Mushrooms are mystical and fascinating ingredients of the culinary world. They are versatile and can be cooked in multifarious ways. There are many cultivars of edible mushrooms and their aroma, texture and flavour varies greatly. In spite of the difference in flavour and texture, mushrooms are a great source of vitamins, calcium, magnesium, selenium, copper and other vital minerals. They provide a large number of health benefits to the human body. Mushrooms are making a breakthrough in the medicinal and pharmaceutical industry for their medicinal and therapeutic properties. They are now being researched for cancer treatments, vitamin D supplementation, ameliorating tumours, prevention of dementia, obesity and other degenerative ailments associated with old age among other things. This list mentions some of the many health benefits that mushrooms provide. Go through the article to find out more.

What Are Mushrooms?

Mushrooms are toadstools that are basically a fungal growth that has a cap, a dome and underside gills that contain the spores. They have been used as a vegetable since times immemorial but they are not a vegetable. Mushrooms have also been used in traditional medicines since ages. Although mushrooms can come in a variety of colours, most of the edible ones are plain white with a few exceptions. They have  high nutrition content and now their properties are being mined for potential health benefits.

Health Benefits Of Mushrooms

1. Can Treat Cancer

Mushrooms have now found  use in the medicinal and pharmaceutical industry because of the numerous bioactive components that they contain. National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) published an article that revealed that mushrooms can aid in the amelioration of cancerous cells at different stages. Mushrooms that have therapeutic properties can be used in the manufacturing of anti tumour and anticancer drugs.

2. Rich Source Of Vitamin D

Nutrient Data Laboratory at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Centre published an article that revealed that exposure to UV light changes the chemical compound ergosterol to ergocalciferol or Vitamin D2. Mushrooms can be induced to produce Vitamin D2 by keeping them in UV light intentionally and this can add considerable amount of Vitamin D in the diet.

3. Antiviral Properties

Mushrooms have demonstrated multifarious properties therein creating their demand in the pharmaceutical industry. According to an article published by the NCBI, Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms contain compounds like ganoderic acid, triterpenes, and other compounds that have demonstrated reduction in HIV and herpes virus. Compounds present in Kuehneromyces mutabilis mushroom show reduction in influenza Type A and Type B virus.

4. Reduces The Risk Of Obesity

An article published by the National Health Service, England (NHS) revealed that Ganoderma lucidum or reishi mushroom can effectively control obesity and excessive weight gain. Consumption of reishi mushrooms combats fat gain and helps in the reduction of weight. It also promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut and reduces inflammation in the body.

5. Prevents Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

When mushrooms are exposed to UV light, a bioactive compound called ergosterol changes to ergocalciferol or Vitamin D. Vitamin D is vital for the human body to absorb the calcium in the bones. When commercial mushrooms are exposed to UV light for as less as 15 seconds their Vitamin D index peaks, which benefits human health on consumption. Arthritis Foundation, UK recognizes mushrooms as an important Vitamin D source for good bone health and for the prevention of RA.

6. Anti-gingivitis And Anti-caries Properties

Findings, new and old have always pointed that mushrooms are good for dental health. A study published in the journal of NCBI showed that Shiitake mushrooms effectively reduce dental problems like gingivitis, caries, periodontitis and other oral health ailments. Compound present in Shiitake mushrooms destroy bacterial and pathogenic growth in the mouth, thereby promoting dental hygiene.

7. Rich Source Of Copper

Mushrooms are effective in absorbing the iron in the intestines due to its rich copper content. Researchers from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, (CSIR) have found that regular consumption of mushrooms can help prevent anaemia and copper deficiencies in the body. The article was published in the Journal of Chemistry and revealed that copper in mushrooms help in regulating blood pressure, optimum synthesis of hormones and coagulation of blood.

8. Anti-bacterial, Anti-fungal And Anti-microbial Properties

Several findings at credible institutions have revealed the antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial properties of mushrooms. Extracts from reishi mushrooms are known to cure herpes, hepatitis B and other disorders. The lentin found in Shiitake mushrooms is known for its antifungal properties and is used in many fungal infection drugs.

9. Can Prevent Dementia And Other Degenerative Disorders

There are a few mushrooms that have neurotrophic effects on the human body. Regular consumption of those mushrooms can promote brain and nerve functioning, a study published by the NCBI concluded. These mushrooms have therapeutic effects on the nervous system and can aid in the prevention of degenerative disorders.

