What are the health benefits of mushrooms? – Chicago Tribune

Health Benefits of Mushrooms

Are mushrooms good for you?

Mushrooms have been an important part of the human diet for thousands of years. Cultures around the world have long treasured mushrooms — and for good reason. Mushrooms are highly nutritious food and contain an impressive amount of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants that can benefit both your body and mind.

And while some mushrooms are toxic to consume, there’s a long list of both edible and medicinal varieties that each have their own unique health benefits, from boosting brain health and immunity to fighting cancer and inflammation to preventing and aiding in the treatment of various diseases and illnesses.

Here are some of the health benefits of mushrooms — from classic portabellos and criminis to wild chanterelles to medicinal varieties such as reishi and turkey tail.

Why are mushrooms good for you?

Mushrooms are low in calories and sodium and free of both fat and cholesterol, making them a great addition to any healthy diet. Plus, they provide a nutritional punch of beneficial vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that contribute to overall health. Mushrooms are also a great source of plant-based protein for those following vegetarian or vegan diets.

A number of medicinal varieties — such as reishi, chaga, and turkey tail mushrooms — have also been studied for their immune-boosting and cancer-fighting properties. These mushrooms contain particularly powerful phytonutrients that fight inflammation, combat oxidative stress, and even fight the presence of cancer cells and tumors.

Humans get most of their vitamin D from sunlight in the form of UV rays or from animal products like meat, fish and fortified milk. Mushrooms are one of the only non-animal sources of vitamin D. One study estimated that a 100-gram serving of mushrooms can deliver 50-100% of your daily dose of vitamin D.

One potential catch: Many store-bought mushrooms are grown on commercial farms that grow the mushrooms inside and away from UV light (like humans, mushrooms get their vitamin D from the sun). However, you can potentially boost the vitamin D content in your mushrooms at home simply by placing them sit gill side up in a sunny window for an hour or two.

Help lower blood sugar and cholesterol

Mushrooms contain plenty of beneficial B vitamins and potassium to help boost heart health and reduce the risk of diabetes.

The combination of B vitamins like riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid can balance hormones, break down carbohydrates, raise good HDL cholesterol and lower triglycerides, while potassium can regulate blood sugar and improve nerve function.

Oyster and shiitake mushrooms are particularly good sources of beta glucan, a form of soluble dietary fiber that’s strongly linked to reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Mushrooms contain polysaccharides — a type of complex carbohydrate that feeds beneficial gut bacteria, essentially acting as a prebiotic. The B vitamins in mushrooms likewise aid in digestion by producing enzymes that break down carbohydrates, fat and alcohol. The B vitamin niacin can also help maintain healthy skin.

Improve brain health and longevity

Mushrooms contain copper, selenium and spermidine — all of which can help boost your brain health by helping your body produce red blood cells and protecting neurons from damage. A one-cup serving of mushrooms provides one-third of your recommended daily dose of copper.

Studies show that lion’s mane mushrooms can improve cognitive performance and might even prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s.

What’s the healthiest way to cook mushrooms?

While some mushrooms can be eaten raw (like white button mushrooms), some cooking methods have actually been shown to increase their nutritional value and antioxidant content — particularly grilling, steaming and microwaving. To maximize the nutritional benefits of mushrooms, avoid cooking them in butter or oil which can cause some of the fat-soluble vitamins to leach out.

Best medicinal mushroom supplements

Medicinal mushroom supplements are a great way to maximize the beneficial effects of mushrooms, especially if you’re looking to tackle a particular ailment. Supplements are generally available as capsules, tinctures or powders.

When choosing a supplement, it’s best to do your research. While there are a lot of quality options, supplement products aren’t evaluated by the FDA, so you’ll need to pay careful attention to the details and ingredients of each brand. We’ve vetted a few different options for you below. Remember to carefully follow all dosage instructions and recommendations on the package.

Best mushroom supplements for boosting your immune system

Host Defense Comprehensive Immune Support: $30 on iHerbThese capsules contain 17 different varieties of certified organic, U.S.-grown mushrooms, including chaga, maitake and reishi, to boost and balance your natural immune system. Plus, the product is third-party verified for purity and potency.

Real Mushrooms 5 Defenders Immune Strength: $35 on AmazonThese capsules are made from real ground mushrooms, which means they contain the fruiting body (the actual mushroom) as well as mycelium, the part of the mushroom that grows underground. Some studies show that the fruiting body is more beneficial than mycelium alone. Plus, Real Mushrooms uses rigorous quality-control testing with verified levels of beta-glucans.

Best mushroom supplements for brain health

Host Defense Lion’s Mane Extract: $15 on AmazonThis tincture is made with triple-extracted organic mushrooms and is easy to drop under your tongue or add to smoothies or coffee drinks.

Best mushroom supplements for boosting energy

Fungi Perfecti Cordyceps Energy Support: $24 on iHerbCapsules contain a full spectrum of certified-organic cordycep mushrooms, which have been shown to boost energy levels, improve exercise performance and stamina and encourage oxygen uptake.

Om Organic Cordycep Powder: $17 on AmazonThis blend of certified organic cordyceps can easily be added to shakes, smoothies, coffee drinks and recipes for a daily boost of energy.

Best mushroom supplements for overall health

Four Sigmatic Mushroom Blend Mix: $28 on iHerbThis blend contains 10 different mushrooms including chaga, reishi, cordyceps, and shiitake to help boost energy and promote overall health.

Mushroom Harvest 14 Blend Organic Mushroom Powder: $42 on AmazonThis powder is made from certified organic, US-grown mushrooms and contains no fillers such as brown rice, which is common in other mushroom supplements. It’s also third-party lab-tested for purity and potency.

Katy Severson is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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Source: What are the health benefits of mushrooms? – Chicago Tribune