Most people consider mushroom to be a vegetable, but that is not the case. They are fungi with various scientific name based on the species, but the family name is Agaricus. They are saprophytes (no chlorophyll) meaning they thrive on nutrients from dead and decaying animal and plant materials. They vary greatly in their exact calorie, size, color, shape, and nutrient count.
History has it that in ancient Egypt, Mushrooms were reserved especially for royalty. Of the 14,000 species of these mushroom-forming fungi in the world, only 10 percent of the species is known by the scientist.
Mushroom Nutrition Facts
The number of estimated edible varieties of mushroom ranges from 300 to 2,000, but only 10 are currently grown commercially, (1)
All these species differ in one way or the other but in general, they are very low in carbohydrates, fat, calories, sugar and sodium. But they also provide healthy nutrients such as B vitamins, copper, selenium, and antioxidants.
One cup of raw white button mushroom is estimated to have about:
- 3 grams protein
- 1 gram fiber
- 21 calories
- 2 grams sugar
- less that 1 gram fat
- 2 grams carbohydrate
- 5 milligrams vitamin B3
- 4 milligrams vitamin B5
- 0.4 milligrams vitamin B2
- 0.3 milligrams copper
- 9 milligrams selenium
- 83 milligrams phosphorus
- 5 milligram sodium
- 318 milligrams potassium (2).
Health Benefits of Mushrooms
Consuming whole unprocessed foods like mushrooms offers a unique quality of healthy living. With so many edible species in existence, it’s hard, to sum up the health benefits of mushroom. But this article tries to elucidate benefits common to most types of mushroom varieties.
Mushroom is known to be a natural cancer remedy. A 2010 scientific study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology and Medicine tested and analyzes five species of mushrooms (maitake, crimini, portabella, oyster and white button) and it was discovered that they significantly inhibit proliferation of breast cancer cells, suggesting mushrooms may be chemoprotective against breast cancer (3).
Also, a 2012 study published on the Medical Journal 3 Biotech shows that the anti-cancer compounds in mushrooms play a crucial role as a reactive oxygen species inducer, mitotic kinase inhibitor, antimitotic, angiogenesis inhibitor, topoisomerase inhibitor all leading to apoptosis (cell death) and eventually checking cancer cell proliferation (4).
In addition, selenium which is found in mushrooms plays a vital role in liver enzyme function and helps detoxify cancer-causing compounds in the body. It also prevents inflammation and inhibits tumor growth.
Mushroom has an immune boosting property which is backed by science. The Beta-glucan found in many varieties of mushrooms provides protection against colds, flu, and other viruses.
According to a 2005 research published in the Journal of Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, shows that mushrooms contain compound and complex substances with antimicrobial, antiviral, antitumor, antiallergic, immunomodulating, anti-inflammatory, antiatherogenic, hypoglycemic and hepatoprotective properties. (5)
Lentinan which is found in shiitake, portobello, oyster and reishi mushrooms can boost your immune system.
A 2005 study published in the Mediators of Inflammation shows that lentinan stimulates the production of interferon, which stimulates the immune system (6).
It is also important to know that mushrooms fungal extract contains a compound similar to penicillin which inhibits microbial growth and fungal infections.
Mushrooms are devoid of cholesterol, but they are also a good source of chitin and beta-glucan which helps in lowering cholesterol levels. A study suggests that mushrooms reduced the level of LDL “bad” cholesterol and VLDL cholesterol in hereditary hypercholesterolemic rats (7).
So, adding mushrooms to your diet is one way of lowering the level of cholesterol in your body. These fungal mushrooms have sterol compounds that interfere with endogenous cholesterol production in the liver, at the same time raising the level of HDL “good” cholesterol.
They also contain phytonutrients that prevent cell adhesion to blood vessels and forming plaque buildup, which maintains healthy blood pressure and improves blood circulation.
Reduces Blood Pressure
The potassium content of mushroom contributes to its function in blood pressure. A research study shows that the maitake mushroom significantly reduces blood pressure in spontaneously hypertensive rats (8, 9). Also, potassium which is a potent vasodilator helps relax the blood vessels thereby reducing blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease.
Mushrooms are a nutrient-dense food with low calorise which makes them ideal for weight loss programs. Studies suggest that substituting mushrooms for red meat might help you lose weight. Consuming mushrooms over a standard period of time is linked with a healthy body weight and reduced waist circumference.
In addition, mushrooms contain two types of dietary fibers in their cell walls, beta-glucans, and chitin. These fibers increase satiety and reduce appetite.
Rich In Vitamin D
Mushrooms are one of the few dietary sources of fat-soluble vitamin D. This vitamin is normally obtained from exposure to the sun. Exposing mushrooms to the sun increases the concentration of vitamin D. Consuming food rich in vitamin D can help reduce the risk of certain medical conditions like cancer, heart disease, mood disorder and bone loss.
Two varieties of mushrooms button and criminis are particularly high in vitamin D, but criminis are also high in another vitamin; vitamin B12 which is very important for strict vegetarians. These two vitamins are vital for the overall health of the body.
As stated above, mushrooms are a great source of B vitamins, which play a role in energy production. One of the importance of b vitamins is in neurotransmitter function, which in turn prevents thyroid disorders and support energy metabolism.
Word of Caution
Mushrooms can pose danger to once health, most especially the wild, non-edible ones. They are highly poisonous and look similar to the edible ones. If you buy mushrooms or pick them from the words you have to be very careful to pick good species or you consult a trained person to help you identify them very well.
Many wild mushrooms contain toxic heavy metals which are very dangerous to the health and in extreme cases could lead to death. Also, to take advantage of mushrooms, you should cook them very well. This is because the cell walls of mushroom are tough, making it difficult for the body to get all the nutrients. Sufficient cooking breaks down the cell wall and inhibit anti-digestive elements and destroy many toxins.
Be reminded that mushrooms contain purines and they have been linked to health problems in some cases. Purine breaks down to form uric acid, which on accumulation leads to gout. It is advisable to eat mushrooms in moderation, not in addiction.
Strengthen Your Immune System Naturally
Beta-1, 3D Glucan boosts the immune system to provide support and balance. It is unlike other immune supplements that simply stimulate or alter the immune response in unnatural ways. Over 50 years of research from prestigious universities around the world document the benefits of Beta-1, 3D Glucan.
Transfer Point is the only company that offers a Beta glucan with a minimum of 83% Beta-1,3D Glucan content, with no harmful contaminants. Every batch is independently tested and a Certificate of Analysis is provided and available upon request.
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About the author: Emmanuel Akpaneka is a biochemist and a writer. I find pleasure in sharing important health issues by writing. I am writing for currenthealthtips.com, that is where you can find me.