Mushrooms: Power House of Health Benefiting Nutrients

The word mushrooms always invite mixed reactions. While the young treat them with modernity, the traditional still find it difficult to accept them as part of vegetarian cuisine. To be very precise mushrooms belong to a class of fungi. They survive by drawing nutrients from decaying animal and plant matter. They absorb nutrients and other minerals from sources on which they grow. Similar to cheese, mushrooms contribute to exotic quotient of vegetarian dishes. Many of the commonly known mushrooms come under the genus ‘Agaricus’ and scientifically termed as saprophytes as they do not contain chlorophyll.



Mushrooms (Image source:

Mushrooms are found in different colours, shapes, textures and properties. There are a few thousand known species of mushrooms among which 50% are inedible, and very few species (around 1%) are poisonous and can even kill you. Only 4% out of them are actually edible and taste good. Shiitake, Crimini, Maitake, Enoki, Portobello,  and Oyster are few mushroom varieties which are well known for their excellent taste and health benefits.


Heath benefits of mushrooms

Mushrooms are low in calories while packed with health promoting nutrients like Potassium, Copper, Magnesium, Selenium, Iron, Zinc, Phosphorus, RIboflavin, Niacin, Thiamin, etc. Here we talk about some of the many health benefits of mushrooms.


Mushrooms boost your immunity system: A good combination of vitamin A, B-complex and C in mushrooms strengthen the immune system of our body. Ergothioneine, a strong antioxidant found in mushrooms helps to fight against free radicals and keep you young. They are also full of antibiotic properties which works against fungal and microbial infections.


Prostrate cancer and breast cancer: The mushrooms contain Beta-Glucans and also conjugated Linoleic acid which are known for their anti-cancer properties. After menopause, estrogen levels fluctuate in women and the linoleic acid is helpful in suppressing the effects caused by estrogen. Another very important component present in mushrooms is Selenium. It has the capacity to inhibit or check the growth of cancerous cells.


Cholesterol level: Mushrooms have zero cholesterol and low carbohydrates in them and they provide lean protein. The presence of few enzymes and the fibre helps to lower the cholesterol level. One more interesting thing to note is that lean protein in mushrooms helps to burn the cholesterol in the food after it is digested.


Diabetes: As mushrooms can be categorized into low calorie foods, they are very useful for diabetic patients. They comprise of natural insulin and also those enzymes which help in breaking down of starch or sugar present in the food. They contain components which influence the production of insulin. The presence of natural antibiotics helps in reducing infections of limbs and other organs in diabetic people.


Weight loss: well, this is one aspect which many of us will be interested to know. You can build muscle mass and lose fat by consuming mushrooms. Fats in the food break down the proteins present in the food especially when the protein is associated with low carbohydrate, cholesterol and fat free food like that of what mushrooms offer. The protein content in mushrooms is higher than what is normally found in wheat, rice and many of the vegetables.


Anti-inflammation: Porcini variety of mushrooms contains a compound called ergosterol which attacks the enemy cells and has anti-inflammatory properties.


Asthama: Shimeji mushrooms are known to help in the reduction of symptoms caused by Asthma. As per the research done by the National Cancer Institute of Japan, Shimeji variety contains beta-glucans which is proven to inhibit and destroy cancer causing tumours.


Selection, storing and Consumption tips:

Look for firm, clean and fleshy mushrooms. They should not be spotted and should be free from slime. Since mushrooms are very porous, clean the mushrooms with minimal water as they have the tendency to absorb water and become saggy. Mushroom cleaning brushes may be used if you can spot them in popular kitchen stores.


It is better to buy mushrooms from reputed companies. Although expensive, look for organically certified varieties where you are sure of quality. Mushrooms should be stored at 5oC and should be consumed within a week of their packing. Canned mushrooms can be stored for around six months.


You should always remember the fact that mushrooms should be never eaten raw. Cooking helps to cut down the toxins present in the mushrooms. They have to be boiled, grilled or sautéed for best results. The most popular method of consuming mushrooms is to mix them with vegetable and cooking.


Asian cooking mostly uses Shiitake mushrooms while Crimini mushrooms are popular among Europe and America.


Restrictions in use

Some of the mushrooms promote uric acid formation and excessive consumption of mushrooms may lead to kidney stones or gout condition in some people. Hence people with kidney problems should consume mushrooms in a restricted manner.


Cultivation of mushrooms

Mushroom growing has become a cottage industry and several entrepreneurs grow them specifically to supply them to big supermarkets and restaurants. The climatic conditions in India are highly suitable for mushroom cultivation. It has evolved into a profitable industry because of its good yield and short duration of cultivation. An average yield of 10-15 kg/100kg of compost is obtained by good growers within a period of 8-9 weeks. In India the most commonly produced mushroom varieties are Paddy straw mushrooms, Oyester mushrooms and White button mushrooms.


If you are interested in growing mushrooms at home, there are three simple steps namely composting (development of substrate), spawning which implies sowing the mushroom seedlings known as spawns and finally triggering the conversion from vegetative condition to reproductive phase which makes them suitable for consumption.