Are you a fan of mushrooms? Or do they intimidate you? Mushrooms may seem complicated because there are so many different varieties. Some are safe to eat, some are poisonous, some are psychedelic, but did you know they are all a fungus? The world of mushrooms goes in many different directions, but there are many mushroom species that can be consumed that are actually very medicinal and full of powerful antioxidants! So let’s begin to explore the world of mushrooms together—the ones safe for consumption, that is! You’ll be a mushroom pro by the end of this article.
Types of Mushrooms
First things first, here are some of the different types of mushrooms you can eat and consume safely:
- White Button/Cremini
- Lion’s Mane
Now these aren’t all the mushrooms available to you, but it’s a start! Some of these mushrooms—like cremini, portobello, and white button mushrooms—are most common as they are found in grocery stores and on restaurant menus. They’re actually the three most common mushrooms consumed in the world! The rarer mushrooms like morel and enoki are harder to find but are equally delicious.
Let’s dive into the following information about each of these mushrooms:
- Benefits of mushrooms
- Mushroom nutrition
- How you can use each mushroom
1. White Button/Cremini
White button and cremini mushrooms are technically the same mushroom, just one is more mature than the other. White button mushrooms are younger and fresher, whereas cremini mushrooms are older. Cremini mushrooms have a deeper mushroom flavor than white button mushrooms, but both have a meaty texture as most mushrooms do. These are two of the most commonly consumed mushrooms as mentioned before.
Here are some white button/cremini mushroom nutrition facts: In just one cup of mushrooms, these bad boys give you about 23 mcg of selenium, which is 32 percent of the recommended daily intake. Selenium is helpful for thyroid hormone metabolism as well as immune function and cognitive functioning. These mushrooms also contain high amounts of riboflavin (B2) and copper.
You’ll find both white button mushrooms and cremini mushrooms at nearly every grocery store and many restaurant menus, so they are easily accessible to you. If you are new to eating mushrooms, these are a great one to start with since they are the most mild in flavor and easiest to find.
Along with white button and cremini mushrooms, portobello mushrooms are part of the same family. Think of portobellos as the oldest child, cremini mushrooms as the middle child, and white button mushrooms as the baby of the family. These mushrooms belong to the species known as Agaricus Bisporus.
Portobello mushrooms are one of the largest edible mushrooms and commonly used in grilling because they have a large surface area and hold together so well. You will see portobellos used as a steak or burger substitute in vegetarian preparations. They are very meaty in texture and have a strong mushroom flavor.
Because the portobello mushrooms are a more mature version of the white button and cremini, they naturally carry more nutrient density. In one cup of grilled portobellos, you get over 30 percent of your daily value for riboflavin (B2), niacin, copper, and selenium.
Shiitake mushrooms are also a fairly common variety of mushrooms. They are commonly used in Asian cuisine and have many medicinal properties. Similar to the mushrooms mentioned above, they also have a meaty texture and potent mushroom flavor. But what sets shiitake mushrooms apart is the medicinal properties that they carry.
Shiitake mushrooms have been shown to have anticancer properties! Specifically, in one study researchers tested ethyl acetate, a component of shiitake mushrooms, on tumor cells. The study concluded that this fraction of shiitake mushrooms was able to inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors and also induce apoptosis (cell death) of the tumor cells. Can you believe that eating shiitake mushrooms could help reduce tumors and act as a natural cancer fighter? That’s amazing for such a small fungus!
Enoki mushrooms are very easy to recognize because they look very different from the mushrooms mentioned above. They are very light in color, nearly white, and have long, thin stems with a very small cap. Enoki mushrooms aren’t as common as other mushroom varieties, but are commonly used in Asian soup and noodle dishes. The texture is similar to that of a noodle so it’s a great option for a low-carb noodle substitute. Enoki mushrooms are native to Japan, are low in calories, and contain similar benefits of other mushrooms, such as immune-boosting properties.
5. Lion’s Mane
Lion’s mane mushrooms are a vision! They look like a large, white shaggy lion’s mane—hence the name. The official name for lion’s mane mushrooms is Hericium erinaceus. Based on the looks and the complicated name, it makes sense that this mushroom would get the short name of lion’s mane.
The look of this mushroom isn’t the only thing that makes it unique. It also has great medicinal properties. Here are some nutrition facts about lion’s mane mushroom: Evidence has shown that lion’s mane mushroom can be helpful for diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, weakened immune systems, and different types of cancers. It’s also beneficial for the nervous system, immune system, lymphatic system, and even the digestive system. It’s a powerful mushroom with drug-strength efficacy.
It’s not typically found in many food preparations but there are products like Four Sigmatic Mushroom Elixir that contains lion’s mane mushroom. It’s easy to consume because you just mix it with liquid and drink.
