Fungi are fabulously known for many health benefits, including reducing the risk of certain cancers. A study from Penn State College of Medicine shows that eating any kind of edible mushroom may also benefit a person’s mental health, in part to certain nutrients that are particularly abundant in mushrooms.
The Penn State researchers collected diet and mental health data from more than 24,000 U.S. adults for an eleven year span. They found that people who ate mushrooms had lower odds of having depression. They account for this because mushrooms are rich in ergothioneine, an antioxidant that may protect against cell and tissue damage in the body. Studies show that these particular antioxidants may prevent several mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. Oyster mushrooms contain the highest levels of ergothioneine.
“Mushrooms are the highest dietary source of the amino acid ergothioneine, an anti-inflammatory which cannot be synthesized by humans,” said lead researcher Djibril Ba, who recently graduated from the epidemiology doctoral program at the College of Medicine. “Having high levels of this may lower the risk of oxidative stress, which could also reduce the symptoms of depression.”
The most commonly eaten mushroom, the white button, contains potassium, which is believed to reduce anxiety. Other more gourmet species, such as Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus), may prevent depression by stimulating the expression of nerve growth factor synthesis, which helps certain critical nerves survive, which could prevent depression. Mushrooms also include important nutrients for immune support, including vitamins D, C, B’s, selenium, iron, copper and zinc.
How and Why of Adding Mushrooms to Your Diet
- Replace half of a recipes ground meat with finely diced mushrooms. You will get the same meaty-umami flavor with the added nutrients from the mushrooms.
- Add powdered mushroom blends to your morning latte.
- Use a variety of mushrooms for the most health benefits (a single serving is 4-5 mushrooms):
- A serving of white button mushrooms provides 15 percent of the daily recommended intake of niacin (B3), which may promote healthy skin, digestive and heart health.
- A single serving of shiitake mushrooms contains 40 percent of the recommended daily intake of copper, which is good for bones and nerves.
- Crimini mushrooms are an excellent source of selenium, which is essential for immune support. A single serving contains 31 percent of the recommended daily intake of selenium.
- Consider maitake mushrooms, which contain 236 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin D in a single serving. This supports bone health, neuromuscular and cell growth, immunity and lowers inflammation. Here is a fun fact, if you leave mushrooms gill side up in the direct sunlight, they will absorb more vitamin D from the sun.
Check out mushroom recipes, from the Mushroom Council website.
This article is provided by the Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization in partnership with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of naturopathic medicine and access to naturopathic doctors for patients. INM believes that naturopathic medicine, with its unique principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness that overwhelms existing health care systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain their optimal lifelong health. INM strives to achieve this mission through the following initiatives:
- Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of naturopathic medicine
- Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
- Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine
Stewart is an award-winning editor, food and health journalist and best-selling author of Eating Between the Lines, the supermarket shopper's guide to the truth behind food labels (St. Martin's Press).