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Mushroom is a type of fungi which grows on soil or tree barks. There are more than 3000 varieties of mushrooms, out of which only a few are fit for consumption. Edible mushrooms are often colorless or white colored and umbrella shaped. Often, mushrooms are thought to be a plant. But plants contain a green pigment called chlorophyll which along with sunlight, help them store energy in the form of carbohydrates. On the other hand, mushrooms do not contain chlorophyll and hence are not able to produce energy. They depend on other sources such as organic waste to obtain their nutrients.

One of the most widely used mushroom for consumption is Agaricus bisporus or the common mushroom. It is believed to have originated from North America and Europe. Currently, this variety of mushroom is being cultivated in more than 70 countries.

Mushrooms are widely used in different types of cuisines. They are used in soups and salads,  with other food items such as eggs, as an appetizer, added along with other vegetables in sandwiches and even used to make pasta sauce and toppings for pizzas. Mushrooms have a high nutritional value. They comprise about 92% water and have a good balance of potassium and sodium. Mushrooms are also rich in several vitamins.

Some basic facts about mushrooms:

  • Botanical name: Agaricus bisporus
  • Family: Agaricaceae, Russulaceae
  • Common Name: Common Mushroom
  • Sanskrit name: छत्राकम् (Chatrākam)
  • Parts used: flesh, stem, cap
  • Native Region and geographical distribution: Mushrooms usually grow in the wild. Over twenty varieties of edible mushrooms are commercially cultivated in at least 60 countries. China, France, Poland, Netherlands, and the United States are some of the largest cultivars of mushroom in the world.
  • Interesting facts: Mushrooms can produce vitamin D just like humans when they are exposed to sunlight. If mushrooms are exposed to the sunlight for eight hours, it can increase its vitamin D content by 4,600 times.
  1. Mushrooms nutrition facts
  2. Health benefits of mushrooms
  3. Mushrooms side effects
  4. Takeaway

Mushrooms contain several nutrients which are considered healthy for the body. They are rich in minerals such as Potassium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Sodium, and Calcium. Mushrooms contain several vitamins such as vitamin B3, B9, and D. They are also low in calories and have a negligible amount of fat.

The nutritional value of raw white mushrooms, per 100 grams according to the USDA Nutrient Database is as follows:

Nutrients Value per 100g
Water 92.45 g
Energy 22 kcal
Fats 0.34 g
Protein 3.09 g
Carbohydrate 3.26 g
Fibre 1.0 g
Sugars 1.98 g

 

Minerals Value per 100 g
Calcium 3 mg
Iron 0.50 mg
Potassium 318 mg
Magnesium 9 mg
Sodium 5 mg
Phosphorus 86 mg
Zinc 0.52 mg

 

Vitamins Value per 100 g
Vitamin B1 0.081 mg
Vitamin B2 0.402 mg
Vitamin B3 3.607 mg
Vitamin B6 0.104 mg
Vitamin B9 17 µg
Vitamin B12 0.04 µg
Vitamin C 2.1 mg
Vitamin D 0.2 µg
Vitamin E 0.01 mg

 

Fats/ Fatty acids Value per 100 g
Saturated 0.050 g
Polyunsaturated 0.160 g

Mushrooms for cholesterol

Cholesterol is not always a bad thing for the body. Your body requires some cholesterol to function properly. But when the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol levels increase, it leads to heart diseases and increases the risk of getting a stroke.

Mushrooms contain negligible amounts of fat (0.34 g per 100 g). Several studies show that mushrooms can help lower the cholesterol levels in the body. Mushrooms are rich in beta-glucans which have been found to possess hypocholesterolemic properties. Studies suggest that beta-glucans prevent the absorption of cholesterol into the intestines thus preventing hyperlipidemia. Preclinical studies indicate that mushrooms consumption significantly decreases the total cholesterol levels (TC) and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. There was also an increase in the HDL (good cholesterol) levels in these animals.

(Read more: High cholesterol treatment)

Mushrooms for diabetes

Diabetes is a condition marked by a high level of glucose in the blood. This happens either because the body is not able to produce enough insulin or the body is unable to properly use insulin. Diabetes can be kept well under control with proper diet and medication. Preclinical studies show that different varieties of edible mushrooms are effective in keeping the blood glucose level under control. A research done on around 10 edible mushroom varieties indicates that certain effective compounds present in mushrooms exhibit potential hypoglycemic effect (lowers blood sugar level). Some of these compounds include various polysaccharides in wood ear mushroom and reishi mushroom, beta glucans in the almond mushroom and alpha-glucan in the hen-of-the-woods mushroom. Although there has not been any clinical study, preclinical studies show promising results.

Mushrooms boost immune system

The immune system is responsible for protecting the body from diseases and infections. Research shows that mushrooms are effective in boosting the immune system. Mushrooms are rich in beta-glucan, a type of polysaccharide. These polysaccharides are capable of boosting the immune system by stimulating the complement system, a part of the immune system that is responsible for improving the ability of antibodies to attack harmful pathogens. These polysaccharides are also responsible for improving the functioning of macrophages and natural killer cells in the body (immune system cells).

