Have you ever truly stopped to appreciate those little fungi peeking out from your spinach salad? You should — by eating more of them!
“Although white foods are often thought to be nutrient-poor, mushrooms are an exception,” says Mitzi Dulan, RD, author of The Pinterest Diet. “They contain many minerals, like selenium, potassium, copper, iron and phosphorus, that are not often found in plant-derived foods.”
Here are six reasons why mushrooms pack a powerful punch when it comes to improving your health:
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1. Mushrooms may help keep you young.
Mushrooms contain a super-high concentration of two antioxidants, ergothioneine and glutathione, according to a 2017 Penn State study. When these antioxidants are present together, they work extra-hard to protect the body from the physiological stress that causes visible signs of aging (translation: wrinkles).
2. Mushrooms can protect your brain as you age.
Those two aforementioned antioxidants (ergothioneine and glutathione) may also help prevent Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, the Penn State researchers say. They recommend eating at least five button mushrooms per day to reduce your risk of neurological illness in the future. Cook the ‘shrooms to best preserve their nutritional benefits, either by microwaving or grilling.
3. Mushrooms may boost your memory.
Another mental mushroom-related benefit: Researchers at the National University of Singapore found that eating two 3/4 cup servings of cooked mushrooms per week may reduce your odds of mild cognitive decline in a 2019 study.
4. Mushrooms can help your heart health.
Mushrooms help recipes taste better in place of salt because they contain glutamate ribonucleotides. Those compounds contribute a savory, umami taste with no ramifications for your blood pressure or heart disease risk. An entire cup of mushrooms has only 5 mg sodium! Mushrooms also make an excellent, satisfying substitute for red meat in any dish, eliminating calories, fat, and cholesterol from the equation.
5. Mushrooms can assist in strengthening your bones.
At the supermarket, grab a package marked “UVB”. How come? UVB-labeled mushrooms have been exposed to sunlight during their growth period (as opposed to mushrooms that are grown in the dark), and therefore have converted a compound called ergosterol directly into vitamin D. This means by eating just 3 ounces of UVB-exposed mushrooms, you’ve met your daily vitamin D requirement and given your bone health a leg up.
6. Mushrooms will help give you energy.
Mushrooms are rich in B vitamins: riboflavin [B2], folate [B9], thiamine [B1], pantothenic acid [B5], and niacin [B3]. These help the body utilize energy from the food we consume and produce red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body.
How to Eat More Mushrooms
What are some simple swaps that work more mushrooms into your daily meals? Dulan offers the following suggestions:
- Chop mushrooms to match the consistency of ground beef and then blend them into the meat you’re cooking for lunch or dinner. This is a quick and easy way to incorporate mushrooms into your favorite burgers.
- Cut up a small mushroom and mix it in to omelets, quiches, or scrambled eggs at breakfast or brunch.
- Slice some mushroom into your pasta sauce. Mushrooms can also add great flavor and texture to nearly any side dish.