Most people don’t give mushrooms a second thought. They may have a few in their salads or on top of their burgers, but chances are, they don’t realize just how healthy mushrooms really are.
What are mushrooms?
Since mushrooms are found in the produce section of the grocery store, it seems logical to assume that they’re a type of vegetable. Actually, however, mushrooms are a fungi. They’re living organisms without roots, leaves, or seeds. Mushrooms were so prized by the ancient Egyptians that “commoners” weren’t allowed to eat them, only royalty. Ancient Greek, Chinese, and Mexican people used them as medicine.
What are the health benefits of eating mushrooms?
There are a lot of good reasons to include mushrooms in your meal plan. Here are a few:
- Mushrooms are low in calories. Mushrooms are 80% to 90% water, and have very few calories. The common white button mushroom has just 15 calories per cup. In addition, mushrooms have a hearty texture and can be quite filling. These are great to include in your eating plan if you’re trying to lose weight.
- Mushrooms are low in carbohydrate. If you’re keeping an eye on those carbs, you’ll appreciate the fact that mushrooms are very low in carbohydrate. A 3-ounce Portobello mushroom, often used in vegetarian dishes in place of beef, has only 3 grams of carb.
- Mushrooms are low in salt and high in potassium. Diabetes and high blood pressure often go hand in hand. You can keep your blood glucose and your blood pressure healthy at the same time by eating more mushrooms, because they are high in potassium and low in sodium. They may even lower your risk for stroke and kidney disease.
- Mushrooms may fight cancer. Shiitake mushrooms, native to Asia, contain a substance called lentinan. In animal studies, lentinan has been shown to fight tumors, lower cholesterol, and heal infections. In human studies, lentinan given to people with stomach or colon cancer helped to extend their lifespan.
- Mushrooms are full of vitamin D. Mushrooms are one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D, which many people don’t get enough of. Portabello, shiitake, and maitake mushrooms are good sources of this “sunshine” vitamin, especially if they’ve been grown in ultraviolet light.
Ways to eat more mushrooms
Mushrooms make a tasty addition to many dishes, including salads and soups. Here are a few more ways to make mushrooms a regular part of your meal plan:
- Add mushrooms to your crudité platters for dips like hummus and guacamole.
- Slice or chop up mushrooms and add them to an omelet or scrambled eggs.
- Top a pizza with sliced mushrooms.
- Skewer mushrooms onto your meat, chicken, or vegetable kabobs.
- Chop up mushrooms and mix them into ground turkey or hamburger – they’ll add nutrition and moisture at the same time!
- Try a Portobello “burger” instead of a regular burger. Its meaty texture and flavor will have you hooked.