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Mushrooms are edible fungus that can provide several important nutrients. The many kinds of mushroom have varying compositions and nutritional profiles.

From puffballs to truffles, mushrooms can range from everyday fare to a costly delicacy. People can buy them fresh, canned, or dried.

In 2015, each person in the United States consumed, on average, around 3 pounds of mushrooms, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center.

Beyond the diet, mushrooms feature in some types of traditional medicine.

In this article, learn about the nutritional contents and possible health benefits of eating mushrooms. We also give some tips on preparing and serving them and describe the risks.

mushrooms in a bowel on a dark table. Share on Pinterest
The protein, vitamins, and minerals in mushrooms may be beneficial to a person's health.

Mushrooms contain protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These can have various health benefits.

For example, antioxidants are chemicals that help the body eliminate free radicals.

Free radicals are toxic byproducts of metabolism and other bodily processes. They can accumulate in the body, and if too many collect, oxidative stress can result. This can harm the body's cells and may lead to various health conditions.

Among the antioxidant agents in mushrooms are:

Learn more about antioxidants here.

Cancer

The antioxidant content in mushrooms may help prevent lung, prostate, breast, and other types of cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Some sources have suggested that selenium may help prevent cancer, but a Cochrane review, from 2017, found no evidence to confirm this.

Mushrooms also contain a small amount of vitamin D. There is some evidence that vitamin D supplementation may help prevent or treat some kinds of cancer, though according to a 2018 report, the effect may vary from person to person.

Choline is another antioxidant in mushrooms. Some studies have suggested that consuming choline can reduce the risk of some types of cancer, but at least one other study has indicated that it may increase the risk of prostate cancer.

It is worth noting that consuming a nutrient as a supplement is not the same as consuming it in the diet.

What links are there between cancer and the diet? Find out here.

Diabetes

Dietary fiber may help manage a number of health conditions, including type 2 diabetes.

A 2018 review of meta-analyses concluded that people who eat a lot of fiber may have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. For those who already have it, fiber may help reduce blood glucose levels.

A cup of sliced, raw mushrooms, weighing 70 grams (g), provides almost 1 g of fiber.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults consume 22.4–33.6 g of dietary fiber each day, depending on sex and age.

Mushrooms, beans, some vegetables, brown rice, and whole-grain foods can all contribute to a person's daily requirement of fiber.

Try our 7-day diabetes meal plan.

Heart health

The fiber, potassium, and vitamin C in mushrooms may contribute to cardiovascular health.

Potassium can help regulate blood pressure, and this may decrease the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommend reducing the intake of added salt in the diet and eating more foods that contain potassium.

According to current guidelines, people should consume around 4,700 milligrams (mg) of potassium each day. Mushrooms appear on the AHA's list of foods that provide potassium.

A 2016 study concluded that people with a vitamin C deficiency were more likely to experience cardiovascular disease and suggested that consuming vitamin C may help prevent this illness. They did not find evidence that vitamin C supplements can reduce the risk of this type of disease.

There is some evidence that consuming a type of fiber called beta-glucans may lower blood cholesterol levels. Beta-glucans occur in the cell walls of many types of mushrooms.

The stem of the shiitake mushrooms is a good source of beta-glucans.

The Mediterranean diet includes a range of plant foods, such as mushrooms. Find out more.

In pregnancy

Many women take folic acid, or folate, supplements during pregnancy to boost fetal health, but mushrooms can also provide folate.

A cup of whole, raw mushrooms contains 16.3 micrograms (mcg) of folate. Current guidelines recommend that adults consume 400 mcg of folate each day.

What foods should you eat and avoid during pregnancy? Find out here.

Other benefits

Mushrooms are rich in B vitamins, such as:

  • riboflavin, or B-2
  • folate, or B-9
  • thiamine, or B-1
  • pantothenic acid, or B-5
  • niacin, or B-3

B vitamins help the body get energy from food and form red blood cells. A number of B vitamins also appear to be important for a healthy brain.

