Mushrooms get a bad rap. Order them on a pizza and many people will pick them off. Season a salad with them and many people will pick around them. Too many people don’t have any love for mushrooms, and that’s a shame. Mushrooms are quietly one of the best superfoods on the planet and often, they’re not only easy to stomach—they’re delicious!
Most people think of mushrooms as the fungi they are, which is what makes them so unappealing. Who wants to eat fungus? Well, if you’re concerned about your health and want to treat your body right, these fungi should be on your grocery list perpetually. Here’s why.
The amazing health benefits of mushrooms
There are as many as 14,000 species of mushroom in the world, which means science still has a lot to learn about this family of fungi. That said, what we do know already is game-changing for human health. A 2017 study by Penn State researchers shows that ingesting mushrooms has wide-ranging benefits for everything from brain health to immunity!
At their most basic level, mushrooms are great sources of many essential vitamins and nutrients, including B Vitamins like thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3) pantothenic acid (B5) and others. Depending on the mushroom variety, you’ll also get a good dose of potassium, beta glucans and copper. And this is just the tip of the iceberg! Factor in the antioxidant and immune-boosting power of different species of mushroom and you’ve got yourself a powerful superfood that you’ll want to make part of your daily diet.
Meet the heavy hitters
With so many species of mushroom out there, you might be wondering what the best mushrooms for health are. From what we currently know about the selection of edible, non-toxic mushrooms widely available, there are some real heavy-hitters in the superfoods category. If you’re intrigued by the health prospects of mushrooms, consider adding these favorites to your diet:
- Reishi (Lingzhi): This mushroom does it all and is the clearest definition of a superfood! It’s respected for its antibacterial and antiviral properties, and it’s best known for improving total immunity. Reishi has even been recommended to cancer patients as a tea and studied for its ability to help reduce tumor metastasis.
- Shiitake: Another immune-booster, Shiitake mushrooms are both delicious and good for you. They’re widely regarded as anti-inflammatory and have superior Vitamin D content, which makes them a perfect dietary supplement in and of themselves. Most people enjoy eating dried Shiitake mushrooms as a snack—others use them as an ingredient for everything from topping burgers to mixing in with pasta. They’re one of the most flavorful options on this list!
- Oyster: While oyster mushrooms can be difficult to find and expensive when you do locate them, there are plenty of teas available instead. In fact, Oyster mushroom tea has been extensively studied for its immune-boosting power. Oyster mushrooms can lower cholesterol in a major way and have no shortage of vitamins and minerals. Expect all the B vitamins in heavy doses, as well as plenty of iron.
- Porcini: Sufferers of chronic inflammation need to get familiar with the inflammation-fighting benefits of Porcini mushrooms. While there’s ongoing research on Porcini mushrooms and their effect on immune health, there’s reason to believe they can help fight autoimmune disorders causing chronic inflammation.
- Chanterelle: Trying to lose weight? Chanterelle mushrooms could give you the metabolism boost you’ve been looking for. In addition to being loaded with B Vitamins like many other mushroom varieties, they’re also very high in fiber and aid in digestion. They’re also rich in potassium, which can help balance salt content in the body to prevent bloating and unnecessary water weight.
- Chaga: Best brewed in a tea, Chaga mushrooms are more exotic than most on this list, and they’re renowned for their antioxidant properties. There are ongoing studies that link Chaga tea with better cardiovascular health, immunity, cellular stability and more.
The good news is, most of these varieties are available in local health food stores—although you might need to look harder for some and the prices on hard-to-find mushrooms can be unreasonably high at times. Teas, supplements and dried mushrooms are often more accessible and more cost-efficient, bringing many of the same benefits to the table.
Give mushrooms a second chance
If you’re someone who makes a face at the idea of eating mushrooms, it’s time to give them a second chance. Incorporating mushrooms into your diet is a great way to tap into the many benefits of these superfoods and explore the long-term health boosts they offer to everything from your immune system to your cardiovascular health. Mushrooms may be fungi, but their benefits are too good not to take advantage of!