8 Healthiest Mushrooms to Add to Your Diet Today

healthy mushroom feature

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 good for you and, although the values vary between the different kinds, they are all classified as superfoods because of their high nutritional values.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the healthiest mushrooms to add to your diet.

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. 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 nutritious.

Did you know?
Although they’re actually fungi, mushrooms are classified as vegetables when it comes to culinary matters. But, they are 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. Mushrooms are used in cooking to add extra taste 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 everyone knows that eating less meat reduces cholesterol levels; however, some studies have shown that substances in mushroom extracts may 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, you can enjoy healthy mushrooms for weight loss too.

Let’s take a look at five of the 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.

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 by aging.

Beta-glucan

A medical journal about the health benefits of mushrooms details how medicinal mushrooms contain Beta-glucan, which 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% RDA (recommended daily allowance) of copper.

Potassium

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

Now, we will look at the best mushrooms 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 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.

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 grow naturally in Asian countries.

How to grow them yourself
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.

Shiitake mushrooms are the most grown mushroom in the world, next to button mushrooms.

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

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

Here’s a video that shows how to cook shiitake mushrooms:

 

2. The Agaricus Bisporus Family

(White button, Cremini, and Portabello) 

Healthiest Mushrooms
The Agaricus Bisporus variety includes white button, cremini, and portabello mushrooms.

Benefits

They start out as white buttons and then grow to become beige-colored cremini. Leave them in the ground for longer and you will have a harvest of portabellos 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 a source of Vitamin D.

Where they grow

The Agaricus Bisporus family grows naturally in damp, fertile soil.

How to grow them yourself

According to Wikihow.com, you can grow your own buttons, cremini, and portabello 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

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 topping, burger sauce, stir-fry, soup, stew, casserole, or raw in a fresh salad. Buttons make a delicious starter when crumbed and deep-fried. Portabellos are 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 an abstract of a research article, 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 grow naturally in subtropical and temperate forests around the world. They grow on hardwood trees.

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 (**insert a link to Blue Oyster Mushroom blog**).

Where to buy them

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

How best to consume

The stems are inclined to be chewy, so you may want to avoid using them in some dishes.

  • 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

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 grow naturally on trees in the Northern United States and Canada.

How to grow them yourself

You can read more about growing Lion’s mane mushrooms in our blog which features the 9 Best Mushrooms Growing Kits in 2021 (** Add a link to this blog**). 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, harvest the fruit. Voila!

Where to buy them

You may be able to find lion’s mane mushrooms at some fresh produce stores or farmer’s markets.

How best to consume

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.

  • Saute slices of lion’s mane mushrooms in garlic butter.
  • Substitute crab to make meat-free fish-cakes. Here’s the recipe. 
  • Add to pasta dishes or stir-fry.
  • 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 grow naturally in the Northern Hemisphere and were accidentally introduced to the Southern Hemisphere, where they now grow naturally, too.  They grow in deciduous and coniferous forests and tree 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 these 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.

How best to consume

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

Chanterelles grow on the ground in the forests of Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America in damp soil.

How to grow them yourself

Growing chanterelle mushrooms isn’t as straightforward and simple as some other species, but it is 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 chanterelles requires patience. It could take years after planting before 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 have them. You could look for dried chanterelles as an alternative.

How best to consume

Many species of chanterelles have a pleasant and fruity smell, similar to apricots. Their taste is a bit peppery. If you are using dried chanterelles, 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 in colder months.

How to grow them yourself

According to this article, enoki mushrooms are best cultivated on aged hardwood sawdust medium 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

We found a healthy mushroom recipe for enoki pancakes! How delicious does that sound? They are popular in many Asian dishes and 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 include heart health and blood sugar control.

Where they grow

Reishi mushrooms grow naturally in hot, humid places in Asia.

How to grow them yourself

Reishi mushrooms are easy to grow. They grow slowly and require little upkeep. They live out their entire lives in their growing bag. If you’d like to know more, you can read our blog (** link to 9 Best Mushrooms Growing Kits in 2021**) which includes some information on how to grow reishi mushrooms from a mushroom kit.

Where to buy them

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

How best to consume

They can be eaten fresh, but they don’t taste great unless harvested very young. The mature fruit is inclined to be bitter and woody; you could toss a few slices into soup or stew stock. They are commonly found as extracts in powder form.

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://learn.freshcap.com/tips/healthiest-mushrooms/

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/

 

 

 

 

 

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