Mushroom: Top Benefits & Side Effects

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated - Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)

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Mushrooms are known for their nutritive value as they are a good source of antioxidants, selenium, vitamins like vitamin B, and fiber. They are included in several weight management plans due to their low content of carbohydrates and calories. Mushrooms may also help reduce the risk of metabolic diseases, aid in weight loss, and improve cognitive health.

They take center stage in fairy-tales such as Alice in Wonderland; they are even featured in video games such as Super Mario Brothers where they make someone bigger in size or act as a shield against dangerous monsters. These aren’t just popular culture references, they are symbolic representations of the actual health benefits of mushrooms. Let us look at them in detail.

What are Mushrooms?

Mushrooms are edible fungi with various scientific names; their family name is ‘Agaricus’. They are essentially saprophytes, the organisms (plants without chlorophyll) which thrive by extracting nutrients from dead and decaying plant and animal matter. They vary greatly in their color, texture, shape, and properties.

A white plate filled with white mushrooms on a wooden table

White button mushrooms are favored for their low calorie and low carb content. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

There are approximately 140,000 species of mushroom-forming fungi in the world. However, scientists are only familiar with about 10 percent, and only 100 species or so are being studied for their potential health benefits and medicinal applications. According to the Mushroom Council, popular edible mushrooms include:

Some mushrooms are used medicinally or steeped to have mushroom coffee or mushroom tea such as reishi, chaga, and turkey tail mushrooms.

Nutrition Facts

Mushrooms, white, raw
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]92.45
Energy [kcal]22
Energy [kJ]93
Protein [g]3.09
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.34
Ash [g]0.85
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]3.26
Fiber, total dietary [g]1
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]1.98
Glucose (dextrose) [g]1.48
Fructose [g]0.17
Calcium, Ca [mg]3
Iron, Fe [mg]0.5
Magnesium, Mg [mg]9
Phosphorus, P [mg]86
Potassium, K [mg]318
Sodium, Na [mg]5
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.52
Copper, Cu [mg]0.32
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.05
Selenium, Se [µg]9.3
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]2.1
Thiamin [mg]0.08
Riboflavin [mg]0.4
Niacin [mg]3.61
Pantothenic acid [mg]1.5
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.1
Folate, total [µg]17
Folate, food [µg]17
Folate, DFE [µg]17
Choline, total [mg]17.3
Betaine [mg]9.4
Vitamin B-12 [µg]0.04
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.01
Tocopherol, beta [mg]0.01
Tocopherol, gamma [mg]0.01
Tocopherol, delta [mg]0.01
Tocotrienol, alpha [mg]0.05
Vitamin D (D2 + D3), International Units [IU]7
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]0.2
Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) [µg]0.2
Vitamin K (Dihydrophylloquinone) [µg]1
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.05
16:0 [g]0.04
18:0 [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.16
18:2 [g]0.16
Campesterol [mg]2
Tryptophan [g]0.04
Threonine [g]0.11
Isoleucine [g]0.08
Leucine [g]0.12
Lysine [g]0.11
Methionine [g]0.03
Cystine [g]0.01
Phenylalanine [g]0.09
Tyrosine [g]0.04
Valine [g]0.23
Arginine [g]0.08
Histidine [g]0.06
Alanine [g]0.2
Aspartic acid [g]0.2
Glutamic acid [g]0.34
Glycine [g]0.09
Proline [g]0.08
Serine [g]0.09
Sources include : USDA

Nutritional Value

Mushrooms are favored in weight loss diets as they are low-calorie and low-carb food. A cup of raw, white button mushrooms contains just 15.4 calories and 2 grams of carbohydrate. , They are also a good source of vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, B-vitamins (niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, folate), vitamin D, selenium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and sodium.

Health Benefits of Mushrooms

Let us look at the important benefits of mushrooms.

Rich In Antioxidants

Mushrooms have significant antioxidant properties due to their bioactive compounds, such as polyphenols, polysaccharides, vitamins, carotenoids, and minerals. A 2017 Penn State study suggested that mushrooms have an unusually high amount of two important antioxidants, ergothioneine and glutathione. Antioxidants help rid the body of toxic free radicals and bring down oxidative stress levels, thus reducing the risk of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases among others. Researchers found that the amounts of ergothioneine and glutathione in mushrooms vary by species. Porcini, a wild variety, contains the highest amount of the two compounds among the 13 species tested by the researchers.

