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5 Reasons to Eat More Mushrooms

Mushrooms were declared the “2022 Ingredient of the Year” by the New York Times, and the momentum of this celebrity plant-based star is still going strong.

(Getty Images)

Mushrooms are trending in food and wellness and are inspiring the runway and home decor. Couture designers are adding mushroom imagery to clothes, and they are even using mushrooms to make vegan leather.

Designer Stella McCartney recently launched a line of clothes and bags made with fungi-derived leather. This vegan leather substitute – made from mycelium, the threads from the root structure of mushrooms – is also being used to make shoes.

Mushrooms are also trending on TikTok, with mushroom-themed mugs, desk lamps, jewelry and lawn sculptures flooding the platform. Fantasy mushroom art is up 170% on Pinterest. It’s all part of a trending aesthetic called “mushroomcore,” which has amassed 120 million views on TikTok.

Benefits of Mushrooms

More than ever people are appreciating the mushroom aesthetic, but the real beauty of this famous fungi is when you eat them. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to enjoy mushrooms.

Chefs are adding more mushrooms to menus, and grocery stores are stocked with an array of fresh mushrooms. You may be most familiar with white button mushrooms, but look for cremini, portobello, porcini, shiitake, oyster and other varieties.

Mushrooms are not just in the fresh produce aisle anymore. Now you can find mushroom tea, coffee, hot chocolate, sparkling water, protein bars, jerky, chips and seasonings made with mushrooms.

Growing your own mushrooms has become a trend, with multiple mushroom-growing kits available to get you started. Or you can join in the foraging movement and hunt for your own mushrooms – although it’s extremely important to know what you’re picking since some varieties are toxic. The popular TikTok creator Black Forager (Alexis Nikole Nelson), who recently won a coveted James Beard Award, can help you safely navigate the woods when foraging for mushrooms.

So, whether you are shopping for mushrooms, growing your own or foraging in a field, here are five reasons why it’s a good idea to eat more mushrooms.

Nutrient-Packed Plant Food

Mushrooms are the epitome of a nutrient-dense food, meaning you get a lot of nutrients for very few calories in return. Mushrooms offer essential minerals like selenium and copper, along with vital B vitamins. When exposed to ultraviolet light, mushrooms become a good source of vitamin D, turning into one of the few plant sources of the “sunshine vitamin.”

Satisfying Meat Substitute

With their meaty texture and chewy bite, mushrooms gained fame as a meat alternative. This plant-focused swap started with a grilled portobello mushroom subbed in for a burger patty. Now, attention has turned to maitake mushrooms, which were declared the “Dish of the Year” in AF&Co. and Carbonate’s 2023 trend report. Also called “hen of the woods,” maitakes are showing up on menus as a vegan version of fried chicken sandwiches, pulled pork, shawarma, chicken-fried steak and other dishes.

It’s not all about 100% plant-based foods. The Blended Burger Project® started by the Mushroom Council is a movement that promotes the combination of finely chopped fresh mushrooms with ground meat for burgers, meatballs, tacos, sloppy joes, meatloaf and more.

Now, Silicon Valley and startups around the world are creating meat alternatives made from mycelium, or the roots of different fungus. The fermented protein is being turned into plant-based bacon, chicken nuggets, deli meat and a foie gras substitute.

Health Benefits of Mushrooms

Long revered as part of traditional Chinese medicine, mushrooms continue to be a focus of scientific research. Promising evidence suggests a positive impact of mushrooms on immune function, gut health and weight management. Mushrooms contain prebiotic fiber and bioactive plant compounds like polyphenols and flavonoids that are linked to these benefits.

Studies have shown that mushrooms, when substituted for meat, can enhance weight loss, promote satiety (or a feeling of fullness) and improve nutrition. Some cell and animal studies point to other potential benefits, such as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects, although the evidence is preliminary.

Psilocybin, a hallucinogenic compound found in certain mushrooms, has been the subject of emerging research on treating mental health conditions including depression and anxiety.

Even though the concept of “medicinal mushrooms” is gaining traction and mushroom extracts are now widely available in supplement form, you’re better off eating real mushrooms than popping a pill, like the trending lion’s mane mushroom supplement, or relying on powders.

Sustainably Grown 

The unique way mushrooms are grown and recycled makes them one of the most sustainably produced foods in the country. Compared to other crops, mushrooms, need minimal water and energy. They also require a small amount of space to grow, which helps conserve soil while netting high yields: one million pounds of mushrooms can grow each year on just 1 acre of land.

Mushrooms can also be grown indoors, year-round, so producers do not have to navigate weather patterns or seasons. Additionally, if you’re swapping mushrooms for meat, you’ll be further reducing the carbon footprint of your meal.

Tasty, Versatile Ingredient 

Mushrooms offer an umami flavor profile – a complex savory taste that has become a favorite of chefs. In fact, trend trackers believe umami will be one of the biggest flavor trends of 2023. Mushrooms are also an incredibly versatile ingredient that can be added to foods in many ways.

To start eating more mushrooms, Jenny Linford, author of the cookbook “Mushrooms,” suggests these ideas:

  • Add dried mushrooms to stews, soups, sauces and gratins. 
  • Add sautéed mushrooms to mac ‘n’ cheese and other pasta dishes.
  • Broil or sauté large flat mushrooms (like portobello) and use them for a mushroom burger, topped with caramelized onions and sliced cheese.
  • Make mushroom risotto with a mixture of fresh mushrooms and dried porcini mushrooms (soaked in warm water to reconstitute).
  • Sauté sliced fresh mushrooms in butter or olive oil, adding a splash of cream and chopped chives for classic mushrooms on toast.
  • Stuff large meadow mushrooms with a mixture of breadcrumbs, pesto and grated Parmesan and bake until cooked through.
  • Top pizza with sliced fresh mushrooms sautéed with garlic. 
  • Top salads with finely sliced fresh mushrooms.
  • Use reconstituted dried shiitake mushrooms, ginger and spring onion as a vegetarian filling for potsticker dumplings.

Also, experiment with The Blend™ by mixing chopped mushrooms with ground meat. The Mushroom Council recommends 1-to-3 mushroom to meat blend for burgers, meatballs and meatloaf, 1-to-1 for sloppy joes, tacos and burritos, and 3-to-1 mushroom to meat blend for chilis and sauces.
For more ways to use The Blend and other mushroom recipes, visit mushroomcouncil.com.

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Bernard Greenhall
Bernard Greenhall

Bernard is a sports and physical education expert with years of experience. He's passionate about promoting health and wellness through physical activity, and he's worked with athletes and non-athletes alike to help them achieve their fitness goals. Bernard holds a degree in Physical Education and is dedicated to staying up-to-date with the latest trends and research in his field.

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