Mushrooms get a bad rap for being a little, well, weird. Sure, they’re technically a fungus…that you eat…but so what? There are still plenty of reasons to add them to your menu. Mushrooms are packed with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Plus, you don’t have to shell out for pricey varieties like oysters and morels. Even your everyday white and brown mushrooms pack a powerful punch. So if you’re not on the mushroom train yet, hop on. And if you need some convincing, read on—we’ve got five reasons to get fung-y.
They’re packed with B vitamins. B vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, and folate are key to countless body processes. Some mushrooms are higher in certain B vitamins than others, so eating a variety can help you cover your bases. Example: Portobello mushrooms have more folate than Italian and crimini mushrooms, while shiitakes provide more vitamin B6 than other varieties.
You’ll get a dose of vitamin D. Mushrooms are one of the few plant-based sources of vitamin D, a nutrient that’s important for bone health, muscle and nerve function, and immune system support. (See: 8 Must-Know Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency.) Though it would be difficult to meet your daily vitamin D needs on mushrooms alone (a serving only provides around 3 percent), they’re a great way to boost your intake, especially if you don’t consume a lot of other vitamin D-rich foods like fatty fish or eggs.
You’re less likely to get sick. Mushrooms provide antioxidants, which are consistently noted for a whole range of health benefits. First, they fight free radical damage in the body that could lead to serious health conditions like heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Antioxidants have also been studied for their potential role in staving off the effects of aging. As if that weren’t enough, mushrooms are also a rich source of selenium, which is important for maintaining reproductive system health, DNA production, thyroid gland function, and once again protecting from those free radicals.
They amp up the umami flavor. Though they do take on the flavor of what they’re cooked with, mushrooms provide a subtle umami note that grows stronger when cooked. They’re a great way to add richness to pasta dishes and salads, or you could put sautéed mushrooms and a fried egg over oatmeal for a savory breakfast twist. (And be sure to try this savory oatmeal recipe while you’re at it.)
You’ll feel more full. Mushrooms are a great low-calorie way to add texture, bulk, and depth of flavor to dishes. A one-cup serving of raw white or brown mushrooms will only set you back about 20 calories while providing about 2 grams of protein. Pulse ’em in a blender or food processor and add to meatloaf, meatballs, and burgers.