Are Mushrooms Good for You?

Although they aren’t really vegetables, mushrooms can be a valuable addition to your diet.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
November 16, 2010
Episode #114

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Are Mushrooms Good for You?

Are Mushrooms a Vegetable?

A mushroom is neither a fruit nor a vegetable; technically mushrooms aren’t even plants. They are a special type of fungus—a notion that puts some people off. If you don’t mind the fungus part, though, mushrooms are a great addition to a healthy diet—not to mention totally delicious.

Are Mushrooms Good for You?

There are many different types of edible mushrooms, everything from Japanese shiitake and enoki to Italian porcini to the common white button mushroom and the ever-popular portabella, also known as crimini. The various kinds of mushrooms all have different flavors, shapes, and textures—which is fun for culinary types. Although the nutrient profiles vary from type to type, most mushrooms are good sources of B vitamins, selenium, iron, and other minerals.>


Mushrooms are also quite good at neutralizing free radicals, those renegade molecules that can otherwise get up to no good. In fact, you might be surprised (as I was) to learn that when it comes to antioxidant power, the plain old white button mushroom beats out even colorful veggies like green peppers, carrots, green beans, and tomatoes!  Best of all, mushrooms contain antioxidants that are not deactivated or destroyed by cooking.

See also How Cooking Affects Nutrients.

Do Mushrooms Fight Cancer?

In addition to being antioxidant powerhouses, mushrooms contain unique compounds that appear to boost your immune defense. For example, there has been a lot of interest in the cancer-fighting potential of various compounds and extracts of mushrooms. Mushroom extracts have been demonstrated to have anti-tumor activity—at least in test tubes. In humans, mushroom extracts have been shown to increase immune system activity.