Also, mushrooms are one of the richest plant-sources of selenium, a vital antioxidant, but the content depends on the soil in which they are cultivated.

Anti-cancer Properties

Different varieties of mushrooms, mushroom powder, and mushroom extract are used in Japan and China as adjuvant therapy for cancer. According to NIH, some of the more common ones are reishi, turkey tail, shiitake, and maitake mushrooms. Compounds such as Polysaccharide K (PSK) in turkey tail mushrooms have been studied in patients with lung cancer, breast cancer, gastric or stomach cancer, and colorectal cancer.

Researchers in Japan studied the results from 8 randomized controlled trials in 8,009 patients who had surgery to remove gastric cancers. After surgery, patients in the trials were given chemotherapy with or without PSK. The results published in 2007 suggest that receiving chemotherapy and PSK helped patients live longer after surgery. PSK is an approved cancer therapy product in Japan. However, the USFDA has not approved the use of turkey tail, or its active compound PSK, as a treatment for cancer or any other medical condition.

Meanwhile, the Cancer Research UK website has listed laboratory studies that show that a shiitake extract, lentinan, seems to slow the growth of certain cancer cells. Larger scale studies are required to know how the extracts can help people with cancer.

Weight Management

Many varieties like portobello have a meaty taste, making them a favored choice with vegetarians and vegans. Their low-calorie, low-carb content also makes them a preferred choice among people who are following the ketogenic diet or the paleo diet. A review published in 2008 studied the impact of substituting mushrooms for higher calorie food, beef, in a 4-day diet intervention for overweight or obese adults. While the volume of food was similar, the energy content of meat and mushroom lunches varied (783 calories versus 339 calories). While there were no differences in ratings of hunger, satiety, or palatability between the mushroom and meat weeks, the average daily calories and fat were lower with the mushroom meals.

Improves Cognitive Health

Researchers analyzed data from 663 people aged 60 and above from the Diet and Healthy Aging study in Singapore and found that people who ate mushrooms more than twice a week had reduced odds of having mild cognitive impairment. Also, an animal model study revealed that a bio compound in mushrooms called ergocalciferol protects the brain from beta-amyloid peptide toxicity. This may help in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. However, more detailed studies on humans are required to understand its therapeutic potential.

Health benefits of mushroom infographic

Mushrooms are a good source of antioxidants and B vitamins.

Other benefits:

  • Oral health: The results of a randomized controlled clinical trial with 30 participants suggested that a shiitake-extract oral mouth rinse, twice a day, reduced plaque.
  • Prebiotic source: In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that white button mushrooms increased microbial diversity and helped ease Citrobacter rodentium infection in mice.
  • Low-glycemic option for people with diabetes: The low cal and low-carb content makes it a highly recommended food for diabetics.

Side Effects

Most species are not edible as they are highly poisonous and look strikingly similar to their edible counterparts. The other side effects of mushroom include the following:

  • Some varieties contain psilocybin and psilocin, substances that can cause hallucinations.
  • A single poisonous mushroom among others in a dish can threaten a large number of people’s health, resulting in coma, severe poison symptoms, nausea, vomiting, convulsions, cramps, and insanity.
  • Many species can even be fatal if ingested.
  • Always avoid eating discolored ones or those which are different in color than the typically accepted color of their species.

How to Select & Store Mushrooms?

  • Select fresh ones that have no discoloration or bruises.
  • Always opt for sealed products from reputable companies or those in which you have grown yourself under controlled conditions after buying their seeds (spawns) from a trusted source. Do not trust any unknown vendors when you buy mushrooms.
  • Don’t ever try picking them for consumption from the woods unless you have been trained to identify the variety.
  • Many mushrooms, when picked in the wild, contain heavy metals, as well as air and water pollutants, which can be very toxic.
  • They have the unique ability to absorb the material that they grow on, either good or bad. This quality is what gives them so much of their nutritive qualities, but also may make them dangerous for health.

Store them in a paper bag or tea towel in a refrigerator or a cool place. Use them within a few days of purchase.

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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