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Mushrooms are so good for you. No, not those mushrooms. Today, we’re talking about the kind you toss on a salad or taste in a creamy risotto. Mushrooms are evening a trendy supplement right now, too.

Why? Because these funny little foods are actually packed with nutrition and they’re a delicious way to support health and wellness. So, if you’re knowledge of mushrooms extends to pizza toppings, you’ll want to keep reading to learn all about this curious food.

What are mushrooms?

You can find mushrooms in the vegetable section of your store, but the truth is, mushrooms aren’t a vegetable at all. Instead, they’re actually a fungus.

And while we usually think of fungus as something you want to avoid, mushrooms are a beneficial form of fungus that grows and grows until it’s large enough to harvest.

There are thousands of different mushroom species – over 100,000 – and they grow all over the world, where they’re enjoyed by many cultures. But today, we’re going to explore nine types of mushrooms and their amazing health benefits.

Before we do, here are some basic facts that most mushrooms have in common. Even this preliminary introduction can give you an idea of why this food is such a healthy choice.

  • Mushrooms are low in carbohydrates, fat, and calories
  • Mushrooms are high in B vitamins
  • Mushrooms are packed with antioxidants
  • Mushrooms contain trace minerals, such as copper, selenium, potassium, and phosphorus
  • Mushrooms are a healthy form of fiber

When you consider all of these nutritional facts, it’s not hard to see why mushrooms are such a healthy food.

All in all, their benefits include fighting cancer, boosting immunity and energy levels, reducing inflammation, improving brain function and much more.

5 mushrooms and their health benefits

Without further ado, let’s explore nine types of mushrooms and their amazing health benefits. If you don’t include mushrooms in your diet, you’ll probably want to after you read through this list.

Portobello mushrooms

Portobello mushrooms
I. G. Safonov at Mushroom Observer

Portobello mushrooms are large and their diameter can be up to 4 inches. They have a grey-brown cap, and underneath, the gills are a dark brown color.

Nutrition facts:

  • Low-calorie food
  • Low in carbohydrates
  • High in protein
  • Good sources of fiber
  • Rich in B vitamins
  • Healthy source of phytochemicals, like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and L-ergothioneine (ERGO), which help to fight both aging and cancer.
  • Good sources of copper and selenium
  • Rich in antioxidants

Portobello mushroom health benefits:

  • Cancer prevention: Thanks to the conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) within portobello mushrooms, this variety may be able to stunt the growth of cancer cells.
  • Fights inflammation: The L-ergothioneine (ERGO) present in portobello mushrooms can help to lower the risk of inflammatory diseases.
  • Meat substitute: Since these mushrooms are a good source of protein and a bit beefy, they’re actually a great meat substitute for vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike.

How to enjoy portobello mushrooms:

Porcini mushrooms

Porcini mushrooms
Strobilomyces @Wikimedia Commons

Porcini mushrooms are an absolute favorite in the Tuscan region of Italy. In fact, Italians will spend a weekend foraging in the forest, looking for these prized mushrooms. They range from small to quite large, and the cap diameter can be as long as 11 inches – that’s almost a foot!

The cap is reddish brown and becomes darker as the mushroom matures. Underneath, the mushroom has a long, white and meaty stem.

Nutrition facts:

  • Cancer-fighting compounds
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Rich in antioxidants
  • High in fiber
  • A great source of protein

Porcini mushrooms health benefits:

  • Fights cancer: Research suggests that the cancer-fighting compounds in porcini mushrooms can be especially powerful against colon cancer.
  • Anti-inflammatory: Other studies have found that porcini mushrooms can reduce inflammatory responses, particularly in asthmatic cases.
  • Free radical damage and oxidative stress: Thanks to their antioxidant content, porcini mushrooms can lower the risk of inflammatory disease.
  • Weight loss: High in protein and a good source of fiber, porcini mushrooms can support weight loss as part of a balanced diet.

How to enjoy porcini mushrooms:

Crimini mushrooms, or cremini mushrooms

Crimini mushrooms look very similar to button mushrooms, and they’re your stereotypical mushroom. They’re small to medium in size, and they’re white, pale grey or brown in color.

Nutrition facts:

  • Low in carbohydrates and carbohydrates
  • Rich in amino acids, like ergothioneine, which is one of the many building blocks of protein
  • Contains the active compound, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
  • Rich in antioxidants
  • High in B vitamins
  • Contains Vitamin D
  • Contains trace minerals, including copper, selenium, zinc, and potassium

Health benefits of crimini mushrooms:

  • Anti-cancer properties: According to research, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) along with flavones and isoflavones are particularly beneficial to fight against estrogen dominance and breast cancer cells in women.
  • Boosts energy and stamina due to Vitamin B levels
  • Supports cardiovascular health thanks to the amino acid, ergothioneine.
  • Helps to heal inflammatory problems in the digestive system thanks to their mineral and antioxidant content.

