8 Healthiest Mushrooms to Add to Your Diet Today (2021 Update)

healthy mushroom feature

In this article, we’re covering the healthiest mushrooms to add to your diet. We’ll cover what they are, where they grow, where to buy them, how to grow them and how best to enjoy them in your meals.

Mushrooms are fleshy fungi that can be classified into two broad groups – those that are safe to consume and those that are not. The great news is that the edible ones are very good for you!

Although the values vary between the different kinds, they are all classified as superfoods because of their high nutritional values.

We have selected eight of the healthiest mushrooms to choose but first, lets look at why they’re so good for us and the key nutrients they contain:

Contents

Are Mushrooms Healthy for Us?

Yes, the edible ones are very healthy, nutrient-dense, and, therefore, very good for us.

There are more than 10,000 different types of known mushrooms in the world, and many more yet to be discovered. More than half of them are inedible because they are more like wood or leaves than mushrooms, and another 25% are edible but not incredible. The inedible 20% of these fleshy fungi will make you sick, and 1% of them could kill you!

That leaves us with only 4% of known mushrooms that are edible, tasty, and super nutritious!

Did you know?
Although they’re actually fungi, mushrooms are classified as ‘vegetables’ when it comes to culinary matters. They are also used as a meat replacement in meat-free dishes because of how they take on the flavors of the dish – and some mushrooms are naturally umami (or savory, like many meats). They can also be used to enhance flavors, without sodium or fat. Wow, how versatile are they as a nutrient-dense food ingredient?

The Health Benefits of Edible Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a low-calorie source of fiber, protein, and antioxidants. Their nutritional compound is believed to reduce the risk of developing adverse health conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Mushrooms are a great meat substitute and eating less meat reduces cholesterol levels; however, some studies have also shown that substances in mushroom extracts may actively lower cholesterol levels on their own.

According to an article that lists 20 Foods Rich in Selenium, mushrooms, at number 14, are a great source of selenium, which is a powerful antioxidant that our bodies need to function properly. It plays a vital role in metabolism and thyroid function, and protects us from the damage caused by oxidative stress.

In addition to all of the above, they taste great and you can enjoy healthy mushrooms for weight loss too.

Let’s take a look at five of the key nutrients found in mushrooms:

Please note that each mushroom species is unique in the number of nutrients found. They are all highly nutritious, albeit in varying degrees.

These are they five key nutrients found in all edible mushrooms:

Antioxidants

Antioxidants work to protect our bodies from harmful free radicals that may lead to ailments like cancer and heart disease. They also boost our immune system and help protect us against the damage caused oxidative stress and aging.

Beta-glucan

A paper on the health benefits of mushrooms, published in the Hindawi medical journal, details how medicinal mushrooms contain Beta-glucan. The compound has been linked to improving cholesterol, boosting heart health, regulating blood sugar, and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Because each mushroom contains unique types of Beta-glucan, each mushroom affects immune function differently.

Some of the most effective medicinal mushrooms contain amounts of Beta-glucans that stimulate your immune system to produce ‘natural killer cells’ that fight toxins, tumors, and age-related diseases.

B Vitamins

Mushrooms are rich in riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid – the B vitamins. Riboflavin helps keep red blood cells healthy. Niacin keeps our digestive systems in order and maintains healthy skin. Pantothenic acid is good for the nervous system and helps our bodies make the hormones they need. The three combined promote heart health.

Copper

Copper helps our bodies produce red blood cells that deliver oxygen. The mineral also maintains healthy bones and nerves. One cup of mushrooms can provide 33% of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of Copper.

Potassium

Potassium is necessary when it comes to healthy heart, muscle, and nerve function.

Now, we will look at the healthies mushrooms to add to your diet and explore their unique health benefits, where they grow, if you can grow them yourself or where to buy them if you can’t, and the best way to consume them.

These are 8 of the most nutrient-dense mushrooms:

8 of the Healthiest Mushrooms to Add to Your Diet

1. Shiitake Mushrooms

Healthiest mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms, one of the healthiest mushrooms.

Benefits

Dried Shiitake is a great source of umami flavor, and if you’re looking for a meat substitute, Shiitake mushrooms contain nearly all of the same amino acids as meat. This makes them one the healthiest mushrooms for vegans or anyone following a meat-free diet.

In addition, the sterols, eritadenine, and beta-glucans in Shiitake mushrooms may help lower blood sugar levels and fight high cholesterol.

Where They Grow

Shiitake mushrooms are native to East and Southeast Asia, where they grow on decaying wood from deciduous trees in warm, moist climates.

