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  • Writer's pictureBy Monica Divine

Why Mushroom so good for us to eat?

Mushrooms and psychedelics as medical treatment? Believe me, I was skeptical too. But did you know that mushrooms have the potential to improve your mental, physical and emotional health? Mushrooms have been used medicinally by traditional healers for thousands of years.

What is inside mushroom that makes it so special?

Mushrooms are a great source of protein, prebiotics, antioxidants, B vitamins, vitamin D and other vitamins and minerals.

They have been shown to improve mood, reduce anxiety, relieve stress, balance gut health, boost the microbiome, enhance immunity, prevent dementia, cancer, diabetes and more.

Discover how these ancient medicines can help you, your pets, your garden and the planet to be healthy, balanced and deeply resilient.

Together let’s find the answers to questions about mushrooms like:
  • What are the top medicinal mushrooms to promote health and longevity?

  • What are the benefits of mushrooms vs. pharmaceuticals?

  • What are the anti-disease properties of medicinal mushrooms?

  • How can you incorporate medicinal mushrooms into your daily routine?

  • Get answers to these and many more questions!

In one startling study, researchers found that women who consumed at least one cooked fresh mushroom per day were 64% less likely to develop breast cancer.

Other studies have found that mushrooms can be good for your immune system, mental clarity, cardiovascular health, digestive system - and they might even help prevent premature balding!

But which mushrooms are best? How much do you need? How can you make them taste good? And what are mushrooms, anyway?

Mushrooms have been eaten and used medicinally for thousands of years, all around the world. Ancient Egyptians considered mushrooms to be plants of immortality and recognized them as a gift from the god Osiris.

They valued mushrooms so highly, only the royals were allowed to consume them; commoners were forbidden to touch, much less eat them.

Based on the details of ancient rock paintings, some historians think that the use of magic mushrooms was alive and well in 9.000 BC among indigenous populations of North Africa. (I don’t know where those cave artists found tie-dye paint, but you can’t argue with science!) Furthermore, statues and art thought to represent mushrooms have been found in Mayan and Aztec ruins in Central America, establishing their ceremonial importance in the Americas over many thousands of years.

Today, mushrooms are growing in popularity worldwide due to their nutritional properties and versatile uses in the kitchen. While annual consumption of mushrooms in the United States stabilized at an average of three pounds per person in the decade ending in 2015, the market has been growing steadily since and is projected to grow even faster globally over the next several years.

But what makes mushrooms so special? Are they good for the environment too? And what about poisonous and psychedelic mushrooms? How do you avoid the former and not take the latter by accident?

MUSHROOM are mainly found in forests and areas with a lot of moisture. They are classified as a saprophage (a fancy word of Greek origin, meaning “eats rotting stuff”), and therefore don’t have chlorophyll, so they don’t required sunlight to grow.

Saprophages tend to grow in peat, on logs or trees, and in soil, and thrive in moist environments by extracting nutrients from dead and decaying plant and animal matter.

Although mushrooms are often lumped together with vegetables and other plants, technically, they aren’t plants at all. Mushrooms are fungi — as are yeasts and molds. Fungi get their own kingdom, just like plants and animals.

There are two big differences between the two kingdoms. Plants make their own food via photosynthesis, while fungi take in their food from the outside, just as animals do.

Also, plant cell walls are made up of cellulose, as opposed to the cithin that makes up the cell walls of fungi (and interestingly, the exoskeletons of insects and the scales of fish). So next time you include mushrooms in a veggie stir-fry, take time to appreciate the fact that members of such different biological kingdoms get along so well together.

What we call a mushroom is technically the fruiting body of a type of fungus. It’s made up of three parts: the stipe (stem), the pileus (cap), and the lamellae (gills). The “seeds” of the mushroom “fruit” are its spores, which form a network of microscopic rooting threads called mycelium. This is a mass of thread-like branches that the mushrooms use to decompose nearby plant material in order to extract nutrients.

Mycelium can live for many years,

communicating with other plants and sending up its annual crop of mushrooms.

The mycelium can be small and compact, or can span underground over thousands of acres with mushrooms popping up out of the ground sporadically or in clusters.

The world’s largest organism is thought to be a mycelium network belonging to a mushroom technically called Armillaria ostoyae, or commonly known as the honey mushroom, found in Malheur National Forest, Oregon. How enormous is it? This mushroom’s mycelium network covers two square miles and is around 8,650 years old. So if you ever get tired of knock-knock jokes, you can try this riddle: “What’s two and a half miles across, 8,650 years old, and lives in Oregon?”

