Weight loss is enhanced by adding fungi to your diet. I’m talking about the wide-variety of mushrooms. In addition to the weight loss benefits, mushrooms are bursting with vitamins and minerals.


Weight Loss Benefits and Nutritional Value of Mushrooms

If your goal is weight loss or improving nutrition, you can’t go wrong by adding mushrooms to your diet.

Mushrooms are a fungi that proliferate so abundantly that the term is also used as a verb to describe rapid growth. Of the more than 14,000 species of mushrooms, less than one-quarter are edible. Many of these less well known species hold a storied place in folk medicine.

The mushrooms which suit our palates are excellent sources of protein and fiber, all encased in a low calorie package. They are good sources of B vitamins, as well as heart protective potassium and selenium. Mushrooms also contain iron and copper, which are essential for production of red blood cells.

With the growing popularity of homeopathic remedies, mushrooms are getting a second look as disease prevention and cure. Google “mushrooms health benefits” and over one million sites pop up.

There are a wide variety of edible mushrooms readily available, so choose whichever type suits your fancy. They all excellent additions to a healthy diet.


White and Brown Button Mushrooms


Ninety percent of the mushrooms consumed in the U.S. are white button mushrooms. But don’t leap to the erroneous conclusion that it they’re less nutritious than their more exotic cousins. According to Dr. Jean-Michel Savoie, a governmental researcher in France, the lowly white button mushroom has more antioxidant properties than many of the more expensive varieties of mushrooms.

Brown mushrooms resemble white button mushrooms except for their light brown color and are sometimes referred to as cremini or baby bella mushrooms. Both types share a similar nutritional profile and are strains of Agaricus bisporus mushrooms. The color difference is determined by the time of harvesting.

Health Benefits of Button Mushrooms

1. Button Mushrooms’ Antioxidants Strengthen the Immune System
A study at Tufts University, sponsored by the USDAs’ Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, found that white button mushrooms promote healthy immune function by increasing the production of T-cells, which destroy invading microbes.

2. Button Mushrooms Fight Breast and Prostate Cancers
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for U.S. women and prostate cancer ranks second for men. Because white button mushrooms block the production of estrogen, they help reduce the incidence of both breast and prostate cancers.

3. Button Mushrooms Boost Heart Health
Button mushrooms promote heart health by preventing the build-up of cells in inflamed blood vessels, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to research published in the July 2010 issue of the “Nutrition Journal.”


Portobello Mushrooms

Portobello mushrooms (also spelled “portabello”) are the most widely cultivated mushroom. They are a fully mature version of the button mushroom. Due to their meat-like flavor, the larger ones are often grilled and used as a healthier stand-in for beef burgers.

Health Benefits of Portobello Mushrooms

1. Portobellos Can Help with Weight Loss
A study conducted at Buffalo University found that consumption of portobello mushrooms was effective in regulating glucose levels. According to Peter Horvath, study co-author, “This alone may benefit individuals attempting to lose weight and who want to exercise for longer periods of time.”

2. Portobellos are High in Potassium Which Lowers Blood Pressure
A single portobello contains more potassium than a banana. According to Harvard Health Publications, adding potassium rich foods to our diets “could prevent or control high blood pressure and translate into fewer heart attacks, strokes, and deaths from heart disease.”

Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms may be off-putting in appearance, but they’re considered a delicacy in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cooking, where they’re used in soups and stir-fries. You may have used oyster sauce when cooking Asian recipes.


Health Benefits of Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms have a mild licorice flavor, akin to anise. In lab tests, oyster mushrooms have shown effectiveness in fighting cancers including breast cancer, as antifungals, and in lowering blood glucose levels in diabetics.

Chaga Mushrooms

Health Benefits and Precautions

Chaga mushrooms grow on birch trees and aren’t Pinterest worthy. Their hard, dark exterior resembles burnt charcoal, while their insides are a yellow brown color. What they lack in appearance, they more than make up for in health-giving benefits.


Chagas have been used as a homeopathic remedy for decades to cure cancer, treat stomach and intestinal illnesses such as gastritis, ulcers, colitis, and as a general pain reliever. Lab and animals studies give credence to these traditional beliefs, but human studies have yet to be conducted. This homely fungus shows potential in treating colon and cervical cancer, as well as melanoma. Its anti-inflammatory properties have been shown to quiet bouts of inflammatory bowel disease and colitis. Preliminary studies provide hope that chaga extract may someday be approved as a diabetes prevention or cognition-enhancing drug. Avoid chaga mushrooms if you take blood thinning medications or are being treated for diabetes, as they may interact with those drugs.


How to Enjoy Chagas

Since chaga mushrooms are too bitter to eat they are best consumed in teas, which you can make yourself or buy prepackaged.

Reishi Mushrooms

Health Benefits and Precautions

Reishi mushrooms are referred to in traditional Asian cultures as “mushrooms of immortality.” They have a distinctive ear shaped cap and range in color from red-orange to black.

Research on the reishi mushroom’s antioxidant properties and immune system enhancing characteristics demonstrate effectiveness in treating urinary tract infections in men, enhancing immune responses in cancer patients and in lowering blood pressure. Be aware that reishi mushrooms can increase bleeding risk if you take blood thinners and may make certain chemotherapy drugs less effective.


How to Enjoy Reishis

Reishi mushrooms are now widely cultivated for their medicinal properties, but are not edible. Enjoy their beneficial effects in teas or protein powders.


Shitake Mushrooms

While shitake mushrooms don’t share the disease curing reputation of the chagas and reishis, they shine in the culinary arena. Shitakes resemble the ubiquitous white button mushroom except that their cap is imbued with a rich brown color.


Health Benefits and Precautions

Shitake mushrooms also hold promise for the prevention and treatment of cancers due to a sugar molecule named lentinan, which enhances immune system responses to tumors and slows their proliferation. To date, testing has been conducted on stomach, colorectal, pancreatic, and liver cancers. Lab tests show that shitake mushroom extract lowers cholesterol in laboratory mice and prevents obesity in rats. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that these studies will transfer to humans.

How to Enjoy Shitakes

Shitake mushrooms are sold fresh, but are easier to find in dried form. Rehydrate them by soaking them in water for about 30 minutes. While it’s tempting to use the broth, I advise against it because dried mushrooms are notoriously gritty. Their rich savory taste lends itself to culinary versatility. If you’re on a vegetarian diet, you’ll find that they serve as a hearty meat substitute. Shitakes work well in stir fries, sautés, pasta dishes, or to add a zesty flavor to soup.