Fabulous Fungi: the nutritional powerhouse of edible mushrooms

By February 21, 2018Green Food

 Fabulous Fungi. The nutritional powerhouse that is edible mushrooms. Amber Sewell-Green. Vegan Dietitian

Fabulous Fungi

The nutritional powerhouse that is edible mushrooms

Now I have always been a fan of mushrooms. They add so much flavour in cooking and there are so many ways to include them in dishes. In fact, they actually are my partner’s favourite food, so they are pretty much a staple in most meals we make. However, it wasn’t until I started doing some research, delving into the literature, that I realised just how much of a nutritional powerhouse edible mushrooms actually are!

Sciency Sidenote: mushrooms are technically not a plant! They are a fungi. Originally, fungi were considered plants. However, unlike plants, they have no chlorophyll; meaning they do not use sunlight for energy and growth. Instead they digest organic matter from the ground (leaves, earth, bone remnants etc) for energy. (1)

Types of Mushrooms

Did you know, there are thousands of types of edible mushrooms!!! Yet only 10 are grown on an industrial scale you would see in grocers or markets. All of which are powerhouses of nutrition I might add. The most common edible mushrooms is called Agaricus bisporus, aka button, swiss brown and portabello mushrooms. Believe it or not, they are actually all the same species of mushroom. Other varieties, such as shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) and porcini mushrooms (Boletus edulis) also have incredible health benefits. (2-3)

Nutrients in Edible Mushrooms

Mushrooms are rich sources of numerous vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre* and even protein.

Just 100g (1.5 cups, chopped) contains:

Nutrient Amount % RDI/AI
Vitamin B2/Riboflavin (mg) 0.37 28% RDI men

36% RDI women

Vitamin B3/Niacin equivalents (mg) 3.7 25% RDI men

29% RDI women

Vitamin B5/Pantothenic acid mg 1.15 19% AI men

29% AI women

Vitamin B7 Biotin mcg 8.9 30% AI men

36% AI women

Vitamin B9/Folate mcg 18 5% RDI men & women
Vitamin D (mcg) in light exposed mushrooms 10-15 100% AI
Copper (mcg) 342 20% AI men

28% AI women

Selenium (mcg) 15.4 22% RDI men

26% RDI women

Phosphorus (mg) 110 11% RDI men & women
Potassium (mg) 310 8% RDI men

11% RDI women

Chromium (mcg) 13.4 38% RDI men

53% RDI women

*Fibre can range from 1mg (4% RDI) to 12mg (50% RDI) , depending on mushroom variety.

Source: Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand 2006: NUTTAB 2010

% RDI= percentage recommended daily intake

% AI= percentage adequate intake daily (if there’s no RDI)

Mcg=micrograms, mg= millligrams

Notable Nutrients in Mushrooms

There are a couple of key nutrients that edible mushrooms have particularly high levels of:

Mushrooms are one of the richest plant-based sources of selenium, an essential mineral critical for your metabolism and thyroid health. (4)

Mushrooms are also one of few foods to naturally contain a compound called ergosterol: also known as pre-vitamin D or vitamin D2. You may have seen vitamin D2 written on fortified vegan products such as soy milk. Our bodies can convert ergosterol into active vitamin D in our kidneys. Vitamin D is important for healthy bones, skin, mood, hormones and muscle growth.

You can also get something called irradiated mushrooms; mushrooms that have been exposed to natural sunlight or UV. These mushrooms have active vitamin D in them already, and have been used to raise vitamin D levels and reverse vitamin D deficiency. (5-8)

Phytonutrients in Mushrooms

Phytonutrients are special nutrients that only exist in plants (and fungi hehe). Phytonutrients posses certain abilities to heal the body from harm or disease. (9)

Fungi contain particular phytonutrients called pyrogallol and homogentistic acid. These have been shown to reduce inflammation, boost your immune system and even help prevent cancer.

Mushrooms also contain a phytonutrient called flavonoids, which often give plants their distinct colour. The flavonoids myricetin and catechin give mushrooms their white and brown colours. So remember that eating the rainbow also includes white and brown! Myricetin and catechin are also powerful antioxidants. (10)

Sidenote: an antioxidant reduces inflammation and helps to repair damaged cells in your body. This helps to prevent and reverse chronic inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis (9)

Mushrooms also contain high levels of ergothioneine. Ergothioneine is a recently discovered amino acid: a building block for proteins. It has phenomenal health benefits, so much so it is actually believed to be a new vitamin! (11) However, (spoiler alert) I’ll be writing about ergothioneine in another blog.

More to come on mushrooms

So that’s just the start of some of the incredible nutrients that mushrooms are rich in, and the science behind it all.

But there’s more! The benefits of mushrooms continue… In the coming months i’ll be writing about a couple of key nutrients that make mushrooms extra super special. I’ll also be summarising the latest literature on how mushrooms can help to prevent and reverse certain diseases.

Read more about this in my next posts!


Article by Amber Sewell-Green, APD. AN

Vegan/Plant-Based Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Nutritionist

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  1. Fungus | Definition, Characteristics, Types, & Facts [Internet]. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc. 2018 [cited 16 February 2018]. Available from: https://www.britannica.com/science/fungus
  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods—2007. November 2007.
  3.  Singh R, Bhari R, Kaur H. Mushroom lectins: Current status and future perspectives. Critical Reviews in Biotechnology. 2010;30(2):99-126.
  4. . Wasser S, Weis A. Medicinal Properties of Substances Occurring in Higher Basidiomycetes Mushrooms: Current Perspectives (Review). International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. 1999;1(1):31-62.
  5. Ullah H, Liu G, Yousaf B, Ali M, Abbas Q, Munir M et al. Developmental selenium exposure and health risk in daily foodstuffs: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety. 2018;149:291-306.
  6. Manjusha R, Dash K, Karunasagar D. UV-photolysis assisted digestion of food samples for the determination of selenium by electrothermal atomic absorption spectrometry (ETAAS). Food Chemistry. 2007;105(1):260-265.
  7. Taofiq O, Fernandes Â, Barros L, Barreiro M, Ferreira I. UV-irradiated mushrooms as a source of vitamin D 2 : A review. Trends in Food Science & Technology. 2017;70:82-94.
  8. Tomlinson P, Joseph C, Angioi M. Effects of vitamin D supplementation on upper and lower body muscle strength levels in healthy individuals. A systematic review with meta-analysis. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2015;18(5):575-580.
  9. Mahan L, Escott-Stump S, Raymond J. Krause’s food & nutrition care process. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders; 2011.
  10. Palacios I, Lozano M, Moro C, D’Arrigo M, Rostagno M, Martínez J et al. Antioxidant properties of phenolic compounds occurring in edible mushrooms. Food Chemistry. 2011;128(3):674-678.
  11. Ey J, Schömig E, Taubert D. Dietary sources and antioxidant effects of ergothioneine. J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Aug 8;55(16):6466-74.
Amber Sewell-Green

Author Amber Sewell-Green

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