Mushrooms belong to the fungi kingdom and aren't technically plants, and have been used for centuries throughout Asia. The Egyptians believed eating mushrooms brought long life. They are one of the most health-promoting foods on the planet. But, before I continue with my obsession with the health benefits of mushrooms, remember eating wild mushrooms that are toxic to humans can cause illness and sometimes even death. So, unless you are trained, only eat cultivated mushrooms. Now, let's continue with the edible mushroom obsession …
I encourage you to eat a diet that is a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables. As they say, eat the rainbow! And I would usually suggest that food lacking in colour may also lack the intensity of beneficial nutrients. Well … mushrooms break that rule, and I am a fan of breaking the rules. An estimated 50% of mushrooms are considered "functional foods", meaning that beyond providing us with essential nutrients, they have a potentially positive effect on health. You could think of them as mini pharmaceutical factories producing hundreds of different constituents with miraculous biological properties. And while there are scientific studies demonstrating how effective mushrooms may be in curing disease (which excites the pants off me!), we need to be mindful of bio-individuality. Also not allow ourselves to get too excited in the expectation that if we 'eat enough mushrooms, will it cure my disease?' Dr Kat Arney of Cancer Research UK states, "It doesn't really work that way because you don't know about the dose, you don't know whether by eating something it's bio-available – meaning it can get from the inside of your tummy into your bloodstream and into the tumour in a dose that's actually relevant. That's the trouble."
However, we cannot deny the proven nutritional profile of mushrooms. When combined with eating fruits and vegetables of all kinds, they can reduce the risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions.
Mushrooms like carrots, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkin, green beans, and zucchini are high in antioxidants. Super crucial as antioxidants are our natural soldier chemicals that fight the free radical compounds, helping promote healthy, glowing skin and assisting in the battle of killing off cells that potentially lead to cancer.
Selenium (also an antioxidant) is not found in most fruits and vegetables but can be found in mushrooms. Selenium also assists in liver enzyme function, helps prevent inflammation, and improves immune response.
It is best to eat mushrooms cooked to avoid toxins; however, placing freshly sliced mushrooms in the sun increases their Vitamin D content. Vitamin D is essential for absorbing calcium (mushrooms themselves are a source of calcium) and promoting bone growth. Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to heart disease, depression and weight gain. Mushrooms are the only vegan, non-fortified dietary source of vitamin D. Other minerals that may be difficult to consume on a vegan diet include selenium, potassium (an electrolyte, helps kidney, muscles and nerve function), copper (contributes to iron absorption, immune function, healthy bones, blood vessels and nerves), iron (for oxygenation of the blood), and phosphorous (involved in the body's energy production, works with calcium for bone production, necessary in the structural role of nucleic acids and cell membranes). These are all present in mushrooms.
Mushrooms contain two dietary fibres, beta-glucans and chitin, which reduce appetite and increase satiety. The fibre, potassium and vitamin C (also an antioxidant) content in mushrooms helps our heart health. Consuming mushrooms will make you feel fuller longer and reduce your caloric intake, assisting in weight management.
Beta-glucan is a type of dietary fibre found in the cell walls of mushrooms and stimulates the immune system. Side note, while beta-glucans are safe for most people, they do promote immune function. If you have an autoimmune disease, there may be risks. The stem of the Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) mushroom is a good source of beta-glucans, 3 grams of beta-glucans per day can lower blood cholesterol (LDL) levels by 5%. Beta-glucans have also been the subject of extensive studies that suggest the improvement of insulin resistance and reducing the risk of obesity. Sufficient fibre in your diet will help improve digestion and lower blood sugar levels.
B vitamins are integral to body functions and essential for a healthy brain and are richly found in mushrooms. Thiamine (B1), niacin (B3), riboflavin (B2), pantothenic acid (B5), and folate (B9) help convert our food into fuel and form red blood cells. Choline is a recently discovered nutrient that is not considered a vitamin or a mineral and is often grouped with vitamin B. Choline helps with memory, muscle movement, and fat transport (in fact, not enough choline may result in a fat buildup in your liver), metabolism, cell messaging, DNA synthesis, cell structure and more. And you guessed it … Mushrooms contain choline.
How good are mushrooms! Do you understand my obsession with slicing, dicing, chopping, grilling, sauté, stuffing, and roasting mushrooms? Some days I even ditch the coffee for mushroom powder.
Although they are one of my favourite 'health foods, ' it is our overall eating patterns that impact good health and disease prevention. Therefore ensure that you eat a diet with a variety of whole foods rather than concentrating on a specific food as the answer to good health.
I hope you are feeling inspired to add mushrooms to your meals! Add mushrooms to your soups, omelettes, breakfast scrambles, sandwiches, wraps or drinks. Here are the links to a couple of simple, tasty go-to mushroom recipes, Breakfast Veggie Hash and Portobello mushroom sandwich.
What are your thoughts on mushrooms related to health? Share your answer and your favourite mushroom recipes in the comments below.
As always, remember your reasons, your health, your mission and those you love.
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Blog posts are not intended to provide medical advice or take the place of medical advice and treatment from your doctor. Readers are advised to consult their qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Ocea Marie does not take any responsibility for possible health consequences for anyone reading or following the information available on the blog. All readers, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their doctor before beginning any nutrition or supplement program.
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