10. Treats Depression

FDA had given a green flag to the use of ‘Magic’ mushrooms in the treatment of psychotic disorders and chronic clinical depression earlier in 2018. Psilocybin, a compound found in magic mushrooms is known to produce hallucinogenic effects that can last from 3 to 6 hours (a dosage of 0.2 to 0.5 grams) and can reboot the brain functioning. This psychedelic drug has shown promising effects in the treatment for clinical depression in one single dose.

Nutritional Value Of Mushroom

Nutritional value contained in 100 gms of edible Crimini mushrooms

Energy 94 kJ
Carbohydrate 4.3 g
Fat 0.1 g
Proteins 2.5 g
Vitamins Quantity
Thiamine B1 0.1 mg
Riboflavin B2 0.5 mg
Niacin B3 3.8 mg
Pantothenic Acid B5 1.5 mg
Vitamin B6 0.11 mg
Folate B9 25 µg
Vitamin C 0 mg
Vitamin D 3 IU
Minerals Quantity
Calcium 18 mg
Iron 0.4 mg
Magnesium 9 mg
Manganese 0.142 mg
Phosphorus 120 mg
Potassium 448 mg
Sodium 6 mg
Zinc 1.1 mg
Other constituents Quantity
Selenium 26 µg
Copper 0.5 mg
Vitamin D (UV exposed) 1276 IU


Risks Or Precautions When Consuming Mushrooms

  1. While mushroom scavenging can be fun, the knowledge of identifying mushrooms is a must. Some mushrooms contain psylocibycin that can cause hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, synesthesia and panic attacks.
  2. The consumption of an inedible mushroom can lead to upset stomach, vomiting, dizziness, diarrhoea and restlessness.
  3. Mushrooms are a type of fungi that can trigger allergic reactions in some people. One can experience mild allergic symptoms like skin irritation, rashes and itchiness or exacerbated allergic reactions like dry throat, choking, anaphylactic shock, nose bleed etc.
  4. Mushroom consumption can lead to psychotic disorders or symptoms like psychosis which include paranoia, extreme fear, acute panic attacks and mild to extreme anxiety.

How To Consume Mushrooms

In spite of the health risks they pose, mushrooms are consumed in tons globally every year. One can easily incorporate mushrooms in their diet in the following ways:

Mushroom cream soup:

Clean, wash and chop 250 grams of mushrooms of your choice. Heat a heavy bottomed pan over medium flame and add a tablespoon of butter. Once the butter melts, add three cloves of chopped garlic and one medium sized chopped onion. Once the onion and garlic turn translucent, add in the chopped mushrooms. Once cooked, add two tablespoons of all-purpose flour and stir vigorously. Slowly add the chicken broth or vegetable stock while stirring the mixture continuously so that no lumps form. Then add in a cup of cream to the soup. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with freshly chopped green onions.

Sautéed Mushroom:

Take 250 grams of mushrooms of your choice (Crimini or button mushrooms work fine). Brush the dirt away from them and wash them under cold running water. Pat them dry, cut them in half, slice or chop them as per your preference and keep them aside. In a skillet or heavy bottomed pan, add a tablespoon of olive oil and two cloves of chopped garlic. Once the garlic is fragrant, add in the mushrooms and cook on medium flame, managing the flame so that the water let off by the mushrooms evaporates quickly. Once the mushrooms are tender but not soggy, add in a quarter tablespoon of black pepper for an earthy taste and season with coarse salt and parsley. Serve hot.

Some Fun Facts About Mushrooms

  1. Mushrooms are not a vegetable but a type of fungi. They do not have leaves, seeds or roots but spores.
  2. They are one of the fastest growing things on the planet. Once the development starts, mushrooms can grow double in size in just within twenty-four hours.
  3. Laetiporus is an edible variety of the mushroom family that has earned the moniker ‘chicken of the woods’ because its flavour is similar to that of fried chicken.
  4. There are around 30 unique mushroom species that glow in the dark. The bioluminescent species of mushrooms include species like Armillaria gallica, Mycena chlorophos, Mycena haematopus to name a few. Now that is some cool sci-fi stuff!.

With so many health benefits packed in a small bowl, mushrooms are indeed a must include food in the diet chart. We are sure that the healthy mushroom will make its way to your table, stomach and heart.

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