For thousands of years, Eastern cultures have revered mushrooms’ health benefits. Mushrooms have long been celebrated as a source of powerful nutrients, but they can also help Americans meet the dietary recommendations set forth in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines and Institute of Medicine’s Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Because Americans often eat mushrooms and when they do, they tend to eat a healthier diet, these positive benefits of mushrooms can have potential impact.
Often grouped with vegetables, mushrooms provide many of the nutritional attributes of produce, as well as attributes more commonly found in meat, beans or grains. Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free, gluten-free, and very low in sodium, yet they provide important nutrients, including selenium, potassium (8%), riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D and more.
Nutrition researchers, communicators, and government and industry organizations who participated in the Mushrooms and Health Summit in Washington, DC, in September, 2013 explored the current state of the science. Summit proceedings, published in the Journal of Nutrition provide a review of the research supporting mushrooms as a food to help Americans eat healthy, responsible, sustainable diets.
Mushrooms are fungi, which are so distinct in nature they are classified as their own kingdom – separate from plants or animals. While commonly placed in the vegetable category for dietary recommendations, mushrooms are, however, not a vegetable based on their cellular organization and composition such as chitin and ergosterol. In fact, as the authors of a recent Nutrition Today article noted, mushrooms’ nutrient and culinary characteristics suggest it may be time to re-evaluate food groupings and health benefits in the context of three separate food kingdoms: plants/ botany; animals/zoology and fungi/mycology.
Mushrooms are a good source of B vitamins, including riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid, which help to provide energy by breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates. B vitamins also play an important role in the nervous system.
- Pantothenic acid helps with the production of hormones and also plays an important role in the nervous system.
- Riboflavin helps maintain healthy red blood cells.
- Niacin promotes healthy skin and makes sure the digestive and nervous systems function properly.
Mushrooms are also a source of important minerals:
- Selenium is a mineral that works as an antioxidant to protect body cells from damage that might lead to heart disease, some cancers and other diseases of aging. It also has been found to be important for the immune system and fertility in men. Many foods of animal origin and grains are good sources of selenium, but mushrooms are among the richest sources of selenium in the produce aisle and provide 8-22 mcg per serving. This is good news for vegetarians, whose sources of selenium are limited.
- Ergothioneine is a naturally occurring antioxidant that also may help protect the body’s cells. Mushrooms provide 2.8-4.9 mg of ergothioneine per serving of white, portabella or crimini mushrooms.
- Copper helps make red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. Copper also helps keep bones and nerves healthy.
- Potassium is an important mineral many people do not get enough of. It aids in the maintenance of normal fluid and mineral balance, which helps control blood pressure. It also plays a role in making sure nerves and muscles, including the heart, function properly. Mushrooms have 98-376 mg of potassium per 84 gram serving, which is 3-11 percent of the Daily Value.
Beta-glucans, found in numerous mushroom species, have shown marked immunity-stimulating effects, contribute to resistance against allergies and may also participate in physiological processes related to the metabolism of fats and sugars in the human body. The beta-glucans contained in oyster, shiitake and split gill mushrooms are considered to be the most effective.
Mushrooms and Cancer
Scientists at City of Hope were some of the first to find a potential link between mushrooms and a decreased likelihood of tumor growth and development in cells and animals. City of Hope researchers now plan to apply this research to human clinical trials.
Mushroom Antioxidants and Immunity
Mushrooms are the leading source of the essential antioxidant selenium in the produce aisle. Antioxidants, like selenium, protect body cells from damage that might lead to chronic diseases. They help to strengthen the immune system, as well. In addition, mushrooms provide ergothioneine, a naturally occurring antioxidant that may help protect the body’s cells.
Mushrooms and Weight Management
Mushrooms are hearty and filling. Preliminary research suggests increasing intake of low-energy-density foods (meaning few calories given the volume of food), specifically mushrooms, in place of high-energy-density foods, like lean ground beef, can be an effective method for reducing daily energy and fat intake while still feeling full and satiated after the meal.
Sodium and Umami in Mushrooms
Mushrooms and ground meat blend seamlessly to add an extra serving of vegetable to the plate by enhancing or extending the meat. It works because finely chopped, umami-rich mushrooms look similar and take on the flavor properties of meat and other flavors. Add nutrients to America’s iconic foods without losing taste or satisfying texture.
Mushrooms and Vitamin D
When building your plate to maximize vitamin D, consider mushrooms – they’re the only source of vitamin D in the produce aisle and one of the few non-fortified food sources. In fact, the IOM recognizes them as the exception to the rule that plant foods don’t naturally contain vitamin D.
Mushrooms and MyPlate Recommendations
MyPlate – which replaced the Food Pyramid – is a simple visual reference and educational tool that reminds Americans how and what to eat to best meet the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. Thanks to their nutrient-profile and versatility, mushrooms are uniquely suited to do just that. Fresh mushrooms can be added to everyday dishes to provide an extra serving of vegetables and deliver important nutrients including niacin, selenium, and riboflavin. Mushrooms also have vitamin D, ergothionene, and potassium.* Read on to learn more about mushrooms’ role on the plate.
Mushrooms Are Gluten Free
Often grouped with vegetables, mushrooms provide many of the nutritional attributes of produce, as well as attributes more commonly found in meat, beans or grains. Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free and very low in sodium, yet they provide several nutrients that are typically found in animal foods or grains.
Like all fruits and vegetables, mushrooms are naturally gluten free, and make a delicious and nutritious addition to a gluten-free diet.
Original article: http://mushroominfo.com/benefits/
All this sounds really glorious, but I have to admit I don’t like mushrooms… yet.
I am working on it.