Types of Edible Mushrooms

There are approximately 14,000 different species of mushroom, which includes edible, inedible, poisonous, and psychoactive. Out of the 300 edible species, 30 have been domesticated, and 10 are commonly grown commercially for consumers. The most common edible mushrooms are:

  • White (includes white button, Portobello, and cremini)

  • Oyster

  • Shitake

  • Enoki

  • Lion’s Mane

  • Turkey Tail

  • Hen of the Woods

  • Beech

  • Chanterelle

  • Porcini

  • Morel

You have likely seen many of these either at the grocery store or perhaps used in dishes on a restaurant menu.

Mushroom Nutrition

Did you know that it is better to eat mushroom cooked so that the important enzymes in the mushroom can be activated. So please cook your mushroom.

In case you’re under the impression that ordinary white mushrooms are like white rice and white flour — devoid of nutrients — let me reassure you. The common button mushroom is actually one of the most nutritious varieties out there. In fact, no matter what type of edible species you choose, mushrooms are tremendously nutritious, adding a wide range of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to your diet.

One cup (108 grams) of sliced white mushrooms offers the following nutritional composition:

  • Calories: 28

  • Protein: 4 grams

  • Total Carbohydrates: 4.4 grams

  • Dietary Fiber: 2 grams

  • Total Sugar: 0 grams

  • Total Fat: 0.4 grams

  • Riboflavin: 29% of the Daily Value (DV)

  • Niacin: 22% of the DV

  • Pantothenic Acid: 16% of the DV

  • Folate: 5% of the DV

  • Thiamin: 7% of the DV

  • Selenium: 21% of the DV

  • Copper: 16% of the DV

  • Potassium: 12% of the DV

  • Phosphorus: 11% of the DV

  • Zinc: 4% of the DV

  • Manganese: 3% of the DV

  • Magnesium: 3% of the DV

  • Iron: 2% of the DV

Interestingly, mushrooms share a nutrition-related benefit with humans. That single cup serving also contains approximately 23 IU of vitamin D2. We humans aren’t the only clever organism that produces vitamin D in our skin when exposed to direct sunlight; mushroom can do the same. (Admittedly, however, 23 IU of vitamin D is only about 6% of your daily value, so although the vitamin D in mushrooms is a fun fact, you’re probably better off getting sunshine or considering supplementation, unless eating 4 pounds of mushrooms per day is your idea of a good time.)

Mushrooms are also a rich source of antioxidants that counteract the damaging effects of free radicals. And certain types of mushrooms have been studied for their medicinal benefits, including boosting your immune defense, supporting brain health, regulating blood sugar levels, and improving exercise performance.

Now, let’s take a deeper dive into their array of benefits.

7 Benefits of the Mushroom for our health and wellbeing are:

1. They are good for your immune system

In a 2011 study led by researchers at the University of Florida, participants who ate a four-ounce serving of shiitake mushrooms each day for four weeks had better-functioning gamma delta T-cells and reductions in inflammatory proteins. The researchers concluded that regular mushroom consumption could enhance the immune system while reducing excessive inflammation.

Vegans and vegetarians were excluded from the study, as were people who already were eating at least seven daily servings of fruits and vegetables, under the assumption that they probably already had powerful immune systems. So the study didn’t tell us how much marginal improvement you might expect if you add shiitakes to an already plant-based diet. We do know that mushrooms are also a rich source of compounds called beta-glucans, which activate leukocytes — or white blood cells — to help fight off foreign substances and diseases

2. They may have anti-aging properties

Mushrooms are high in antioxidants, compounds that fight the free radicals and oxidative stress that are responsible for damage to cells from diseases like cancer, coronary heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and dementia.

A study conducted by Penn State University in 2017 found that mushrooms are especially high in two antioxidants, ergothioneine and glutathione. And some species contain more than others. While the research is preliminary, Porcini mushrooms appear to be the best source of these two antioxidants. And another piece of good news is that levels of ergothioneine and glutathione are unaffected by cooking.

For you history and etymology buffs out there, ergothioneine got its name from the fungus from which it was first purified in 1909: ergot.

This toxic fungus may have been partially responsible for a lot of the crazy that was perpetrated at the Salem witch trials in the late 17th century. Scholars have suggested that the moldy ergot grew on rye that was planted just before a cold winter and harvested after a wet spring. And those who ate the bread made from the grain likely suffered convulsions and hallucinations.

Once the grain ran out, the trials quickly ceased. But don’t worry — the ergothioneine in edible mushrooms won’t make you see witches.

3. They may have anticancer properties

Researchers from the University of Western Australia in Perth conducted a study of 2,000 Chinese women, roughly half of whom had suffered from breast cancer.

The scientists reviewed the women’s eating habits and factored out other variables that contribute to cancer, such as being overweight, lack of exercise, and smoking.

They found that those women who consuming at least a third of an ounce of fresh mushrooms every day (about one mushroom per day) were 64% less likely to develop breast cancer. In the study, dried mushrooms had a slightly less protective effect, reducing the risk by around half.

