Mushrooms have the happy gift of making the foods around them taste better, while adding only very modest quantities of fat, calories or carbohydrates. Beyond that mushrooms are considered to have a number of health benefits, though the evidence for some claims is stronger than for others.
Vitamins and Minerals
Crimini mushrooms are among the only natural food sources of vitamin D, and mushrooms are one of the few foods that contain germanium, a trace mineral that helps your body use oxygen efficiently and prevents against damaging effects of free radicals. Many mushrooms are also good sources of selenium, an antioxidant mineral, as well as copper, niacin, potassium and phosphorous. Additionally, mushrooms provide protein, vitamin C and iron. Because their cells walls are undigestible unless exposed to heat, you must cook mushrooms to get their nutritional benefits.
Mushrooms are a good source of both insoluble chitin and soluble beta glucans, each a form of fiber which has a role to play in human health. Insoluble fiber is crucial to proper digestion, while soluble fiber can slow the rise in your body’s blood sugars after a meal and can also help moderate your blood pressure and cholesterol. A 2014 study published in the Czech Journal of Food Science evaluated white button mushrooms — Agaricus bisporus — and 19 others for their fiber content, and their ratio of insoluble to soluble fiber. The study concluded that all of the mushrooms it reviewed were good sources of dietary fiber, and that many prized wild mushrooms, such as porcini, were especially high in soluble fiber.
White button mushrooms, commonly found in grocery stores and salad bars, demonstrated an ability to suppress markers of recurrent prostate cancer in a study published in oncology journal Cancer in 2015. Maitake mushrooms, long considered by Asians to have healing properties, showed an ability to suppress breast tumors in a study published in Nutrition and Cancer in 2017. Ganoderma lucidum, best known under its Japanese name of reishi, has shown promise in the treatment of a number of cancers though further studies are needed to confirm those preliminary results.
Other Health Benefits
A 2016 paper published in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition demonstrated that a powder of dried white button mushrooms seemed to help reduce the risk of metabolic disorder, which is implicated in many chronic health issues. The Journal of the American College of Nutrition published a small study in 2015 demonstrating that shiitake mushrooms boosted the human immune system when eaten daily. Eritadenine, a compound in shiitake mushrooms, showed some potential at helping the liver process cholesterol and other triglycerides in a 2016 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.