by Jenna Koroly, MS, RD, CSOWM, CDN
There exist a multitude of mushroom varieties, including the white button, crimini, shiitake, and portobello, in addition to innumerable inedible varieties. One cup of raw white mushrooms contains 15 calories, 2 g protein, 2 g carbohydrates, and 0 g fat. Mushrooms are rich in certain B vitamins, such as riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid, as well as the mineral copper. They are a good source of phosphorus, potassium, and selenium, and even have a bit of vitamin D.
Selenium, which is not often found in produce, has antioxidant properties, and may be associated with a decreased risk of certain cancers [ii]. In addition, the cell walls of shiitake, reishi, and maitake mushrooms are made up of two types of fibers: beta-glucans and chitin. Although both of these fibers promote satiety, beta-glucans in particular may lower cholesterol levels and improve blood glucose control [iii]. Low in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals, mushrooms make a great choice for meal additions or snack options to promote healthy weight loss or maintenance.
Medicinal Mushrooms for Adjuvant Cancer Therapy
Two varieties of mushrooms being studied for cancer treatment are turkey tail and reishi. Turkey tail mushrooms contain a compound called polysaccharide K (PSK), which is an approved product to treat cancer in Japan. PSK (as a tea or in capsule form) has been used as adjuvant therapy since the mid-1970s and has shown benefits in colorectal, breast, gastric, and lung cancer patients. Studies on reishi mushrooms have been conducted in Japan and China, finding a benefit of reishi (as an extract in liquid, capsule, or powder form) as adjuvant therapy to strengthen the immune systems of individuals with lung cancer, as well as for prevention of colorectal cancer in those with benign tumors. Neither turkey tail nor reishi have been approved for use in the United States [iv].
Ways to Eat
Try slicing white mushrooms (or buying pre-sliced), seasoning them with olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, and parsley, and roasting them in the oven for 25 minutes on 400 degrees, or to desired consistency. Go plant-based but keep a meaty consistency by preparing a portobello mushroom burger, or create a stuffed portobello mushroom filled with egg, spinach, basil, mozzarella cheese, and tomato sauce. Experiment with mushrooms using our Savor Cooks recipe, coming to our blog soon!
[i] Mushrooms, white, raw. Retrieved from https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2482/2.
[ii] Selenium. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Selenium-HealthProfessional/.
[iii] Webb D, 2014. Betting on beta-glucans. Today’s Dietitian, 16(5), p. 16. Retrieved from https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/050114p16.shtml.
[iv] Medicinal Mushrooms (PDQ)-Patient Version. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/patient/mushrooms-pdq.