(Read more: Immunity boosting foods)

Mushrooms for bones

Osteoporosis is a condition associated with weak and brittle bones., Although this condition can affect both men and women, women are more prone to it, especially after menopause. Research hints that extract from certain varieties of mushrooms can be effective against this condition. Several preclinical studies demonstrate that not only mushroom extracts are effective in the prevention of bone loss but also they improve the production of new bones.

Mushrooms for anemia

Iron deficiency anemia is a treatable condition that is caused by an inability of the body to properly absorb iron. Certain types of mushrooms such as oyster mushroom are a good source of iron. A study done on animal models observed that oyster mushrooms helped increase the level of iron in the blood.

Another study claims that copper is an important element that helps in the proper absorption of iron into the blood and utilization of this iron by the body. Certain types of mushrooms are high in copper content. Therefore, regular consumption of mushrooms will help in the functioning of these copper-dependent processes.

(Read more: Anemia types)

Mushrooms as selenium source

Selenium is an important nutrient that is responsible for various functions such as the proper functioning of the thyroid gland, production of DNA and are also responsible for protecting the body against the damage caused due to free radicals. While most edible mushrooms are naturally low in selenium content. Research suggests that certain wild mushrooms are rich in selenium. Among these species, Albatrellus pes-caprae has been found to have the highest content of selenium. According to a preclinical study, the selenium content in Agaricus bisporus mushroom helped protect the gastrointestinal tract from damage caused due to oxidative stress.

Mushrooms for weight loss

Obesity is a condition characterized by an excessive accumulation of fat in the body. Obesity can lead to various health complications like high blood pressure and heart diseases. Some common causes of obesity include over-eating, little or no physical activity, and stress. Several studies show that different varieties of mushroom can help lose weight naturally. A preclinical study done to access the effectiveness of shiitake mushroom powder on weight loss reported a hypolipidemic effect (the ability to lower the fat levels in the body). This effect is attributed to the presence of certain compounds such as beta-glucan and eritadenine. It was further reported that beta-glucan has the ability to enhance satiety, and delay the absorption of nutrients in the body, thereby preventing overeating.

Another study demonstrated the effectiveness of chitosan mushroom in reducing fat deposition in the liver. A decrease in the total cholesterol level (TC), bad cholesterol (LDL) and an increase in the good cholesterol level (HDL) were also noted. Balanced cholesterol levels go a long way in dealing with obesity.

A clinical study was done to access if mushrooms are a better alternative to red meat in the daily diet. It was observed that people who consumed mushroom for a period of 1 year were able to achieve a lower body weight and more balanced cholesterol levels..lower body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference was also observed in these people.

(Read more: Diet chart for weight loss)

Mushrooms prevent neurodegeneration

Neurodegenerative diseases result from a damage to the neurons (brain cells). Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson's disease are some examples of neurodegenerative diseases. Research shows that certain types of mushrooms are effective against age-related neurodegeneration . According to a study, extracts from some species of edible mushrooms have neuroprotective and anti-neuroinflammatory properties due to the presence of some bioactive metabolites. Therefore mushrooms have the potential to be considered as a good therapeutic agent in the treatment of age-related neurodegenerative diseases.

Mushrooms prevent cancer

Cancer is known to be one of the leading causes for deaths all around the world. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation pose on-going as well as long-term side-effects. Several studies indicate anticancer properties in mushrooms. Research indicates that the presence of certain biological compounds in mushroom such as polysaccharides,  alkaloids, flavonoids, carotenoids, and organic acids are responsible for the anti-cancer properties of mushroom.

According to a review article, different types of mushroom are effective against many types of cancer. For instance, extract from the mushroom belonging to the genus Pleurotus are effective against colon cancer. Agaricus mushroom is effective against breast cancer. It was further suggested that mushrooms inhibit the growth of cancer cells and induce cancer cell apoptosis (Cell death). These researches show the potential of mushroom in the development of anticancer drugs.

Another research suggests that polysaccharides such as lentinan and krestin present in mushrooms could be responsible for its antitumor activities. These polysaccharides do not directly act on the cancer cells, rather they stimulate the immune system activity against tumorous cells.

  • Skin Allergy due to mushrooms  Coming in contact with certain types of mushrooms causes allergic reactions. Symptoms of mushrooms allergy include reddening of skin, swelling, and itching. Although these reactions are usually not life-threatening, they can last up to a week. Shiitake mushroom is one of the most commonly consumed mushrooms in the world. Allergic reactions to shiitake mushroom are characterized by skin eruptions that can last for up to 10 days. 
  • Food poisoning due to mushrooms Not all varieties of mushroom are edible. There have been several reported cases of mushroom poisoning in different parts of the world. Therefore, it is recommended to ensure that you know the variety of mushroom you are consuming.

Mushrooms are highly nutritious because of the presence of several minerals, vitamins, and polysaccharides such as beta-glucan. They can aid in weight loss, prevent oxidative damage, boost immune system and can help reduce the risk of bone diseases such as osteoporosis. However,  it is best to follow caution while eating mushrooms as certain wild varieties of mushroom are poisonous and some types of mushrooms are known to cause allergies. 

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References

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