How to Grow Them Yourself

Shiitake mushrooms are the most grown mushroom in the world, next to Button mushrooms. According to an article published by the University of Vermont, you can grow your own Shiitake mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms grow on logs that have been ‘inoculated’ with the fungus. You can order plugs with the inoculum online. These plugs are pushed into pre-drilled holes in freshly cut logs. Store your logs away from direct sun and wind to protect early fungal growth or ‘spawn’. Once the logs are inoculated and sealed, they need 8 to 18 months for the fungus to grow through the log. Once mature, they go on fruiting for many years, with the most yield in the second and third years.

Where to Buy Them

You can buy fresh Shiitake mushrooms from most fresh produce stores. Dried ones can be bought from stores or online.

How Best to Consume Shiitake Mushrooms

Cook Shiitake mushrooms as you would any other edible variety. You can cook with rehydrated, dried, or fresh Shiitake mushrooms. They add a tasty, savory flavor to dishes:

  • Sauté with greens and serve as a side dish
  • Add them to stir-fry
  • Mix them into pasta
  • Drop them into soups and stews
  • Roast them for a crispy snack

Check out this video by CookingGuide on YouTube for some special Shiitake mushroom recipes:

 

2. The Agaricus bisporus Family

(White Button, Cremini, and Portobello) 

Healthiest Mushrooms
The Agaricus bisporus variety includes White Button, Cremini, and Portobello Mushrooms

Benefits

Agaricus bisporus is a family of fungi that produces three different types of the healthiest mushrooms for your diet. They start out as White Button mushrooms and then grow to become beige-colored Cremini mushrooms. Leave them in the ground for longer and you will have a harvest of Portobello mushrooms on your plate. They all have the same nutritional value as they are the same species.  When they are grown under UV light, they are also a source of Vitamin D.

Where they Grow

The Agaricus bisporus family is native to Europe and North America, where grows naturally in damp, fertile, grassland soil.

How to Grow Them Yourself

According to Wikihow.com, you can grow your own Button, Cremini, and Portobello mushrooms.  They are easy to grow, which is one of the reasons they are the most cultivated mushroom in the world.

Where to Buy Them

You can buy them at any fresh produce store. They are also sold in cans.

How Best to Consume White Button, Cremini and Portobello Mushrooms

The cap and the stem are edible; just trim off the very end of the stem. They are versatile and can be added to any savory dish, including pizza toppings, burger sauces, stir-fries, soups, stews and casseroles, or raw in a fresh salad. Button mushrooms make a delicious starter when crumbed and deep-fried. Portobello mushrooms also make the perfect filler for a vegetarian burger!

3. Oyster Mushrooms

Healthiest Mushrooms
A flush of Oyster Mushrooms

Benefits

The texture of the Oyster mushroom makes it another great meat substitute.  According to research, Oyster mushrooms are a rich source of protein, minerals, vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants like Selenium. The antioxidants in mushrooms protect body cells from damage that could cause chronic diseases and help strengthen the immune system. An added benefit is that Oyster mushrooms are low in calories, cholesterol-free, fat-free, gluten-free, and low in sodium. Eating Oyster mushrooms appears to decrease the risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer and increases the immune system.

Where They Grow

Oyster mushrooms are found in subtropical and temperate forests around the world, where they grow on dying or decaying wood and trees. Oyster mushrooms favor hardwood and deciduous trees, especially Beech wood.

How to Grow Them Yourself

Oyster mushrooms are easy to grow, and it’s fun to watch them grow. They will grow on almost anything made of wood – cardboard, paper, spent coffee grounds, woodchips, sawdust, or straw. We wrote a detailed article about growing them; you can read it here Blue Oyster Mushrooms: The Easy Guide to Identify, Use and Grow in 2021. Growing your own is a great way to add some of the healthiest mushrooms to diet and a fun way to do it!

Where to Buy Them

You can buy fresh Oyster mushrooms from most fresh produce stores or markets.

How Best to Consume Oyster Mushrooms

Some favorite methods of preparing Oyster mushrooms include:

  • Saute the mushrooms with garlic and green onion in olive oil and serve as a side with any meat dish.
  • Add fresh or dried mushrooms to soups and stews.
  • Poach the mushrooms in butter and cream and toss with pasta, Parmesan cheese, and green onions.

4. Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

Healthiest Mushrooms
Lion’s main mushrooms are one of the healthiest mushroom varieties.

Benefits

In addition to being one of the healthiest mushrooms, according to healthline.com, Lion’s Main mushrooms can protect against dementia, help relieve minor symptoms of anxiety and depression, possibly assist in the recovery of nervous system injuries, protect the digestive tract against ulcers, reduce the risk of heart disease, help manage diabetic symptoms, and may even help fight cancer.

