“All mushrooms are edible…but some only once.” Of course, mushrooms can make a meal. And yes, as the quote above suggests…mushrooms can make misery. And this may surprise you—but, mushrooms can make medicine. This article by my team at UpWellness describes some of the many science-based uses of mushrooms as medicine.
Though mushrooms are often one of those ignored or detested foods, they actually have several intriguing health benefits that make them an excellent addition to any diet. Often categorized as a vegetable (perhaps to make them seem more palatable) mushrooms are a type of edible fungus that grows in dark, moist environments. This strange-looking superfood is a nutritional powerhouse in disguise, however. Here are just a few of the awesome things mushrooms can do for you and easy ways to incorporate more into your diet.
Help with diabetes management
Type 2 diabetes is a preventable lifestyle-related condition that can be managed by eating a whole foods diet and exercising regularly. Mushrooms are a great addition to any diabetes diet plan as they contain natural insulin and enzymes which help the body breakdown and process sugar from natural sources.
Boost immune health
Food is the best medicine when it comes to improving your immune system and steering clear of those nasty viruses that threaten to slow you down. Studies have shown that mushrooms are high in essential antioxidants that help increase immunity and keep you healthy.
Once again, thanks to their high antioxidant content, mushrooms have been shown to help rid the body of dangerous free radicals that can cause cancer. They are also rich in selenium, which is a mineral that assists in liver enzyme function and can help decrease tumor growth rates and detoxify cancer-causing compounds.
Improve gut health
Maintaining a healthy gut environment is harder than it seems since many processed foods and drugs destroy important gut bacteria that is essential for proper digestion and food management. Since mushrooms are a prebiotic, they serve to nourish good gut bacteria and restore balance to a damaged digestive system.
Help you lose weight
If you eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly and still have trouble with weight gain, portion control, and feeling unsatisfied after you eat, you may want to start adding more mushrooms to your meals. They have very few calories but lots of dietary fibers such as beta-glucans and chitin, which can help increase satiety and reduce your appetite. Try only eating a small amount of meat as the main course and substituting with a large serving of mushrooms. You’ll feel more full, eat less, and lose weight as a result.
Increase vitamin D and calcium levels
Vitamin D is one of those essential vitamins that many people are deficient in without even realizing it. Mushrooms are a hearty, plant-based source of vitamin D and calcium and can help improve muscle and bone health and nerve function.
Improve heart health
Mushrooms are full of potassium, fiber, and vitamin C, which are all essential for maintaining good heart health. The high potassium content can even help regulate blood pressure and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.
How to add more mushrooms to your diet
Eating a variety of cooked mushrooms on a regular basis will contribute significantly to your overall health and wellbeing. Try different kinds to keep your palate fresh and exciting such as white, cremini, Portobello, oyster, shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms.
Remember, harvesting mushrooms from the wild can be extremely dangerous since many are toxic to humans. Stick to store-bought, organic mushrooms or learn to grow your own for a rewarding garden project.
- Add mushrooms to a healthy stir fry dish and serve over rice.
- Place raw crimini mushrooms or white mushrooms in your salad to help fill you up.
- Saute mushrooms with onions for a filling side dish that is rich in flavor.
- Grilled mushrooms are delicious on sandwiches or raps and can even replace meat for a healthy, vegetarian alternative.
- Mushrooms and eggs are a delicious match. Use this yummy fungus in any egg dishes such as quiche, omelets, or scrambled. Throw in some diced bell peppers for extra flavor and texture.
- Mushroom powder: If you don’t like the texture of mushrooms but still want to reap the benefits, check out mushroom powder. This can be blended into smoothies or easily added to other recipes without dramatically changing the taste. Just be sure that you are purchasing pure mushroom powder with no added ingredients.
How do you like to add mushrooms to your diet? Let us know in the comments below!
-The UpWellness Team