Nutrition is integral to optimal health and can help treat and manage diseases that threaten the body. Mushrooms come in various shapes, sizes, and colors and have been used for their unique ability to add flavor and taste without sodium or fat. They are also healthy and tasty and contain various vitamins and minerals. Different mushrooms can provide distinct health benefits that can be increased brain function, help with hormonal balance, and as an antioxidant.
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Research continues to uncover how mushrooms can improve everyday health and help mitigate the risk of developing health conditions like Alzheimer’s, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Mushrooms are recommended because they are:
- Low in sodium
- Packed with fiber
Nutritional benefits vary depending on the type of mushroom.
- Mushrooms are rich in B vitamins: riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid, which help maintain heart health. Riboflavin supports red blood cells. Niacin assists the digestive system and helps keep healthy skin. Pantothenic acid supports nervous system function and helps the body make necessary hormones.
- They are a great source of minerals – Selenium, Copper, Thiamin, Magnesium, and Phosphorus. Copper helps the body create red blood cells to deliver oxygen and maintain healthy bones and nerves. Potassium supports heart, muscle, and nerve function.
- Antioxidants help protect the body from damaging free radicals that can cause heart disease and cancer. They also protect against damage from aging and increase immune system function.
- Beta-glucan is a soluble dietary fiber linked to improved cholesterol levels and supports heart health. It helps the body regulate blood sugar, which helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Cordyceps increases energy levels by utilizing oxygen more efficiently and enhancing circulation. This can be especially helpful for athletes or individuals who regularly work out and has been shown to improve exercise and athletic performance and speed up muscle recovery.
This mushroom has benefits that are particularly good for the heart, as they contain phytonutrients, which aid in:
- Preventing plaque buildup
- Maintaining blood pressure
- Maintaining circulation
- Lowering cholesterol
Chaga mushrooms are full of antioxidants, making them excellent for fighting free radicals and inflammation. This mushroom combats oxidative stress, inflammation, and aging. And it can help prevent or slow cancer growth and has been found to help lower low-density lipoprotein – LDL cholesterol.
Mushrooms are almost always available in the produce section of any grocery or health food store. Make sure to wash them thoroughly first. Example: Cremini mushrooms can be:
- Eaten raw or cooked, sliced or unsliced.
- Simmered in water for 5 minutes until soft
- Sauteed – cook the mushrooms in a pan with olive oil on medium heat for eight minutes, frequently stirring until they brown at the edges.
- Sprinkled raw over meals to add more texture and flavor.
Ways to add mushrooms to a nutrition plan:
- With eggs in the morning.
- Mix into cooked beef, chicken, or turkey.
- Cook mushrooms with garlic and butter for a side dish.
- Add to a stir-fry with other vegetables.
- Add to homemade pizza.
- As an ingredient in pasta sauce.
- Add to salads.
- Make cream of mushroom soup.
Always talk to a doctor, nutritionist, or dietician before to confirm whether adding mushrooms is safe, especially if pregnant or using medications, as certain mushrooms can cause side effects like an upset stomach or allergies.
Food as Medicine
Fukushima, M et al. “Cholesterol-lowering effects of maitake (Grifola frondosa) fiber, shiitake (Lentinus edodes) fiber, and enokitake (Flammulina velutipes) fiber in rats.” Experimental biology and medicine (Maywood, N.J.) vol. 226,8 (2001): 758-65. doi:10.1177/153537020222600808
Kabir, Y et al. “Effect of shiitake (Lentinus edodes) and maitake (Grifola frondosa) mushrooms on blood pressure and plasma lipids of spontaneously hypertensive rats.” Journal of nutritional science and vitaminology vol. 33,5 (1987): 341-6. doi:10.3177/jnsv.33.341
Kolotushkina, E V et al. “The influence of Hericium erinaceus extract on myelination process in vitro.” Fiziolohichnyi zhurnal (Kiev, Ukraine : 1994) vol. 49,1 (2003): 38-45.
Ma, Gaoxing, et al. “Health benefits of edible mushroom polysaccharides and associated gut microbiota regulation.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition vol. 62,24 (2022): 6646-6663. doi:10.1080/10408398.2021.1903385
Rop, Otakar, et al. “Beta-glucans in higher fungi and their health effects.” Nutrition reviews vol. 67,11 (2009): 624-31. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00230.x
Tuli, Hardeep S et al. “Pharmacological and therapeutic potential of Cordyceps with special reference to Cordycepin.” 3 Biotech vol. 4,1 (2014): 1-12. doi:10.1007/s13205-013-0121-9
Venturella, Giuseppe, et al. “Medicinal Mushrooms: Bioactive Compounds, Use, and Clinical Trials.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 22,2 634. 10 Jan. 2021, doi:10.3390/ijms22020634
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