How to enjoy crimini mushrooms:

Like porcini and portobello mushrooms, there are so many tasty recipes you can enjoy:

Shiitake mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms

As you can guess from its name, shiitake mushrooms are a favorite in Asian countries, where they’ve been enjoyed for hundreds of years. You can enjoy them, too, no matter what cuisine you prefer.

Shiitake mushrooms have large brown caps that look like little umbrellas atop a creamy white stem.

Nutrition facts:

  • Low in carbohydrates, fat, sugar and calories
  • Rich in B vitamins
  • Contains trace supplements, including iron, magnesium, copper, and zinc

Health benefits of shiitake mushrooms:

  • Supper immune system: Shiitake mushrooms have been shown to boost immunity.
  • Cancer treatment: Not only do shiitake mushrooms help to kill off cancer cells, but they can also help to repair chromosomes following cancer treatment.
  • Cardiovascular health: Shiitake mushrooms can support healthy blood pressure levels, according to this study.
  • Reduce Vitamin B deficiency: Due to their Vitamin B content, shiitake mushrooms can help to combat common Vitamin B deficiency symptoms, including brain fog and fatigue.

How to enjoy shiitake mushrooms:

Oyster mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms
Hamilton @ Mushroom Observer

As their name suggests, oyster mushrooms are shaped like an oyster shell, and their flesh is white and firm. Like Shiitake mushrooms, this is a favorite mushroom in Asian cuisines.

Usually, oyster mushrooms don’t have a stem, but if they do have one, it’s pretty short and stout.

Nutrition facts:

  • High in antioxidants
  • Rich in B vitamins
  • Low in calories, carbs, fat and sugar
  • A good source of dietary fiber
  • Contains minerals, such as iron, copper, potassium, and phosphorus

Health benefits of oyster mushrooms:

  • Lowers cholesterol: This study found that oyster mushrooms can lower cholesterol levels naturally and quickly.
  • Anti-inflammatory: Like the other mushrooms mentioned so far, oyster mushrooms can help to reduce inflammation throughout the body. This, in turn, helps to reduce the risk and symptoms of inflammatory-based diseases.
  • Prevents free radical damage
  • Prevents growth and spread of cancer: Oyster mushrooms may be a natural way to combat breast, colon, and leukemia cancer cells.

How to enjoy oyster mushrooms:

Shopping and storing tips for your mushrooms

To be sure you find and enjoy good quality mushrooms, keep in mind the following shopping and storing tips.

  • Avoid slimy or wet mushrooms
  • Choose slightly damp mushrooms
  • Choose mushrooms that are slightly bouncy
  • Avoid mushrooms that feel like a sponge
  • Choose mushrooms with a fresh, earthy scent
  • Avoid mushrooms with a sour or fishy smell

When you get home, store your mushrooms in the same breathable container you bought them in. They’re best kept in the fridge in an open ziplock bag. This keeps them fresh without drying them out.

Now that we’ve talked about mushrooms you can find at the grocery store and enjoy at home, let’s talk about one very important medicinal mushroom – among many others – that you should definitely include in your daily diet.

Reishi mushrooms

Instead of focusing on what reishi mushrooms look like and how to cook them, we’re going to dive straight into this powerful, medicinal mushroom.

Reishi mushrooms are also called Ling Zhi in Chinese and they’ve been used for thousands of years to treat illness, increase longevity and support a healthier body and mind.

Reishi mushrooms are native to China, Korea, and Japan, but luckily this superfood is becoming more and more popular. And once you learn about their amazing health benefits, you’ll see why.

Health benefits of reishi mushrooms:

  • Cancer-fighting food: When used as a dietary supplement, reishi mushrooms can provide an alternative therapy for both breast and prostate cancer, according to this study. But the cancer-fighting properties of reishi mushrooms extend to ovarian, liver and lung cancer, too.
  • Supports liver function and the body’s natural detoxification processes thanks to its antioxidant content. Reishi mushrooms also help to fight the body’s harmful immune responses.
  • Cardiovascular health: The compound, triterpene, in reishi mushrooms is believed to help lower blood pressure and strengthen the entire cardiovascular system.

There are so many other amazing health benefits from reishi mushrooms. And it’s a great idea to include them in your daily diet. But you probably won’t find the actual mushroom for sale in your grocery store.

Instead, what’s become increasingly popular are supplements and coffee mixes containing medicinal mushrooms.

With these convenient products, it’s easy for you to obtain this powerful mushroom, along with other powerful medicinal mushrooms, like cordyceps and Lion’s Mane Mushrooms.

4 top reishi and medicinal mushroom sources for your diet

Mushrooms are truly fascinating foods. They may seem unimportant, but as you can see, they are incredibly powerful and beneficial food.

What’s more, they’re incredibly versatile and you can enjoy them in just about every cuisine. This makes it easy for you to include this cancer-fighting, immune-boosting, and free radical-fighting food in your diet.

Bon appetite!

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