Go for a walk in the woods and pay attention to the forest floor: once you’re looking for them, you’ll be sure to find a diverse set of mushrooms in all shapes and sizes.
Of course, most of those mushrooms are not edible, and some are poisonous. But the mushrooms that are edible have a surprising amount of nutrition to offer.
What’s so super about mushrooms?
For years, I thought the main benefit of mushrooms was what they didn’t bring to my diet. Mushrooms are low-carb, low-fat, and naturally contain no cholesterol or sodium. Many people, like myself, turn to mushrooms for a harmless burst of delicious umami flavor.
However, the nutritional value of mushrooms should not be underestimated. We’ve always known that mushrooms are high in protein and fiber, but more benefits are constantly coming to light.
One of the best reasons to eat mushrooms is ergothioneine, an amino acid with strong antioxidant action. In your body, ergo is shuttled to the cells undergoing the greatest oxidative stress, helping you to fight heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.
Ergothioneine is a form of the essential amino acid histidine and needs to be acquired through the diet. Mushrooms contain 10x as much ergo as any other food source. That’s because ergo is primarily synthesized by fungus: the ergo in other crops comes from their symbiotic relationships with mycorrhizal fungi.
Mushrooms further boost antioxidant activity with glutathione, another antioxidant found in high levels in mushrooms.
Mushrooms can give your immune system a kick too, with beta-glucans and vitamin D. Beta-glucans encourage the production of white blood cells, helping you to mount a stronger immune response. Vitamin D’s role in defense against viral infection is also well-known.
Beyond vitamin D, mushrooms are a good source of selenium, iron, potassium, and the B-vitamins riboflavin, niacin, and folate. The B-vitamins can provide a significant energy boost.
How do I incorporate mushrooms into my diet?
The first and most obvious way to eat more mushrooms? Cook with them!
Mushrooms are a delicious addition to soups, pasta, pizza, eggs, and just about any other dish you’d set on the table. They’re also excellent as the main ingredient--try portobello burgers with a mushroom cap instead of a meat patty, or saute a handful of button mushrooms as a side. Mushroom risotto is one of my personal favorites.
However, if you’re not a fan of mushrooms there are still many ways to work this superfood into your routine. Sneak a scoop of four-sigmatic mushroom powder into your daily green drink or coffee to add a subtle umami flavor and a lot of nutrition.
For the strongest mushroom haters--and for folks looking for the most convenient way to get mushrooms every day--mushroom powders are also available in easy-to-swallow capsules.
Whether you love mushrooms or hate them, they are worth incorporating into your diet for their antioxidants, selenium, and vitamin D, among other vitamins and minerals. Look for ways to work mushrooms onto your plate and into your routine for overall health.