Mushrooms and Your Health
Mushrooms are delicious, but did you know they’re also good for you. Mushrooms are an
excellent source of several vitamins and minerals. However, it goes beyond that. Research into
mushrooms’ disease-fighting capabilities has been going on for decades, and the results are
fascinating. Some fungi show enormous potential in fighting cancers, diabetes, and high
Health Benefits of Mushrooms
All mushrooms contain protein, B vitamins, niacin, riboflavin, potassium, and fiber. Mushrooms
are also the only non-animal source of vitamin D. Having healthy vitamin D levels means an
improved immune system, reduced inflammation, and stronger bones.
The amount of protein in each mushroom species varies, but oyster mushrooms contain the
most, followed closely by the common white button mushroom. While the amount of protein
isn’t super high, it is significant and an important source for non-meat eaters and folks
monitoring their cholesterol intake. Oyster mushrooms have 3.3 grams of protein per ½ cup
cooked serving (white buttons have 3.1 grams). Mushrooms don’t have cholesterol, contain
minuscule amounts of fat, and are high in fiber.
Mushrooms won’t complete all your protein requirements, but they can play a significant role
without all the “bad” additional stuff, like cholesterol. Mushrooms provide a healthier alternative
to high-fat, high-cholesterol foods.
The top disease-fighting mushrooms are Reishi, Chaga, Turkey Tail, Shiitake, and Lion’s Mane.
Maybe you’ve heard of some of these, as they are getting a lot of press recently.
Reishi is packed with antioxidants, combats inflammation, and is an antihistamine. Research
also demonstrates the natural triterpenes in Reishi contribute to reduced depressive
symptoms, improved sleep, and lower anxiety levels. Because Reishi is calming, it also
contributes to a more robust immune system. The immune system is often defeated by stress,
but regular consumption of Reishi keeps the body rested, calm, and happy.
Reishi and Chaga are among the mushrooms that possess incredible immunomodulating
properties. Immune-modulating mushrooms boost the immune system as needed but are also
able to slow down overactive immune systems (the cause of autoimmune disorders like
Multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and type I diabetes). Reishi is commonly prescribed in
Eastern medicine and has been used in China for centuries to support the immune system and
Turkey tail also benefits the immune system with two unique polysaccharides, PSK & PSP.
These both improve immune responses and inhibit cancer cell growth. In Japan, turkey tail
supplements are used in conjunction with chemotherapy to fight cancer. In studies, turkey tail
improved cancer patients’ survival rates and did this without side effects. Breast cancer
patients, in particular, produced more cancer-fighting cells when they took turkey tail along
with chemotherapy and radiation.
Shiitakes, one of the most well-studied mushrooms, contains the unique compound lentinan.
This substance directly combats viruses and microbes and keeps the body healthy. Lentinan is
showing great potential in the fight against cancer, as it also boosts the immune system.
Lion’s Mane, on the other hand, provides a different type of benefit. From increased memory
function to reducing depression and anxiety, Lion’s Mane shows excellent promise. It is
currently being studied as a treatment for degenerative brain diseases. The unique compound,
Erinaceus, found only in Lion’s Mane, delays neuron cell death, which is the leading issue with
dementia and Alzheimer’s patients.
As with any new medicine, exercise caution before adding mushrooms to your regular regimen.
Lion’s Mane and Shiitake can be eaten fresh, but Chaga, Reishi, and Turkey Tail are only
available as supplements. Some people are allergic to these mushrooms but it is not common.
If you intend to take supplements to treat a specific condition, please consult a health care
There are many more mushrooms being studied, including Enoki, Agarikon, and Cordyceps.
The potential of these mushrooms is immense, especially with what they have already
demonstrated. Mushrooms are more than just a culinary delight; they are also a natural
medicine with extraordinary prospects!
- Lull C, Wichers HJ, Savelkoul HF. Antiinflammatory and immunomodulating properties
of fungal metabolites. Mediators Inflamm. 2005;2005(2):63–80. doi:10.1155/MI.2005.63
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, “Lentinan” https://www.mskcc.org/cancercare/integrative-medicine/herbs/lentinan
- The Mushroom Council: Nutrition Benefits, https://www.mushroomcouncil.com/
- Guggenheim AG, Wright KM, Zwickey HL. Immune Modulation From Five Major
Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014;13(1):32‐44.
- Spelman, Kevin & Sutherland, Elizabeth & Bagade, Aravind. (2017). Neurological Activity
of Lion’s Mane ( Hericium erinaceus ). Journal of Restorative Medicine. 6. 19-26. 10.14200/
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Chaga: https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/