4 Reasons to Eat More Mushrooms

There’s a fungus among us! With respect to your health, that’s a good thing if the fungus is an edible mushroom. Much maligned and often shunned simply for looking weird and growing in unusual places, edible mushrooms are potent medicines and a delicious addition to a healthy diet. Here are four reasons to eat more mushrooms.

1. Mushrooms can help in the fight against cancer. A study in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms found that chaga mushrooms inhibited cancer tumor growth. Chaga has long been used in Asian and northern European traditional medicine for a number of ailments. The fungus grows on trees—most notably birch trees in northerly forests in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. It typically resembles a black mass on the tree trunk due to the high levels of melanin, a naturally occurring pigment that in humans protects against ultraviolet B shortwave (UVB) radiation damage.

Chinese researchers investigated the inhibitory roles of a polysaccharide extract from chaga on U251 human brain tumor cells. The extract successfully inhibited the proliferation of the tumor cells and that success increased both over time and with increased concentrations of the extract.

2. Mushrooms can also boost immune function, according to research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Scientists wanted to determine whether consumption of whole, dried shiitake mushrooms could improve human immune function. Shiitake mushrooms are native to eastern Asia but they are one of the most common mushrooms found in the produce section due to their increasing popularity. They have a rich smoky flavor that complements many types of cuisines.

The four week study involved men and women in good health between the ages of 21 and 41 years. The authors concluded that regular shiitake consumption resulted in improved immunity, as seen by improved cell proliferation and activation and increased immunoglobulin A (also referred to as IgA) production, which is an antibody that plays a critical role in mucosal immunity. The authors also concluded that changes observed in other immunity markers suggested that these improvements occurred under conditions that were less inflammatory than those that existed before consumption of the mushrooms.

3. Reishi mushrooms, another popular choice, have been found to protect the brain and nervous system. Mexican researchers tested compounds in reishi to determine the possible anticonvulsant and neuroprotective effects of this mushroom. The study, published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, found that the mushroom inhibited seizures and reduced degeneration patterns in parts of brain, leading them to conclude that reishi offered credible anticonvulsant and neuroprotective effects.

4. Mushrooms are delicious and versatile. They can easily take the place of meat in any meal (think portabello instead of steak) and are excellent additions to soups, stews and curries. They also lend a rich flavor to gravies and obviously support a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.

A wide variety of edible mushrooms can be found in grocery stores, health food stores and many farmers’ markets. Purchasing from these retailers takes the risk out of eating mushrooms because they have been harvested by knowledgeable “shroomers” who understand the difference between edible and inedible or poisonous varieties. It also gives you an opportunity to try health-enhancing mushrooms that may not be indigenous to where you live.

While wildcrafting (wandering the woods and harvesting mushrooms straight from Mother Nature) is enjoyable and fulfilling, it is best left to mushroom experts who can identify species accurately and who will practice sustainable harvesting methods that won’t damage the long-term viability of the mushroom ecosystem. If you decide you want to wildcraft mushrooms, enroll yourself in a credible, hands-on workshop with an experienced mycologist that brings you into direct contact with the mushroom varieties in your area. Relying on an illustrated book is not enough to fully understand the complex and strangely beautiful world of these fantastic fungi.

 

Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is a registered nutritionist and international best-selling and 19-time published book author whose works include: 60 Seconds to Slim: Balance Your Body Chemistry to Burn Fat Fast!

191 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus4 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla6 months ago

I love them

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill6 months ago

thanks

Ba H.
Ba H.6 months ago

in the midwest we enjoy morels in the spring, not sure what the nutritional value is, but they're yummy

Tammy D.
Tammy D.6 months ago

i couldn't stand mushrooms for 20 years. Then I discovered it was how they were prepared. I couldn't stand the chewiness and sliminess. Now I can eat them raw even! If you have a similar aversion, try slicing them and then toasting them in the oven, or frying them. I know frying is bad, but the results are amazing. Something similar to bacon, but BETTER! Thanks for focusing attention on mushrooms, the other-other white meat. :)

Lolly D.
Lolly D.6 months ago

I enjoy mushrooms of (ahem) many different varieties! I used to know someone who knew a secret spot to find wild morels and hen of the woods... he wouldn't share the location but when we were lucky he'd share the mushrooms he gathered! I'm currently taking a medical herbalism class, and look forward to learning more about the amazing health benefits of certain varieties of mushrooms. Yum yum!

Manuela C.
Manuela C.6 months ago

"Mushrooms are delicious and versatile" - need there be any more reasons?

Rasma Raisters
Rasma Raisters6 months ago

Even your regular kind white or champignon mushrooms are super. Just take some of these and slice real thin then sautee. Afterwards add some soy sauce and a bit of lemon juice and you have a real tasty topping for chicken cooked any way or even mixed in with some veggies or a salad.

Nell N.
Past Member 6 months ago

Mushrooms are really delicius but remember that you have to know the mushrooms before you collect any of them. I have made a lot of recipes for mushrooms.

Beryl Ludwig
Beryl Ludwig7 months ago

I us a lot of mushrooms, raw and cooked, but some of these varieties are hard to find. :(