Where They Grow

Lion’s Mane mushrooms are native to the Northern United States and Canada, where they grow on dead or decaying trees.

How to Grow Them Yourself

You can read more about growing Lion’s Mane mushrooms in our blog which features the 9 Best Mushroom Growing Kits in 2021. The steps for growing Lion’s Mane are similar to most species of mushroom – grow the culture, make grain spawn, add the spawn to your choice of substrate, care for the fungi and harvest the fruit. Voila!

Where to Buy Them

The best way to consume lion’s mane mushrooms is through a coffee blend. Four Sigmatic offers a great lion’s mane coffee blend (get 10% off here). You may also be able to find lion’s mane mushrooms at some fresh produce stores or farmer’s markets.

How Best to Consume Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

Brush any dirt off the mushrooms, or rinse them if necessary. They can be enjoyed cooked or raw, dried or steeped in tea. Some people describe them as having a seafood flavor like lobster or crab. Some preparation ideas include:

  • Sauté slices of Lion’s Mane mushrooms in garlic butter.
  • Substitute crab to make meat-free fish-cakes (here’s a nice recipe).
  • Add to pasta dishes or stir-fries.
  • Chop into soups or stews.

5. Porcini Mushrooms

Healthiest mushrooms
Porcini Mushrooms are amongst the healthiest mushrooms

Benefits

Porcini mushrooms are low in fat – no cholesterol, trans fat, or saturated fat. They contain antioxidants for immunity, protein for healthy muscles, and they are full of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.

Where They Grow

Porcini mushrooms are native to the Northern Hemisphere but were accidentally introduced to the Southern Hemisphere, where they spread are now naturalized.  They grow in deciduous and coniferous forests and timber plantations.

How to Grow Them Yourself

Gardenguides.com tells us that, as long as you have a moist, humid environment, it is possible to grow these delectable, sought-after mushrooms at home.  You will need cardboard and sawdust inoculated with porcini mushroom spores.

Where to Buy Them

Although Porcini mushrooms are sold commercially, they are difficult to cultivate. You will find them fresh in autumn at specialist fresh produce stores, and at other times of the year, they are found dried or pickled.

How Best to Consume Porcini Mushrooms

Because of their scarcity, Porcini mushrooms are a prized ingredient in various culinary dishes and held in high regard in many cuisines. They have a delicate, earthy flavor similar to hazelnut and are enjoyed in soup, pasta, or risotto. They keep their flavor after drying and can be reconstituted and used in cooking. They are one of the few mushrooms sold pickled.

6. Chanterelle Mushrooms

Healthiest Mushrooms
Chanterelle Mushrooms are attractive and good for you

Benefits

Chanterelle Mushrooms are a great source of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, including iron, copper, vitamin D (D2 + D3), vitamin B3, B5, and B2, manganese, dietary fiber, phosphorus, and zinc. Add to this the antioxidant properties of Selenium, and you have a low-fat, low-carb source of pure goodness.

Where They Grow

Chanterelle mushrooms grow in the forests of Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America in damp soil of the forest floor.

How to Grow Them Yourself

Growing Chanterelle mushrooms isn’t as straightforward and simple as some other species, but it is definitely doable. You can read the full article, but here’s a quick guide:
– Have access to the right trees. These mushrooms grow in tree roots.
– Have the right soil: good drainage, low PH, and low nitrogen.
– Grow them in the right climate – high rainfall and not too hot.
– Loosen the soil. The mushrooms won’t grow in compacted soil.
– Spread your spores. Use old Chanterelle mushrooms or buy Chanterelle spawn.

Growing Chanterelle mushrooms requires patience. It could take years after planting for the mushrooms begin to grow. However, these mushrooms are so tasty and nutritious that it’s worth a try.

Where to Buy Them

It’s not easy to find fresh Chanterelle mushrooms in the stores or at markets, so if you see them, be sure to snap them up and enjoy them while you can. You could look for dried Chanterelles as an alternative.

How Best to Consume Chanterelle Mushrooms

Many species of Chanterelle have a pleasant and fruity smell, similar to apricots. Their taste is a bit peppery. If you are using dried Chanterelle mushrooms, we recommend that you soak them in hot water for 20 minutes or until soft, unless you’re using them in a soup or stew. They are also delicious in risotto or sautéed in butter and garlic.

7. Enoki Mushrooms

Healthiest Mushrooms
Enoki mushrooms top off a healthy veggie salad.

