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Bitesize Nutrition: The Health Benefits Of Mushrooms

Updated: Jul 31, 2019

An Examination of the Benefits of Mushrooms, By Farihah Choudhury

Food as medicine

In the age of Berocca and paracetamol, the monumental advancement of pharmaceutical drugs in the 21st century has revolutionised the way we view and handle ill health. 

Although Nobel Prize winning pills and potions have vastly improved healthcare in many ways and improved human longevity and vitality, the downside of our solutions being boiled down to a miraculous white pill is that we have become detached with the power of nature to cure ailments. Instead of looking at the cause of colds or headaches we are inclined to just take an ibuprofen and get on with our day to day lives. However, addressing the issue with every day, natural remedies may provide long term preventative solutions to aches and pains, and bring us back to the healing capacities of the world around us. One of these such naturally sourced solutions is the humble mushroom, which can be foraged or purchased widely, and have a unique flavour profile and texture that makes them great in a variety of dishes and have made them known as the “meat of the vegetable world”.  

Marvellous mushrooms

‘Mushroom’ is the common name of the most widely cultivated species, the white button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus), which is where the standard name derives from – but there are ‘mushrooms’ that do not fit the standard mushroom morphology, such as morels and puffballs. Over 20 species of mushrooms are commercially cultivated. Mushrooms are a widely foraged food as they grow extensively and are distinctive in appearance. They provide a special taste profile of ‘umami’ which can be described as not savoury, not sweet – but something in the middle, despite having very low sugar and sodium content, which makes them a fantastic flavour addition to meals without adding unhealthy levels of nutrients, whilst counting as one portion of your 5-a-day guideline.   

Fantastic fungi 

Though raw mushrooms are 92% water, and not a good source of macronutrients in regular serving sizes (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) they provide a rich source of B vitamins B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin) and B5 (pantothenic acid). Mushrooms can also be a good source of Vitamin D2 though this depends on sunlight exposure during processing. A 100g serving also provides good amounts of potassium, phosphorus, copper, selenium and zinc. B vitamins are important for the energy release from food, and specifically B vitamins found in mushrooms are required for the normal functioning of the skin and nervous system. Mushrooms have been used medicinally for hundreds of years as they are thought to have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and other properties, but further evidence is needed to confirm these benefits. 

Five ways to incorporate mushrooms into your diet

In a stir fry

Grilled stuffed Portobello mushrooms 

Homemade mushroom burger-style patty

Used to bulk up mince, risotto, pasta 

With scrambled tofu or eggs 

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Kohn, J.B. (2016) Are Mushrooms a Significant Source of Vitamin D? Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(9):1520

Miles, E. (2017) Requirements & Recommendations, Nutrition in Health & Disease Pt.1

Kamweru, P.K. & Tindibale, E. (2016) Vitamin D and Vitamin D from Ultraviolet-Irradiated Mushrooms (Review) International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms 18(3) 

Muszyńska, B., Grzywacz-Kisielewska, A., Kała, K., Gdula-Argasińska, J. (2018) Anti-inflammatory properties of edible mushrooms: A review. Food Chemistry, 243: 373-381

Chatterjee, S., Sarma, M.K., Deb, U. et al. (2017) Mushrooms: from nutrition to mycoremediation.

Environ Sci Pollut Res, 24: 19480.


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