The humble mushroom is gaining in popularity as a healthy food, and for good reason. They are a source of important nutrients like riboflavin, niacin, potassium and selenium. They are also very low in fat and calories, but are filled with lots of water and fiber, so they can make you feel full. They have been promoted as a weight-loss food for this effect.
The potassium you’ll find in mushrooms is an important nutrient for maintaining healthy blood pressure and offsetting the negative effects of dietary sodium, which can contribute to hypertension. Potassium is also needed to avoid acid-alkaline imbalance. While bananas or citrus fruits are the foods that come to mind for most people, mushrooms are in fact richer in potassium than either of these.
Selenium is a naturally occurring element found in trace amounts in many foods. As an anti-oxidant, selenium helps prevent the damaging effects of “free radicals,” the harmful by-products of metabolism. Also, studies show that a diet rich in selenium is associated with a lower risk of cancer.
Fiber refers to the parts of plants that the body cannot digest. The fiber you get with mushrooms makes you feel more full without adding any calories to your diet, and is therefore useful for weight control. A diet high in fiber also helps maintain a healthy digestive tract and cholesterol level.
Mushrooms are a great addition to a vegetarian or vegan diet. They are a good source of iron, and vitamin B6, and are surprisingly high in protein — nutrients which are hard to get enough of in a diet without meat or animal products.
All of these facts present a strong case for adding mushrooms to your diet. Beyond the common white button mushroom, there are many delicious varieties of mushroom to explore, including portabella, crimini, porcini and shiitake, all of which have the excellent health benefits listed above.