Benefits of mushrooms and why you should include them in your diet
Sloane Kaye, registered dietician at Providence St. Joseph Hospital
Oftentimes, mushrooms are mistakenly grouped as vegetables. In reality, they belong to their own kingdom altogether—the fungi kingdom. Fungi are incredibly versatile creatures with great diversity. Not only do they decompose and recycle all organic matter, but they’re also crucial to making beer, wine, cheese, bread, and the advent of penicillin. And yet, we’ve only scratched the surface!
Mushrooms have been consumed and used in medicine for thousands of years. There are dozens of varieties of mushrooms, specifically those that fall in the adaptogen category. Adaptogens are certain herbs or mushrooms that stabilize and support the body’s physiological processes. They are especially helpful for combating fatigue, sharpening the mind, and providing overall wellness. Nutrients gained through adaptogens include, vitamin D, potassium, copper, and several B vitamins. The following are a few common adaptogen mushrooms:
• Shiitake: Contains all the essential amino acids and offers an umami-rich, meat-like texture.
• Maitake: The mushroom has been traditionally used in Japan and in China as part of a way to treat diabetes and hypertension.
• Lion’s Mane: Research has found that this mushroom may protect against dementia, reduce mild symptoms of anxiety and depression, and also help repair nerve damage.
• Reishi: It has been used to help enhance the immune system, reduce stress, improve sleep and decrease fatigue.
When it comes to consumption, it’s best to sauté mushrooms quickly over high heat, or simmer over low heat to preserve the nutrients. You can add mushrooms to omelets, salads, stir-fries, pasta sauces, or soups. Moreover, mushrooms are a great replacement for meat because of their umami-rich flavor. Don’t forget to venture out to your local farmer’s market or grocery store and incorporate this superfood into your diet!