Medicinal Mushrooms: Coming Out of the Dark (Part 1)

I may have mentioned last week that the month of June was mostly overcast and rainy — I think we maybe had three days of sunshine. As a result of everything being wet and damp, I’ve noticed that a lot of mushrooms have sprung up on my lawn, some big, some little. It got me thinking about mushrooms and the fact that the health benefits of edible mushrooms tend to be overlooked by most people. In fact, I’d guess that most of you didn’t know that mushrooms have quite a bit to offer in terms of nutrition and health. But first, a few mushroom facts:

Health and Nutrition Benefits
Can this rubbery little fungus really provide anything of value in terms of health? The answer is yes. Certain varieties of mushrooms may offer more than others but in general, mushrooms are:

Low in calories. For example, one cup of sliced, white mushrooms (the kind you commonly see in the grocery store) contains only 15 calories (!), 2 grams of carbohydrate, 2 grams of protein, and 0.2 grams of fat. Think of how much you’d have to eat to come close to gaining weight or raising your blood glucose.

Mushrooms are definitely a dieter’s delight. In fact, a study done at Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center set out to prove just that. In this study, subjects were randomly given meals with either ground beef or mushrooms in dishes such as lasagna, sloppy joes, and chili over the course of four days. The beef-fed group consumed roughly 400 more calories and 30 more grams of fat per day compared to the mushroom group. And, the people in the mushroom group reported that their meals tasted good and were filling. They also didn’t compensate for the difference in calories by eating more food later on. Data from the Third National Health and Examination Survery estimates that if you consistently substituted a 4-ounce Portabella (a type of mushroom) burger for a 4-ounce grilled hamburger over the course of a year, you’d save more than 18,000 calories and 3,000 grams of fat, equal to about 5 pounds or 30 sticks of butter.

Low in sodium. One cup of the sliced, white mushrooms mentioned earlier contains only 3 milligrams of sodium. Most of us are eating more than twice as much salt[1] and sodium[2] as we should (sodium is a component of salt): According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control, Americans consume, on average, about 3,500 milligrams of sodium per day. Almost 70% of Americans are in groups at especially high risk from too much sodium (such as African-Americans and those with high blood pressure) and could definitely benefit from consuming closer to 1,500 milligrams per day. There are a lot of ways to slash the sodium, but one way is to use mushrooms, especially in place of higher-sodium foods. Incorporate mushrooms into salads[3], use them as a snack or an appetizer[4], or include them in casseroles[5] and stir-fries[6].

High in potassium. Potassium[7] is needed to regulate fluid and mineral balance, prevent and control blood pressure[8], and make sure that the nerves and the heart function properly. Mushrooms vary in their potassium content, depending upon the variety, but generally contain between 267 and 400 milligrams per serving. The recommended daily intake for potassium is 3,500 milligrams per day for adults.

More on mushrooms next week!

  1. salt:
  2. sodium:
  3. salads:
  4. snack or an appetizer:
  5. casseroles:
  6. stir-fries:
  7. Potassium:
  8. blood pressure:

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Amy Campbell: Amy Campbell is the author of Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition and Meal Planning and a frequent contributor to Diabetes Self-Management and Diabetes & You. She has co-authored several books, including the The Joslin Guide to Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association’s 16 Myths of a “Diabetic Diet,” for which she received a Will Solimene Award of Excellence in Medical Communication and a National Health Information Award in 2000. Amy also developed menus for Fit Not Fat at Forty Plus and co-authored Eat Carbs, Lose Weight with fitness expert Denise Austin. Amy earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Simmons College and a master’s degree in nutrition education from Boston University. In addition to being a Registered Dietitian, she is a Certified Diabetes Educator and a member of the American Dietetic Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Amy was formerly a Diabetes and Nutrition Educator at Joslin Diabetes Center, where she was responsible for the development, implementation, and evaluation of disease management programs, including clinical guideline and educational material development, and the development, testing, and implementation of disease management applications. She is currently the Director of Clinical Education Content Development and Training at Good Measures. Amy has developed and conducted training sessions for various disease and case management programs and is a frequent presenter at disease management events.

Disclaimer of Medical Advice: Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information, which comes from qualified medical writers, does not constitute medical advice or recommendation of any kind, and you should not rely on any information contained in such posts or comments to replace consultations with your qualified health care professionals to meet your individual needs.