Benefits

Enoki mushrooms were one of the first fungi used in cancer prevention studies. They are rich in vitamin A and B, potassium, iron, and dietary fiber. Their health benefits include strengthening the immune system, aiding digestive health, promoting weight loss, and preventing diabetes.

Where They Grow

This mushroom species grows naturally on the stumps of the Chinese Hackberry tree and other trees like Ash, Mulberry, and Persimmon. They are named winter fungus because they grow and fruit at colder temperatures than other fungus.

How to Grow Them Yourself

According to this article, Enoki mushrooms are best cultivated on aged hardwood sawdust that has been packed into small bottles. Inoculate the medium with spawn after it has been pasteurized.  The spawn-run takes 12 to 30 days. The spawn-run needs high humidity, increased CO2, and cool temperatures from around 72° F to 77° F (22° C to 25° C). Once the mycelium has infiltrated the growing medium, pinning is induced by lowering the temperature to between 50° F and 55° F (10° C and 13° C), and reducing the amount of CO2 by 80 to 90%. This change in environment shocks the mycelium into fruiting.

Where to Buy Them

Fresh Enoki mushrooms can be found at most fresh produce suppliers. They are also available dried.

How Best to Consume Enoki Mushrooms

We found a recipe for Enoki mushroom pancakes! How delicious does that sound? They are one of the healthiest mushrooms to eat and are popular in many Asian dishes. They can be steamed, pan-fried, or added to pasta dishes, soups, and stews. They can also be eaten raw.

8. Reishi Mushrooms

Healthiest Mushrooms
Reishi mushrooms are one of the healthiest mushroom varieties.

Benefits

Boosting the immune system, cancer-fighting properties, and overcoming fatigue and depression are three benefits that have been scientifically proven. Other potential benefits of Reishi mushrooms include heart health and blood sugar control.

Where They Grow

Reishi mushrooms grow naturally in hot, humid regions of Asia. There are various species, which are also found in the United States. They grow on decaying deciduous trees, especially Hemlock trees in the US.

How to Grow Them Yourself

Reishi mushrooms are easy to grow. They grow slowly and require little upkeep. If you use a mushroom growing kit, they are super low maintenance and live out their entire lives in their growing bag. This makes them a very popular choice and they’re great for showing kids the life cycle of the fungi, from spawn to fruit.

Where to Buy Them

Unless you grow your own, Reishi mushrooms are mostly found as an extract, in powder form.

How Best to Consume Reishi Mushrooms

They can be eaten fresh, but they don’t taste great unless they’re harvested very young. The mature fruit is tends to be bitter and woody and it is most often used in soups or stews. The strong flavor allows for very small amounts to be used and it is mostly sold as a powdered extract rather than as whole fresh or dried mushrooms.

In Conclusion

After reading all about mushrooms, you are sure to agree – they are a superfood! Gram for gram, mushrooms are packed with nutrients and fiber to help you live a healthy life, yet they are low in unhealthy fats, carbohydrates, and sodium.

They make a great meat substitute and can be enjoyed as a snack, starter, side dish, or main meal. Plus, you can grow your own if you are interested in living a more natural life. You can learn more about living a natural life and harvesting your own mushrooms, fruit, and vegetables in this blog.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are mushrooms good for you?

Yes, they are! You can eat as many as you like provided they are cooked in a healthy way and some of them can be enjoyed raw. 

What are the disadvantages of eating mushrooms?

There are no known disadvantages to eating cultivated mushrooms. However, some wild mushrooms are toxic and can cause illness or death if consumed. Some wild mushrooms contain high levels of heavy metals. Unless you are an expert in mushroom foraging, stay clear of wild mushrooms; rather, buy them from a reputable source or grow your own.

Which are the most nutrient-dense mushrooms? 

Although the values vary between the different kinds, all mushrooms are classified as superfoods because of their high nutritional values.

References

https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-mushrooms#:~:text=Mushrooms%20are%20a%20rich%2C%20low,Selenium

https://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articles/shiitake.html#:~:text=With%20a%20few%20logs%20in,the%20wild%20in%20mountainous%20regions

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/shiitake-mushrooms

https://www.specialtyproduce.com/produce/Portabella_Mushrooms_702.php#:~:text=Also%20known%20as%20Portobello%2C%20Agaric,trees%20in%20the%20northern%20hemisphere

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boletus_edulis

https://www.gardenguides.com/123662-grow-porcini-mushrooms.html

https://www.healthbenefitstimes.com/chanterelle-mushroom/

 

 

 

 

 

  •  
    1.2K
    Shares
  • 569
  • 407
  •  
  • 203
  •  

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *