Mushrooms have been used for thousands of years both as food and for medicinal purposes. They are often classified as a vegetable or a herb, but they are actually fungi. While there are over 14,000 mushrooms, only about 3,000 are edible, about 700 have known medicinal properties, and fewer than one percent are recognized as poisonous.
Recent studies have shown shiitake and reishi mushrooms are potential cancer-fighters. Reishi extracts have been shown to stop the growth of cancerous tumors and also produce an antihistamine action which can help to control allergies.
Shiitake mushrooms contain a compound called lentinan, which is being used as a cancer treatment in Japan.
Mushrooms are also a good source of riboflavin and niacin and contain no fat or cholesterol.
Many people enjoy going to the woods to pick their own mushrooms. However, identifying mushrooms can be a real challenge. The color, shape and size of the fruiting body can vary tremendously. It is important to properly identify the mushroom that is collected, so as to avoid a poisonous species.
The Pharaohs prized mushrooms as a delicacy, and the Greeks believed that mushrooms provided strength for warriors in battle. The Romans regarded mushrooms as a gift from God and served them only on festive occasions, while the Chinese treasured them as a health food.
Today, mushrooms are enjoyed for their flavor and texture. They can impart their own flavor to food or take on the flavor of other ingredients. Their flavor normally intensifies during cooking, and their texture holds up well to usual cooking methods, including stir-frying and sauteing.
It is popular to add mushrooms to soups, salads, and sandwiches, or to use them as an appetizer. They also add an appealing touch to vegetable-based casseroles and stews. In the US, mushroom extracts are increasingly being used in nutraceutical products and sports drinks.
Mushrooms contain about 80 to 90 percent water, and are very low in calories (only 100 cal/oz). They have very little sodium and fat, and 8 to 10 percent of the dry weight is fiber. Hence, they are an ideal food for persons following a weight management program or a diet for hypertensives.
Mushrooms are an excellent source of potassium, a mineral that helps lower elevated blood pressure and reduces the risk of stroke. One medium portabella mushroom has even more potassium than a banana or a glass of orange juice. One serving of mushrooms also provides about 20 to 40 percent of the daily value of copper, a mineral that has cardioprotective properties.
Mushrooms are a rich source of riboflavin, niacin, and selenium. Selenium is an antioxidant that works with vitamin E to protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. Male health professionals who consumed twice the recommended daily intake of selenium cut their risk of prostate cancer by 65 percent. In the Baltimore study on Aging, men with the lowest blood selenium levels were 4 to 5 times more likely to have prostate cancer compared to those with the highest selenium levels.
Mushrooms & Vitamins
- Vitamin D: Mushrooms are one of the few natural sources of vitamin D, which is essential for healthy bones and teeth.
- Vitamin B1 – Thiamin: Thiamin controls the release of energy from carbohydrate, which is needed for the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system. A 100g serving of mushrooms will give you 27% of your recommended daily dietary intake of thiamin.
- Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin: Mushrooms are high in Riboflavin, a B-vitamin that helps to maintain healthy red blood cells and promotes good vision and healthy skin.
- Vitamin B3 – Niacin: Niacin, another B-vitamin found in mushrooms, helps to control the release of energy from protein, fat and carbohydrate, which keeps the body’s digestive and nervous systems in good shape.
- Vitamin B5 – Pantothenic Acid: Plays a number of essential metabolic roles in the human body, including providing assistance with the production of hormones; found naturally in mushrooms.
- Vitamin B9 – Folate: Mushrooms are a rich source of Folate, which is essential for the formation of red and white blood cells in bone marrow. Folate is an important factor in healthy growth and development: pregnant women are encouraged to increase their Folate to assist with growth.
- Vitamin H – Biotin: Is essential in the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates and is just another B-vitamin found in mushrooms.
Although these vitamins are also found in many vegetables, they are lost when cooked in boiling water: as mushrooms are rarely prepared with boiling water, they retain their valuable vitamin content when eaten.
Did you know: Collectively, the B-vitamins contained in mushrooms may help to relieve stress, depression and fatigue?
Mushrooms & Minerals
- Sodium: Mushrooms contain virtually no salt.
- Potassium: This important mineral aids in the maintenance of normal fluid and mineral balance, which helps to control blood pressure. Mushrooms contain more potassium than most other fruit and vegetables: one medium Portabello mushroom contains more potassium than a banana.
- Calcium: As well as being the most abundant mineral in the human body, calcium provides the structure for our teeth and bones and is needed for muscle contraction. 100g of mushrooms contains 2mg of calcium.
- Iron: Mushrooms are a source of iron, which is essential to most life forms and normal human physiology.
- Zinc: Found in almost every cell of your body, zinc stimulates the activity of approximately 100 enzymes and amongst other things, supports a healthy immune system. Zinc is found in mushrooms.
- Magnesium: Essential to good health, magnesium helps to maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system and keeps bones strong; 100g of raw mushrooms contain 9mg of magnesium.
- Selenium: This mineral works as an antioxidant, protecting body cells from damage that might lead to heart disease and some cancers. Mushrooms are one of the richest, natural sources of selenium.
- Ergothioneine: This is another, naturally occurring, antioxidant which is found in mushrooms.
Mushrooms are a treasure trove of nutrients. They are one of the few good sources of vitamin B12 – very important for vegetarians and vegans. In addition, mushrooms are rich in potassium and phosphorous as well as protein and fiber. They are also exceptionally low in calories.Some research shows that the phytochemicals lentinan and canthxanthin in shiitake mushrooms can help to prevent cancer.
Calories in Mushrooms:
4 oz/100g = 13 calories
- Helps our body strengthen itself and fight off illness by maintaining physiological homeostasis.
- Offer high-quality protein, vitamins, unsaturated fatty acids and fiber, but an accurate carbohydrate breakdown had been indefinable.
- Mushrooms are a superb resource of potassium, a mineral that helps lower elevated blood pressure and reduces the danger of stroke.
- Mushrooms are a rich resource of riboflavin, niacin, and selenium. Selenium is an antioxidant that works with vitamin E to defend cells from the damaging effects of free radicals.
- Unique chemicals in raw, cooked and dried mushrooms may help enhance immunity, defend off infections and fight cancer.
- One helping of mushrooms also provides about 20 to 40 percent of the daily value of copper, a mineral that has cardio protective properties.
The most commonly consumed mushroom in the United States is Agaricus bisporus or the white button mushroom. A. bisporus has two other forms – Crimini or brown mushrooms with a more earthy flavor and firmer texture, and Portabella mushrooms with a large umbrella-shaped cap and meaty flavor.
All three mushrooms, but especially the fresh button mushrooms, possess substances that inhibit the activity of aromatase (an enzyme involved in estrogen production), and 5-alpha-reductase (an enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT). The latest findings show that white button mushrooms can reduce the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer. An extract of white button mushrooms decreased cell proliferation and decreased tumor size in a dose-dependent manner. The chemoprotective effect can be seen with an intake of about 100 grams (3.5 ozs) of mushrooms per day.
Shiitake mushrooms have been used for centuries by the Chinese and Japanese to treat colds and flu. Lentinan, a beta-glucan isolated from the fruiting body of shiitake mushrooms, appears to stimulate the immune system, help fight infection, and demonstrates anti-tumor activity.