By Lisa Aparicio, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor
❌ Myth: Only hippies eat mushrooms.
✔️ Truth: Mushrooms have many health benefits for everyone!
Have you ever tried mushrooms? Yes, the brown/white earthy button looking fungi.
I understand if you might feel a little uncertain about them or look at them in disgust. I was once there too!
Surprisingly, it turns out mushrooms are unique fungi that have various health benefits. We know mushrooms come in both poisonous and nonpoisonous forms but of course this blog will focus on the non-toxic, edible shroomies that will positively impact your life!
What makes mushrooms so great!?
Mushrooms contain a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which provides us with a wide range of benefits such as support for our immune system, contributes to brain health, and even aids in stress reduction.
Mushrooms are low in fat, sodium, and are a good source of fiber. They are an excellent source of zinc, potassium, selenium, copper, B vitamins, and even vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Mushrooms are packed with antioxidants which help keep our cells healthy.
General Benefits of Mushrooms:
- Supports memory & focus
- Improves immune system response
- Boost energy
- May reduce anxiety & stress
- Anti-inflammatory power
- Protects against age-related cognitive decline
Enough with the general information. Let’s talk about which mushrooms would be most beneficial for a college student:
- Lion’s mane: A large white mushroom that resembles a lion’s mane. Helps increase Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) levels, which protects us against degenerative brain diseases. Lion’s mane is well known for improving memory and focus. It may also reduce irritability and anxiety. It also has immune-boosting benefits.
- Chaga: A rusty orange with a black charcoal covering. Boosts immunity by stimulating white blood cells. Chaga is rich in zinc which helps our immune system fight off bacteria and viruses.
- Reishi: a deep red, sometimes orange color. Supports a state of calmness. Contains active compounds shown to help reduce stress, improve sleep, boost mood, and mental focus. Also, enhances the immune system.
- Shiitake: Tastes great! A great source of B vitamins and have antiviral and antibacterial properties. Help boost immune function, improve cell function, gut immunity, and reduce inflammation. May help to lower cholesterol.
The most commonly used mushrooms that you may already know of and have tried before are cremini or portobello mushrooms. These types of mushrooms contain selenium which help our body make antioxidant enzymes to prevent cell damage.
I encourage you to try any natural mushroom that can be bought at your local grocery store. Mushrooms have a delicate flavor and a meaty texture. They work great as an added ingredient or even as the main component of a dish. Try them in a new recipe or add them to your favorite dish.
Popular ways to add more mushrooms to your diet:
- Pizza topping
- Salad toppings
- Use in pasta sauce
- Stir-fry with other vegetables and/or source of protein
- In an omelet or egg scramble
How could you include a mushroom into your favorite dish?
My favorite is mushroom tacos with shiitake and portobellos!
PSA: Remember to always do your research before trying any new supplements.