The choline in mushrooms can help with muscle movement, learning, and memory. Choline assists in maintaining the structure of cellular membranes and plays a role in the transmission of nerve impulses.

Mushrooms are also the only vegan, nonfortified dietary source of vitamin D.

Several other minerals that may be difficult to obtain from a vegan diet — such as selenium, potassium, copper, iron, and phosphorus — are available in mushrooms.

Many types of mushroom are edible, and most provide about the same quantities of the same nutrients per serving, regardless of their shape or size.

The table below shows how much of each nutrient a 96-g cup of whole, raw mushrooms provides. It also shows how much of each nutrient adults should consume every day, depending on their sex and age.

NutrientAmount of nutrient in 1 cup of mushroomsRecommended daily intake
Energy (calories)21.11,600–3,200
Protein (g)3.046–56
Carbohydrate (g)3.1, including 1.9 g of sugar130
Calcium (mg)2.91,000–1,300
Iron (mg)0.58–18
Magnesium (mg)8.6310–420
Phosphorus (mg)82.6700–1,250
Potassium (mg)3054,700
Sodium (mg)4.82,300
Zinc (mg)0.58–11
Copper (mcg)305890–900
Selenium (mcg)8.955
Vitamin C (mg)2.065–90
Vitamin D (mg)0.215
Folate (mcg DFE)16.3400
Choline (mg)16.6400–550
Niacin (mg)3.514–16

Mushrooms also contain a number of B vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin, B-6, and B-12.

There are around 2,000 edible varieties of mushrooms, but only a handful are available on the American market.

They include:

  • white, or "button"
  • brown cremini
  • portobello
  • shiitake
  • oyster
  • wood ear
  • enoki

Seasonal varieties available at farmer's markets and some grocery stores include:

  • morel
  • chanterelle

Some people pick wild mushrooms, but it is essential to know which are edible, as some contain deadly toxins.

Tips for buying

When buying fresh mushrooms, chose ones that are firm, dry, and unbruised. Avoid mushrooms that appear slimy or withered.

Store mushrooms in the refrigerator. A person should not wash or trim them until it is time to cook with them.

A wide range of mushroom products is available for purchase online.

Tips for serving

The Environmental Working Group, which assesses foods for their pesticide contents, placed mushrooms that grow in the U.S. in its 2019 list of the 15 cleanest foods, referring to relatively low traces of pesticides.

However, people should still wash and clean them carefully before using them to remove any soil and grit. If necessary, trim the ends of the stalks. You can use mushrooms whole, sliced, or diced.

To incorporate more mushrooms into the diet, try:

  • sauteing any type of mushroom with onions for a quick, tasty side dish
  • adding mushrooms to stir-fries
  • topping a salad with raw, sliced cremini or white mushrooms
  • stuffing and baking portobello mushrooms
  • adding sliced mushrooms to omelets, breakfast scrambles, pizzas, and quiches
  • sauteing shiitake mushrooms in olive oil or broth for a healthful side dish
  • removing the stems of portobello mushrooms, marinating the caps in a mixture of olive oil, onion, garlic, and vinegar for 1 hour, then grilling them for 10 minutes
  • adding grilled portobello mushrooms to sandwiches or wraps

To prepare dried mushrooms, leave them in water for several hours until they are soft.

Wild mushrooms can make a tasty dish, but the toxins in some mushrooms can trigger fatal health issues. Some wild mushrooms also contain high levels of heavy metals and other harmful chemicals.

To avoid these dangers, only consume mushrooms from a reliable source.

Mushrooms can be a healthful addition to a varied diet. They are easy to prepare and provide a range of nutrients.

People should only eat mushrooms from a reliable source, as some types are toxic.

Q:

Is there any way to know whether a mushroom that grows in my yard or garden is edible?

A:

Unless you are a true expert in mushroom foraging, steer clear of mushrooms growing wild in your yard or garden.

If you are even slightly unsure, do not eat them. Many mushrooms are toxic to humans and can cause death if people consume them.

Katherine Marengo LDN, RD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.