the food supply and which benefit our health in a variety of ways. In fact, prospective studies demonstrate that high mushroom consumption is an important component of a “prudent diet” to reduce cardiovascular disease risk and all-cause mortality (a general marker of health and longevity).
A large body of scientific evidence has shown that edible mushrooms, in addition to being delicious, have amazing health-promoting properties which can include: antioxidant, cholesterol-lowering, antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, liver-protective, antidiabetic, antiobesity, antitumor, antiviral, and antimicrobial effects. In addition, mushrooms are uniquely beneficial for the gut microbiome, reducing growth of pathogens like candida, and supporting a healthy and diverse gut microbial community. These benefits are attributable to the superior nutrient-density of mushrooms, especially their unique fiber types and phytonutrients. In particular, mushrooms are abundant in phenolics, triterpenes, ergothioneine (a.k.a. the longevity vitamin), and chitin, chitosan and glucan fiber types.
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- lion’s mane
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- white mushroom
- wood ear mushroom
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Expand to see all scientific references for this article.
Anwar, H., J.S. Suchodolski, M.I. Ullah, et al. 2019. “Shiitake Culinary-Medicinal Mushroom, Lentinus edodes (Agaricomycetes), Supplementation Alters Gut Microbiome and Corrects Dyslipidemia in Rats.” International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. 21(1):79-88. doi:10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.2018029348.
Jayachandran, M., J. Xiao, and B. Xu. 2017. “A Critical Review on Health Promoting Benefits of Edible Mushrooms through Gut Microbiota.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 18(9):1934. doi:10.3390/ijms18091934.
Palacios, I., M. Lozano, C. Moro, et al. 2011. “Antioxidant properties of phenolic compounds occurring in edible mushrooms.” Food Chemistry. 128(3):674–678. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2011.03.085.
Rahi, D.K., and D. Malik. 2016. “Diversity of Mushrooms and Their Metabolites of Nutraceutical and Therapeutic Significance.” Journal of Mycology. 2016(7654123):1-18. doi:10.1155/2016/7654123.
Roupas, P., J. Keogh, M. Noakes, C. Margetts, and P. Taylor. 2012. “The role of edible mushrooms in health: Evaluation of the evidence.” Journal of Functional Foods. 4(4):687–709. doi:10.1016/j.jff.2012.05.003.
Schneider, I., G. Kressel, A. Hahn, A. Meyer, U. Krings, and R.G. Berger. 2011. “Lipid lowering effects of oyster mushroom ( Pleurotus ostreatus ) in humans.” Journal of Functional Foods. 3(1):17-24. doi:10.1016/j.jff.2010.11.004.
Varshney, J., J.H. Ooi, B.M. Jayarao, et al. 2013. “White button mushrooms increase microbial diversity and accelerate the resolution of Citrobacter rodentium infection in mice.” Journal of Nutrition. 143(4):526-532. doi:10.3945/jn.112.171355.
Xu, T., R.B. Beelman, and J.D. Lambert. 2012. “The Cancer Preventive Effects of Edible Mushrooms.” Anti-Cancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry. 12(10):1255–1263. doi:10.2174/187152012803833017.