Mushrooms are renowned for their beneficial properties, now more than ever. Food stores host a wide variety of types, each with their own distinct advantages.
With so many options, finding the healthiest mushrooms may seem difficult. That’s where we come in. This list highlights 12 of the most beneficial mushrooms and why they’re so significant.
White Button Mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus)
These mushrooms are the most common choice. You’ll find them at most grocery stores and farmers markets. You will also see brown versions of the mushrooms, which have similar health implications.
They might be common, but don’t dismiss these little mushrooms.
- They’re packed full of essential nutrients, such as B vitamins and potassium (1).
- White mushrooms are even the most nutritionally dense mushrooms (2).
- They contain selenium, which has been linked to cancer fighting.
- They’re low in calories too, making them an ideal ingredient in weight loss recipes.
- The mushrooms can be a good protein source too. While you’re not getting much protein per mushroom, the protein percentage per calorie is appealing (3).
They also contain conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has cancer-fighting potential (4,5). Indeed, white mushrooms have been directly linked to reducing cancer risk (6).
These mushrooms might be mistaken as a different type – but they’re simply the fully mature version of button mushrooms. As such, portobello mushrooms offer the same general benefits, including cancer-fighting potential and immune-boosting properties.
However, the size and shape of portobello mushrooms make them particularly versatile. They also have a meaty texture and hold together well. This is why you find them in many unique recipes.
Shiitake Mushrooms (Lentinula edodes)
Shiitake mushrooms are the next most common choice, after button mushrooms. They’re well-known for their medicinal properties – with medicinal use in China and Japan dating back thousands of years.
Shiitakes have been linked to other health properties, including:
- Promoting immune system function (7).
- Improving survivability and quality of life for cancer patients (8,9).
- Antioxidant functions.
- Commonly used to protect the liver and improve heart health.
While human impacts are still being studied, researchers have isolated antibiotic, anti-cancer and antiviral compounds from shiitake mushrooms (10).
Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatu)
Oyster mushrooms are another common species, getting their name from their broad caps, which resemble oysters. The mushrooms are cultivated throughout the world and can also be found in the wild.
The species is sometimes considered a delicacy, often used in Chinese, Japanese and Korean dishes. Health benefits include the potential to fight cancer and HIV (11,12).
Golden Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus citrinopileatus)
A related species is the golden oyster mushrooms, which tend to be cultivated. They’re one of the easiest mushroom species to grow and are a significant source of antioxidants (13).
The species may also lower blood sugar levels and improve cholesterol (14,15).
Porcini Mushroom (Boletus edulis)
These mushrooms are large with a noticeable cap that can reach a diameter of up to 12 inches. They’re a gourmet mushroom that is particularly popular in Italian cooking.
Like some other species, the mycelia of porcini mushrooms form symbiotic relationships with plant roots. This may result in more health benefits, but also makes the mushroom difficult to cultivate.
As a result, the mushroom can be hard to find, mostly appearing in specialty markets. Foragers can find the mushroom in hardwood forests, especially where the undergrowth is mulchy.
Maitake Mushroom (Grifola frondosa)
Like many mushrooms, maitake is an adaptogen. Adaptogens are critical for resisting all types of stress (16) and are thought to help the body to find balance (17,18).
This effect is why maitake is often linked to immune system support.
Studies have also shown that maitake may help fight cancer (19,20,21), decrease blood sugar levels (22), improve immune function (23) and decrease cholesterol levels (24).
There are multiple chanterelle species, which come from the genus Cantharellus. The most common mushroom to use the term is Cantharellus cibarius, which is a golden chanterelle found in Europe.
The mushrooms contain many beneficial nutrients, including iron, potassium, vitamin D, phosphorous and B-vitamins (25). They’re also a key source of beta-carotene (an important carotenoid for eye health) and contain significant fiber (26).
This is another species that forms symbiotic relationships, making it difficult to cultivate. Care needs to be taken when foraging too, as there are multiple similar-looking species that are poisonous.
Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)
Reishi is an especially popular mushroom in traditional medicine – and is often associated with longevity (27,28).
It has been linked to various effects, including decreasing inflammation, fighting cancer (29), improving the immune system (30) and improving liver health (31,32,33).
You’ll even find Ganoderma lucidum extract included in some types of coffee, including coffee from Organo Gold. More research is needed before we know how effective the extract is when used in this way.
Shimeji is a group of mushrooms, rather than a single species.
The mushrooms are a good source of nutrients, including fiber, protein and B-vitamins. They also have cancer-fighting properties and may help to improve the immune system (34).
Like all mushrooms, this species is considered a prebiotic. This means that some of the compounds present act as food for healthy bacteria in our gut.
Black Truffle (Tuber melanosporum)
Black truffles are a coveted mushroom, with a unique flavor. The rarity of the mushroom is a key reason for its popularity.
Research shows that black truffles also contain a compound called anandamide. This acts as a mood enhancer that can also decrease depression and sense of pain (35,36).
Chaga Mushroom (Inonotus obliquus)
You mightn’t recognize chaga at first, as the mushroom looks like a black piece of burnt wood or charcoal. This is partly because the fruiting component of the mushroom is located inside of the host tree.
Chaga isn’t consumed as a mushroom either. Instead, it is normally grated to form a powder and then brewed like a herbal tea.
The mushroom is particularly significant as a source of phytonutrients, including ones that you wouldn’t normally get in your diet. The site Annanda Chaga offers details about the individual components and their health implications.
Potential health benefits include the ability to fight cancer, to improve the immune system and to decrease blood sugar (37,38,39,40). The mushroom also contains many antioxidants (41).
Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
Lion’s Mane is most popular for nootropic functions – helping to boost brain functions, motivation and creativity. The site GreenMedinfo goes into these effects in more detail.
Which is Best?
In many ways, the humble white mushroom is the best for health, simply because of its nutrient density and how easy it is to find. But, the other types of mushroom all offer some distinct benefits too.
The best approach is to include a variety of types in your diet. This gives you the best selection of nutrients. Besides, they all have distinctive flavor profiles. They’re worth using for that reason alone.
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