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This article is part of a larger article titled "100+ Healthiest Foods On Planet Earth."  Read it here.

Mushrooms Nutritional Information (per 100g)

Water: 89.7 g
Calories: 34 kcal
Protein: 2.2 g
Carbohydrate: 6.8 g
Dietary fiber: 2.5 g
Sugars: 2.4 g
Fat: 0.5 g
Vitamin B2: 0.2 mg
Vitamin B3: 3.9 mg
Vitamin B6: 0.3 mg
Vitamin B9: 13 μg
Vitamin D: 0.4 μg
Calcium: 2 mg
Iron: 0.4 mg
Magnesium: 20 mg
Phosphorus: 112 mg
Potassium: 304 mg
Sodium: 9 mg
Zinc: 1 mg

‘Mushrooms’ is a broad term that refers to the fruiting body of a fungus. While one of the few foods on this list to not be plant or animal based, mushrooms are nonetheless one of the healthiest foods out there; having benefits for your cardiovascular health, immune system and some cancer-fighting benefits.

Not only are mushrooms diverse nutritionally, they are also diverse in a culinary sense, so experiment to see which kinds please your palate the most.

Nutritionally, mushrooms vary to a fair degree between varieties. For example, 100g of raw shiitake mushrooms, according to the USDA database, contains 34 calories, 15 % of your daily value of B6, 10% DV of fibre and 8% DV of potassium.

White mushrooms, by contrast, contain 22 calories per 100g, in addition to 9% DV of potassium, 6% DV of protein and 5% DV of B6.

Mushrooms in general have good amounts of B vitamins and potassium; great for immunity and cardiovascular health, which in conjunction with beta-glucans, make for some profound health benefits. But remember, these are generalisations.

In terms of health benefits, mushrooms benefit from being high in something many of us in the developed world are deficient in: vitamin D. Although we are able to synthesise this vitamin from sunlight, meaning it really shouldn’t need to be addressed in our diet, many of us now work inside all day that vitamin D deficiencies are on the rise. Mushrooms are the only vegan, non-fortified source of dietary vitamin D!

The reason mushrooms have vitamin D is because they contain a molecule similar to the molecule in our skin responsible for the production of vitamin D, so crucially, only mushrooms exposed to sunlight have sufficient levels of it.

The USDA database entry for raw portabella mushrooms shows that they contain a mere 2.5% DV of vitamin D per 100g; whereas the USDA database entry for raw portabella mushrooms exposed to UV light shows that they have a huge 112% DV of vitamin D per 100g!

This gives us a top tip: leave your mushrooms in the sun for an hour or two to get the full nutritional benefits.

Mushrooms are also high in compounds called beta-glucans. Beta-glucan is a soluble fiber with huge benefits for heart health, immunity and cancer prevention. They have been reputed to have broad anti-cancer benefits, although there is a lack of available human trials to draw safe conclusions from.

More significant are the incredible benefits for the heart: beta-glucans have been linked with cholesterol reduction, and have been shown to both prevent and help treat obesity and metabolic syndrome (metabolic syndrome is the combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity).

With cardiovascular disease being such a huge issue for many people, and the biggest killer in the developed world, beta-glucans surely have an important place in anyone’s diet.

The benefits of beta-glucans go beyond even this, however. As this review notes, they stimulate the immune system, decreasing your likelihood of contracting diseases. An increased resistance to biological agents can only be a good thing for your long term health.

It should also be noted that these benefits of beta-glucans are not simply studies of the isolated substance: this review specifically deals with the beneficial effects of beta-glucans from mushrooms, summing them up as anti-carcinogenic, immunity stimulating and cholesterol reducing. If those aren’t good reasons to incorporate mushrooms into your weekly eating habits, then what are?

Finally, mushrooms have a number of studied anti-carcinogenic properties, particularly shiitake mushrooms, as the most studied mushroom in terms of health benefits.

Shiitake mushrooms have been linked with a broad cancer inhibiting effect when tested on cell cultures, causing apoptosis (cell suicide) in different cancers. In addition, they have been found to protect the liver from toxic compounds.

However, not just shiitake mushrooms have been studied: shiitake, portabella and white mushrooms have all been proven to decrease the chance of cancers spreading, which is a major benefit considering cancer spreading from one part of the body to the other significantly decreases the chances of survival.