Do mushrooms have nutritional value?

Mushrooms are different from most vegetables, because they are a type of fungi. In fact technically, mushrooms aren’t even plants.

A large number of mushroom species are poisonous and should therefore not be eaten. However, there are also a wide variety of edible mushrooms, each with their own texture and flavour. Mushrooms are extremely versatile and can be used in lots of recipes.

The nutritional value varies from mushroom to mushroom, as can be seen in the table below.

Nutritional information

The table below shows nutritional information for one cup of various mushrooms:

White Portobello Crimini Enoki Oyster
Calories 15 22 19 29 37
Fat 0 0 0 0 0
Cholesterol 0 0 0 0 0
Carbohydrates 2 g 4 g 3 g 5 g 6 g
Fiber 1 g 1 g 0 2 g 2 g
Sugar 1 g 2 g 1 g 0 1 g
Protein 2 g 2 g 2 g 2 g 3 g
Phosphorus (DV) 6% 11% 9% 7% 10%
Potassium (DV) 6% 12% 9% 7% 10%
Copper (DV) 11% 17% 18% 3% 10%
Selenium (DV) 9% 14% 27% 2% 3%
Riboflavin (DV) 17% 24% 21% 6% 18%
Niacin (DV) 13% 19% 14% 19% 21%

As can be seen in the table, mushrooms contain a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, each with their own benefits:

  • Protein – required for muscle growth and repair. Mushrooms are definitely not the best source of protein that there is, but they do help increase your overall intake and are an ideal option for vegetarians & vegans.
  • Fiber – keeps your digestive system running well, lowers bad cholesterol and controls blood sugar. It is recommended that women get 25 g per day and men get 38 g.
  • B vitamins (Riboflavin & Niacin) – the ‘B vitamins’ are required by the body for a wide range of functions including energy production and growth. Mushrooms such as Portobello and Crimini are rich in many B vitamins.
  • Potassium – an essential electrolyte required for muscle function, heart health, internal fluid balance and increased metabolism. A one cup serving of mushrooms will provide you with between 6 and 12% of your daily requirement.
  • Phosphorus – assists with bone formation & health, detoxes the body, balances the body’s pH levels and maintains dental health.
  • Selenium – a trace mineral that improves blood flow, regulates thyroid function and increases longevity.

The health benefits of eating mushrooms

Thanks to their strong nutrient profile, mushrooms bring with them a number of health benefits:

They improve immunity

This study found that eating mushrooms can help boost your immune system.

51 healthy adults took part and were asked to consume 50 g or 100 g of whole Shiitake mushrooms per day, for 28 days.

Their blood was then analyzed for cytokines, which are molecules that aid cell to cell communication during immune responses and stimulate the movement of cells towards areas of infection and trauma.

It was found that in both groups, blood cytokine levels were much higher than the levels at the beginning of the study.

Another study involving Turkey Tail mushrooms discovered that they improved immune function when consumed by women with breast cancer.

They are a dietary source of vitamin D

Foods such as mackerel, tilapia and eggs are all excellent sources of vitamin D. However you can’t eat these foods if you don’t consume animal based products.

This is where mushrooms come in handy because they are the only naturally occurring, non animal based source of vitamin D.

You may be aware that our bodies produce vitamin D naturally when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Well the same thing happens to mushrooms, making sun exposed mushrooms a great source of vitamin D.

A study found that mushrooms which have been exposed to UV light can provide as much vitamin D as vitamin D supplements.

They can help you manage your weight

Mushrooms contain a large amount of water and like many other vegetables are an excellent weight loss food. A cup of raw mushrooms only has 20 – 40 calories, which is very little. This means you can eat a lot of them without having to worry about gaining weight.

When you want to lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than what you use throughout the day. This forces your body to make use of its fat stores as a source of energy. Mushrooms can help you achieve this calorie deficit, because they are low in calories but are also filling at the same time.

Thanks to their meaty texture, mushrooms are a wonderful substitute for meat. This study found that replacing meat for mushrooms lead to increased weight loss and lower BMI’s & waist circumferences.

They are rich in antioxidants

Antioxidants prevent cell damage caused by free radicals in our bodies. This in turn reduces the risk of certain diseases, such as cancer.

The most common foods associated with antioxidants are berries, leafy greens and sweet potatoes.

However studies have found that mushrooms are as good an antioxidant source as many colourful vegetables. In fact, it appears that white button mushrooms have more antioxidants than green peppers, carrots, green beans and tomatoes.

Mushrooms contain substances known as phenols and flavonoids, both of which have antioxidant properties.

Conclusion

Mushrooms may appear plain and boring, which is why their nutritional value is often questioned.

On the surface, it would seem as though they don’t have much to offer, but this is far from the truth. Mushrooms are a rich source of important vitamins & minerals and can play a role in improving one’s health.

If you enjoy eating them, continue to do so!