Here's the Truth Behind Mushroom Health Claims
Are mushrooms healthy? Yes, but some claims about them sound too good to be true.
Add mushrooms to any dish and you’ll impart loads of savory, meaty flavor—for very few calories. (Six white ’shrooms clock in at a mere 28 calories.) Mushrooms also deliver nutrients that many of us lack, such as potassium, which keeps blood pressure in check: A cup of white buttons has nearly 10 percent of your daily target (4,700mg)—a goal only 2 percent of Americans meet.
They’re brimming with phytochemicals, antioxidants, and a fiber called beta-glucan, all of which have anti-inflammatory properties. That means they can protect you from a number of diseases, says Lawrence Cheskin, MD, director of Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center.
Mushrooms are reproductive structures that grow from fungi living in the soil. Some types of mushrooms (i.e. the ones that grow in your backyard) are poisonous and should not be eaten. However, there are plenty of mushrooms types in your local grocery store that are perfectly safe to eat. Here are the most common types of edible mushrooms you'll find:
Mushrooms are mild in flavor and have a soft, spongy mouthfeel. You can eat them raw in salads, but cooking can greatly enhance their taste and texture. Mushrooms take well to just about any cooking method—they’re delicious sauteed, roasted, grilled, stir-fried, baked, braised, and air-fried.
What’s the best way to cook mushrooms? Try these easy and healthy mushroom recipes:
- Garlic Caper Roasted Mushrooms
- Mostly Mushroom Pasta
- Cheesy Brussels Sprouts With Mushrooms
- Air Fryer Buffalo Mushroom Poppers
The USDA recommends 1 cup of raw or cooked mushrooms as a healthy serving size. To give you a sense of the basic nutrients in mushrooms, here is the nutrition breakdown for cremini mushrooms:
Cremini Mushrooms (1 cup or 87g)
Saturated Fat: 0g
Unsaturated Fat: 0g
Added Sugar: 0g
Calcium: 2% DV
Potassium: 8% DV1g
Yes, mushrooms are healthy—but there’s also not a whole lot to them either. They’re very low in calories, and as it turns out, mushrooms are composed of about 90 percent water. However, the one nutrient where mushrooms really shine is protein. Mushrooms are a good source of plant-based protein, and they can help vegans and vegetarians meet their daily needs (50g). They're also a valuable source of potassium. Mushrooms are not technically a high-fiber food, so you’ll want to make sure you’re pairing them with fiber-rich veggies like black beans, lentils, and sweet potatoes.
Mushroom Health Claims
A 2017 study found fungi to be the best source of two disease-fighting antioxidants, ergothioneine and glutathione (low levels of the latter have been linked with higher risks of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer). But here’s the catch—there isn’t research to show eating mushrooms alone influences health. One study linked low ergothioneine levels with cognitive decline, but mushroom consumption didn’t differ between those with normal and mild cognitive impairment. And research on mushrooms’ impact on the immune system, gut health, tumor growth, and blood sugar is preliminary at best.
The Verdict on Mushrooms: Mushrooms are delicious and nutritious—but they’ve yet to achieve cure-all status.