5 Nutritional Benefits Of Mushrooms PLUS 6 Best Varieties To Eat

nutritional benefits of mushrooms

If you’re looking for an all round super-healing food, then look no further than the mushroom!  Not only are they super-versatile and tasty, they’re also one of the best healing foods you can eat.

The nutritional benefits of mushrooms are seriously impressive and depend on the diverse mix of medicinal compounds, antioxidants and enzymes which they contain.

5 Nutritional Benefits Of Mushrooms

1  Powerful antioxidants

One of the most important nutritional benefits of mushrooms is that they contain two major antioxidants, GLUTATHIONE and ERGOTHIONEINE.  Both of these compounds play important roles within the body, being crucial to healing and anti-ageing.

Glutathione (the ‘mother’ of all antioxidants) plays a key part in detoxification, helping to remove harmful contaminants, such as heavy metals, from your body.  While ergothioneine is particularly good at protecting your cells against oxidative damage.

An added bonus is that both these antioxidants are heat-stable, which means it’s ok to cook your mushrooms without losing the benefit of them.  This frees you up to get more creative with mushrooms in your recipes.

2  Vitamins, Minerals And Amino Acids

Mushrooms contain vitamins such as B2, B3, B5, C and D.  As well as minerals like potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, copper, zinc, selenium and calcium.  They also contain all the essential amino acids and are particularly high in leucine and lysine.

3  Important Polysaccharides

Many of the nutritional benefits of mushrooms can be attributed to the polysaccharides they contain.  These include important compounds such as alpha and beta-glucans, which together have all sorts of healing effects, incuding activation of immune cells and direct cancer-fighting activity [3].

4  Enzymes

Potentially useful enzymes within mushrooms include tyrosinase, peroxidase, superoxide dismutase, glucose oxidase and laccase.  Enzyme therapy can play an important role in preventing oxidative stress and inhibiting cancer growth in the body [3a].

5  Other Nutritional Compounds

And as if all that wasn’t enough, mushrooms also contain lots more therapeutically important compounds.  These include things like terpenoids, alkaloids, lactones, antiobiotics and other nutrients which can detoxify heavy metals from the body.  A number of these mushroom compounds are also able to modulate intracellular pathways (including within cancer cells), which gives them a valuable role in cancer treatment [3b].

How Can Mushrooms Improve Your Health?

The combination of these polysaccharides, antioxidants and other compounds are what make the nutritional benefits of mushrooms so impressive.
Some of the biggest health improvements include:

  • Immune Support – nearly all of the nutritional benefits of mushrooms revolve around their ability to stimulate and enhance the immune system.  This includes activation of important immune cells such as T-cells, natural killer (NK) cells, macrophages, neutrophils, monocytes and dendritic cells.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Benefits – Mushrooms have pH-balancing effects, helping to alkalise the body and lower systemic inflammation.
  • Athletic Performance Enhancing – Mushrooms varieties such as cordyceps have been found to protect mitochondria (the energy powerhouses of cells) from free radical damage. They can also boost strength, endurance, blood flow and general mood [6].
  • Brain-Boosting – The B vitamins in mushrooms are important for supporting healthy brain and neurotransmitter function.  Varieties like reishi have been found to have adaptogenic properties, which also improve feelings of calm and anxiety.
  • Anti-Cancer Protection – Mushrooms have been found to have all manner of cancer-fighting abilities!  The polysaccharides they contain are not only able to destroy cancer cells, but also prevent cancer formation (oncogenesis) and restrict cancer spread (metastasis) within the body [4d].
    They also stimulate the release of natural killer (NK) cells – which are some of the most important cancer-fighting cells in the immune system.

6 Especially Awesome Mushrooms To Eat

So if you want to get all the nutritional benefits of mushrooms, there are some particularly good varieties to look out for when you you’re shopping:

  • Porcini – Porcini mushrooms (or Boletus edulis, also known as wild ceps) have been found to contain the highest amounts of glutathione and ergothioneine out of all mushroom species [5].  This makes them one of the best antioxidant foods you can eat!
  • Cordyceps – In traditional Chinese medicine, cordyceps mushrooms are known as ‘invigorants’ because of their ability to enhance ATP production and energy levels [6].  They also show marked cancer-fighting effects in studies [6b].
  • Reishi – Reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum) contain a triterpenoid compound called ganoderic acid, which has been found to induce the death of carcinoma cells in studies, including lung cancer and breast cancer [7][7a].
    Reishi also has a whole bunch of other benefits, including blood pressure-balancing, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal effects [7b].
  • Shiitake –  Similarly, shiitake mushrooms (Lentinus edodes) contain their own medicinal compounds, including lentinan with its tumour-fighting action [8].  And others such as glucans and eritadenine which have been found to improve circulatory health and lower the risk of atherosclerosis [8a].
  • Himematsutake – The little button mushroom called himematsutake (Agaricus blazei) also contains cancer-fighting polysaccharides, effective against cancers such as sarcoma in studies [9].  It also has antibacterial and immune-boosting effects [9a][9b].
  • Turkey Tail – Turkey Tail (Coriolis versicolour) might be less well-known in the culinary world but has had considerable scientific research done on its active compounds!  Two of these known as PSP and PSK show marked immune-boosting benefits, even in people with compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients [10].

However if you’re getting disheartened reading this list – thinking I’m never gonna find these mushroom varieties in my local shop, or even if I could they’d be way too expensive to buy – then take heart!
Any mushrooms, even just your average-joe mushrooms from the supermarket, contain more glutathione and ergothioneine than most other types of foods.

So basically, this means any mushrooms in your diet, are better than none at all!  That’s how AMAZING the nutritional benefits of mushrooms are.

There are also a whole bunch of awesome mushroom supplements, extracts and dried ingredients available nowadays, which give you lots of choice.  This is especially useful if you’re looking to try specific varieties for particular health problems that you might have.  Or even just for a really good immune-system boost when you’re stressed out or run down.

Some of the best products that I’ve found are below, including Pukka Herb’s Organic Mushroom Gold, which is a wonderful mix of reishi, shiitake and maitake mushroom extracts.  It’s an awesome product if you’re looking for a balanced blend!


What are your own experiences with eating mushrooms for health and nutrition?
Do you have any favourite mushroom varieties, dried ingredients or supplements?
Please get in touch in the comments below and share your knowledge! x

And for a delicious ‘shroom-inspired recipe, you might also like my Garlic Mushroom Stuffed Peppers With Parmesan.

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