Other research has found that white button mushroom powder was able to significant lower prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, levels in men previously treated for prostate cancer. This may indicate a potential preventive application to reduce the risk of prostate cancer recurrence.

4. They may protect brain health and cognition

In a 2016 animal study published in the International Journal of Molecular Science, researchers examined the effects on the brain of H. erinaceus, or Lion’s Mane, a species of edible and medicinal mushroom. Researchers found that when some very unfortunate mice with chemically-induced Alzheimer’s disease were given Lion’s Mane extract, they experienced reduced free radicals, blocked calcium overload, improved endurance, and reduced escape time in an ethically disturbing water maze test.

Lion’s Mane was also the focus of a 2017 animal study, in which researchers found that supplementation given to healthy mice boosted neuronal function and improved recognition memory. And in a 2018 study published in Behavioural Neurology, researchers found that Lion’s Mane promotes positive brain health by inducing nerve growth factor, which may help improve outcomes of ischemic stroke (the one caused by a blockage preventing blood from reaching the brain), Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and depression if included in daily meals.

5. They are good for your heart

Mushrooms are rich in the amino acid ergothioneine, which has been associated with a lower risk for heart disease. In a 2019 study published in BMJ, researchers looked at the blood chemistry of 3,236 participants over 21 years, and found that higher levels of ergothioneine were associated with lower risk for heart disease diagnosis and mortality.

Furthermore, the researchers found that higher levels of ergothioneine can likely be supported by eating a diet rich in this amino acid, of which mushrooms are a significant source. Other research has shown the reishi (G. lucidum) species of mushroom to offer specific cardioprotective effects because of its antioxidant activity.

6. They are good for your gut and digestive system

Research shows that mushrooms act as a prebiotc— providing food for probiotics — and can help to stimulate the healthy balance and growth of your gut microbiota. They improve and regulate the microbiome, which is critically important to overall health. Studies have found that gut microbiota has a significant role in regulating disease like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, pneumococcal pneumonia, gut conditions, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and possibly even neurodegenerative diseases.

7. They may stimulate hair growth

Some varieties of mushrooms have even been found to promote healthy growth of hair follicles. For instance, chagas are commonly used as shampoo in Mongolia to maintain healthy hair. Seeking to determine whether there was any science to back up this traditional Mongolian practice, researchers conducted a 2019 study that was published in the Journal of Natural Medicines.

The researchers found that chagas were indeed a potential candidate for hair health applications and had a stimulative effect on hair follicle cells in a petri dish, doing more for the cells than an FDA-approved hair-growth drug, minoxidil. Whether or not eating mushrooms will beat Rogaine in giving you a shaggy mane, however, is still unknown.

Mushrooms have a symbiotic, or mutualistic, relationship with other plants.

Fungi that work synergistically with plants are called mycorrhizae. Here’s how it works: fungi colonize the roots of a host plant, helping them access and absorb more nutrients and water. In return, the plant provides the fungi with carbohydrates made through photosynthesis. Both also benefit from increased protection from pathogens.

Not all mushrooms are edible.

In fact, many wild types are poisonous. So before you go foraging for mushrooms in the wild, make sure you know which types are safe to eat. Poisonous mushrooms can cause a wide array of symptoms, ranging from mild gastric upset to death.

One of the most treasured and delicious wild mushroom varieties, chanterelle, has a similar orange hue to the toxic JACK-O-LANTERN (Omphalotus olearius), although only the Jack-O-Lantern glows at night. So unless you’re a mushroom identification expert, it’s best to stick to the ones you can find at the grocery store or farmers market.


Psychedelic mushrooms contain a naturally-occurring compound called psilocybin that gives them their “magical” effects, which can be described as inducing an altered state of consciousness. Even in small doses, magic mushrooms can alter your sense perception and have hallucinogenic effects.

Raw mushrooms may contain toxins

Certain raw edible mushrooms — including popular varieties like the white button mushroom — appear to have a naturally-occurring compound called argaratine, which may have toxicological or even potentially carcinogenic effects. Agaratine is destroyed by heat, so it’s always a good idea to cook mushrooms, and refrain from eating them raw, to be on the safe side.

Mushroom Recipes

Whether you’re using mushrooms as a flavorful topper to a meal, a featured ingredient in chili, or as a juicy, rich “steak” on its own, they’re sure to please your palate while optimizing your health. Below we feature three types of mushrooms. If you’re new to mushrooms, you can start with just one. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, try all three! You’ll experience the magical flavors, unique textures, and health benefits that mushrooms have to offer.

Hooray for Amazing Mushrooms!

Tell us in the comments:

  • Do you eat mushrooms? What’s your favorite way to enjoy them?

  • Have you ever used medicinal mushrooms? What was your experience?

  • If you’re new to mushrooms, in what ways are you intrigued to try them?


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