Chaga mushrooms are similar to lion’s mane in that they aren’t commonly consumed like white button or portobello mushrooms. Chaga is typically found in mushroom teas or coffees. They look like a burned charcoal and mainly grow on birch trees. The climate must be very cold for chaga mushrooms, so they are typically sourced from places like Alaska, Siberia, and northern Canada, where the climate is chilly.
The medicinal properties of chaga mushroom range from immune boosting to anticancer. It’s a very powerful mushroom! Similar to lion’s mane, chaga can be found in elixirs like Four Sigmatic Chaga Elixir.
Morel mushrooms look like a mini honeycomb on a stick. They are wild mushrooms so they are hard to find in a grocery store and typically are picked in nature or grown in a home garden. With their unique look, they are easy to identify if picking out in the wild. Their flavor is similar to that of shiitake mushrooms, but the texture is much meatier because of the structure.
Morels have high nutrient values packed with vitamins and minerals. Surprisingly, morel mushrooms are loaded with iron—just one cup gives you 8 mg of iron. That’s 45 percent of the daily value for a healthy human adult. They also contain 136 IU of vitamin D per cup. The recommended daily value (RDA) for Vitamin D is 600 IU for healthy humans aged 1-70 years old, so one cup of morel mushrooms give you 23 percent of your daily value for Vitamin D. Vitamin D isn’t found in many food sources, so it’s amazing that morels contain that much.
You might find morels in high-end restaurants, but if you want to always have them in supply, then you can grow your own pretty easily.
Maitake mushrooms are also known as “hen of the woods” mushrooms. They don’t look like other mushrooms because they have a layered look and are grown in clusters.
Maitake mushrooms are considered an adaptogen because they influence overall balance in the body and its systems. Maitake mushrooms positively influence health factors like blood sugar, blood pressure, and fertility. Maitake mushrooms have been shown to induce ovulation in patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome, which can cause infertility. That’s pretty cool for a mushroom!
Maitake mushrooms can be found at specialty grocery stores or more commonly in Asian markets as it’s a mushroom native to China.
When it comes to eating mushrooms, each kind is unique—some you can enjoy raw, some are better cooked, and some are used in teas and coffee. To get you started in cooking mushrooms, enjoy the simple and easy recipes below.
Hidden Mushroom Pilaf
This recipe is great for those of you who aren’t too fond of mushrooms, but want to get the health benefits. The mushrooms in this recipe are shiitake and maitake which are both nutrient-dense. They are chopped up so small that you won’t even notice them in the recipe! Hence the name, ‘Hidden Mushroom Pilaf’. You’ll love this recipe whether you’re a mushroom fan or not!
- 2 cups dry white quinoa
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon garlic granules
- 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 10 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 spring onions (or scallions), thinly sliced
- 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, finely diced to a “rice” size
- 1 cup maitake mushrooms, finely diced to a “rice” size
- 3 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
- 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
Add quinoa, chicken broth, garlic granules, and Himalayan pink salt to a medium-sized pot. Bring to boil and reduce heat. Simmer covered for about 20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked.
While the quinoa is cooking, add the olive oil to a medium-sized skillet. Add in the minced garlic and sliced spring onions. Sauté for about 1-3 minutes until the garlic is fragrant and the onions soften.
Next, add in all the chopped mushrooms and thyme. Mix everything together so the garlic and oil coats the mushrooms. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the mushrooms begin to cook, but don’t get mushy.
Once the quinoa is done cooking, fluff it with a fork and add in the mushroom mixture.
Add in the pine nuts and black pepper. Mix well until everything is incorporated.
Note: Chop the mushrooms small enough so they are hidden in the quinoa pilaf. They should be the size of a grain of rice or similar to the size of the quinoa.
Spinach, Mushroom, and Tomato Egg Muffins
Cremini mushrooms are very easy to cook with because they are readily available in most grocery stores and don’t have a strong mushroom flavor. In this recipe, the mushrooms absorb the flavors of the other ingredients creating a very yummy recipe! A great, veggie-filled breakfast to fuel your body for the day. Feel free to switch up the mushrooms in this recipe also—it’s a versatile recipe so have fun with it!
- 9 eggs
- 2 tablespoons coconut milk
- 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup cremini mushrooms, diced
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 cups spinach, chopped
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease a muffin tin with coconut oil and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, coconut milk, and salt.
Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add in the onion, garlic, mushrooms, and tomatoes, and saute for five minutes until onions are translucent. Add spinach and remove from heat.
Add the veggies to the mixing bowl with the eggs and mix well.
Distribute the egg mixture into the greased muffin tin. Be sure to leave room at the top of each muffin hole for the egg to rise.
Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and enjoy!
Makes 12 egg muffins
As you can see, there are many benefits when you eat mushrooms. If you aren’t a mushroom fan already, which medicinal mushroom are you going to try first?
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; it does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.