Mushrooms are suddenly everywhere (even in coffee and chocolate).
Mushrooms are having a moment. They've popped up on several lists (penned by both dietitians and chefs) as an “it” food for 2019. And they're starring in an array of new products, from burgers and jerky to coffee and chocolate.
From a nutrition perspective, 'shrooms(the legal kind) certainly live up to the hype. In addition to being very low in calories (just 15-20 per cup), they're rich in antioxidants, and a handful of key nutrients.
Health benefits of mushrooms
These veggies from the fungi kingdom deliver a long list of powerful perks. For starters, they provide energy-boosting B vitamins, as well as potassium, which supports healthy blood pressure, heart function, and muscle contractions. Potassium also prevents muscle cramps, and helps maintain muscle mass.
A nutrient in mushrooms called choline plays an important role in sleep, memory, learning, and muscle movement. Meanwhile, the copper in mushrooms is involved in the production of energy and collagen. Copper is also needed to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body.
Mushrooms are a source of selenium, too. This essential mineral appears to help ward off depression, anxiety, and fatigue; and it stimulates the production of immune cells that fight infections. The antiviral and antibacterial properties of mushrooms support the immune system as well. And the antioxidants found in mushrooms protect cells from damage that can lead to disease. Mushrooms have also been shown to help reduce inflammation, a known trigger of premature aging, illness, and cognitive decline.
The fiber in mushrooms helps boost satiety, improve insulin function, and curb appetite. And last but not least, mushrooms exposed to sunlight or UV-rays are the only plant source of vitamin D.
Getting more of this superfood in your diet isn't too challenging because 'shrooms are so versatile. You can buy them fresh and incorporate them into omelets, salads, stir-fries, soups, and even smoothies. Or, you can sample the growing number of mushroom products on the market. Check out five of my top picks below.
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets.