If you’ve not yet heard of medicinal mushrooms, then welcome.
Medicinal mushrooms are one of the world’s best-kept superfood secrets, with their broad range of health effects and nutritional value becoming more mainstream and discussed each day.
Most medicinal mushrooms are classified as adaptogens – a superior class of herbs that modulate the HPA axis – the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis the neural connection between our brain, perception and adrenals – which regulate the body's stress response.
Medicinal mushrooms promote homeostasis and balance in the mind and body. They also elicit anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and longevity properties. Mushroom nutrition consists of numerous micronutrients and macronutrients. This makes mushrooms a nutritionally beneficial addition to your daily meals and snacks.
The nutritional value of mushrooms are rich in protein and amino acids, the building blocks of our muscles, skin, and gut, a unique carbohydrate compound called chitin, as well as vitamins like Vitamin D and minerals such as phosphorous and selenium.
Specific mushroom nutritional information varies between species and mushroom varieties, but they all have these key nutritional values and properties.
Keep reading to learn great nutrition tips and valuable mushroom nutrition information.
This article will focus on mushroom nutritional information, it will answer questions such as;
How many calories in mushrooms? Do mushrooms have protein? How many carbs in mushrooms?
We will breakdown mushroom nutritional value and discuss the key vitamins and nutrients in mushrooms, so you can learn the nutrition information and nutritional value of mushrooms.
One key nutritional value that mushrooms have is protein. Many of us think protein is found only in key protein sources like chicken, beef, eggs, tofu, etc. and that it enables us to build skeletal muscle. But protein is in everything we eat, including mushrooms.
The reason protein is the hailed macronutrient is because it is literally our building block. Protein helps create enzymes that catalyze and enable chemical reactions to occur. Our haemoglobin and immunoglobulins are proteins. Our antibodies are proteins, our skin (collagen + elastin) are made of protein, our heart muscle, our red blood cells, our gut lining, our immune system – everything.
As a side note, one cool thing about mushrooms is that the protein in mushrooms is super unique, and it is called hydrophobins.
Hydrophobins are surface-active proteins that can bind to any amphoteric membrane (1). This enables mushrooms to connect their hyphae networks all under the earth, communicating with the planet.
Mushrooms' protein compounds also attribute to their unique “meaty” flavor and texture.
Per 100g of medicinal mushrooms such as Reishi, Chaga, and Cordyceps, they have ~6-12g of protein. A cute addition to your daily protein intake.
Medicinal Mushrooms also have pleather of immune-boosting and anti-stress benefits due to their unique beta glucans and antioxidant compounds (2). Culinary mushrooms such as Shiitake, Oyster, and White Button mushrooms contain between ~4-9g per 100g and provide more of a traditional nutritional value (2).
Medicinal mushrooms are specifically rich in key amino acids; alanine, aspartic acid, and glutamic acid. Alanine has a role in maintaining and supporting the central nervous system, muscle contraction, and immune regulation. Aspartic acid is involved in the creation of sex hormones, supporting fertility, as well as, the central nervous system function.
Glutamic acid helps create glutamate – the key excitatory neurotransmitter that supports cognition, learning, and memory (3).
These key amino acids greatly contribute to the medicinal and nutritional value of mushrooms and their health benefits.
Mushrooms virtually contain no carbohydrates and are instead rich in specific starches and beta glucans that modulate and improve the gut, immune system, lower cholesterol, balance blood sugar, and help with weight loss.
Carbohydrates are either monosaccharides, disaccharides, or polysaccharides differentiated by how many carbon chains there are.
Biochemistry aside, mushrooms contain beta glucans which are polysaccharides molecules that elicit immunomodulating, anti-tumor, and anti-inflammatory properties. Each mushroom has numerous unique polysaccharides. This is especially cool because our immune cell membranes have specific receptors for these fungal polysaccharides. It is like our bodies were made to eat mushrooms.
These starches aren’t the same as saying sweet potato or brown rice and elicit no caloric impact at all. Instead, they “speak” to our immune system, supporting a healthy immune response. This then benefits individuals with insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes as there is zero impact on blood glucose. Specifically, Maitake mushroom contains a beta glucan (D-fraction) that has shown to improve glucose tolerance, improve uptake, and help stabilize blood sugar (3).
Chitin is the starch that makes up the mycelium and mushroom cell wall. Chitin also accounts for mushrooms’ unique texture and shapes. Chitin elicits both an innate and adaptive immune response and provides anti-bacterial and antioxidant benefits, improving one’s health (4).
Mushrooms have no carbohydrate content. They improve blood sugar, cholesterol levels, the immune system, support weight loss, hormone balance, and provide a unique source of fiber to support healthy cholesterol, liver detoxification, gut health, and nutrition.
Mushrooms also contain virtually no fat, with the only lipids within the mushroom being in their cell walls. Or in the case of Shiitake, they contain fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin D that contribute zero caloric input.
The thing about mushrooms and superfoods is that they don’t contain a lot of macronutrients. They are, instead, rich in micronutrients- the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that enable our body to thrive.
Culinary mushrooms are also rich in choline – somewhat of a B vitamin crucial to the creation, metabolism, and transport of lipids in the body. Choline is especially required for proper nerve transmission, a healthy nervous system, brain health, cell signaling, and nervous system function, making mushrooms a key food choice for getting more choline into your diet and having positive health effects.
Mushrooms are unique because they’re fungi – they’re not a plant or animal, and thus their biochemical makeup and nutrient density are literally out of this world.
Mushrooms are super low in calories and super nutrient-rich, providing amino acids, fiber, and numerous minerals and vitamins without any caloric or blood sugar impacts. This makes mushrooms perfect for those who are conscious about losing weight, have high cholesterol levels, high blood glucose levels, are mindful of their caloric intake and glycemic index. Or for those who are wanting to boost their health, nervous, and immune systems.
B vitamins are a family of water-soluble vitamins. They include Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Pyridoxine, Folate, and Cobalamin, with Biotin often added in as a B vitamins.
B vitamins are the most foundational vitamins to our wellbeing and are involved in every facet of our being–whether it’s energy production, macronutrient utilization, detoxification, muscle contraction – B vitamins are front and center of every biological process.
Some key benefits of consuming B vitamins include;
In my personal opinion, we always want to obtain B vitamins first from whole food sources, as this is the bioavailable form of B vitamins thatour bodies have evolved to know and consume.
On top of this, when it comes to supplementation, choosing an activated B vitamins supplement is much more advantageous as they’re already “methylated” and in active forms, our body can use.
Folate is often associated with fertility and conception, but folate is much more than a pregnancy vitamin.
Folate or B9 is a B vitamin and is required for gene expression and the replication of our DNA. It also detoxifies liver pathways, promotes proper iron levels and utilization.
Folate assists in cell replication as well as the synthesis of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, serotonin, and dopamine.
Mushrooms contain 22mcg of folate per 100g mushrooms, with the RDI for non-pregnant adults being 400mcg and pregnant women 1000mcg per day, making mushrooms an additional whole food dietary source of folate (5).
When discussing folate, it is also important to distinguish the difference between folate and folic acid.
Folic acid is the synthetic version of folate often sold within pregnancy supplements and B vitamin supplements. This form is not ideal and isn’t as bioavailable as the active form of folate; 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF). This is especially crucial for individuals with the MTHFR gene polymorphism, an SNP in which the body doesn’t methylate properly and can contribute to disease formation and numerous other symptoms.
Ideally, consume folate through whole food sources as they are accompanied by methyl donors, which enable our genes to be switched on or off, preventing tumor growths, premature cell death, and inflammation.
On top of this, for conception, fertility, and pregnancy, folate is a crucial vitamin consumed in high doses to support the rapid cell division that occurs when creating life, in addition to sustaining the mother's iron levels, energy, and wellbeing.
The role of folate in the body and it’s benefits;
Vitamin D is more a hormone than a fat-soluble vitamin, with its role being explored in modulating inflammation, hormone balancing, liver detoxification, boosting mood, and being an anti-depressant, crucial for bone health, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and immune system function.
The body synthesises Vitamin D from the sun, in which a chemical process occurs within our skin cells, morphing UV rays into active vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D or 25-OHD).
The link between sun exposure and skin cancer is well known and has been "drummed" into us Australians' since we were old enough to "slip, slop, and slap". This, together with an indoor culture and working environment, has seen an emergence of Vitamin D deficiency among Australians and Western countries, resulting in emerging health concerns.
The AHS of 2011-2012, which is the most recent one, found that 1 in 4 Australians is vitamin D deficient bringing awareness to the importance of this vitamin (6). Vitamin D deficiency is classified as ≤50 nmol/.
Benefits of Vitamin D;
We can get vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) from animal sources such as eggs, liver, fish, and vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol or “pre-vitamin D”).
There are also a small amount of vitamin D mushrooms.
Vitamin D mushrooms that are exposed to sunlight, such as Shiitake contain some absorbable levels of vitamin D.
Dried Shiitake mushrooms offer a specifically rich dietary source of D2, helping the liver synthesise into active vitamin D and contribute to our overall vitamin D levels, making vitamin D mushrooms a good nutrition source of vitamin D.
Selenium is a potent antioxidant mineral essential for proper energy production, thyroid health, and decreasing oxidative stress. Selenium is an essential cofactor for the creation of our master antioxidant compound, glutathione peroxidase.
It’s glutathione that elicits a powerful antioxidant effect scavenging free radicals that drive oxidative stress. Oxidate stress is what drives premature cell death, inflammation, accelerated ageing, cell dysregulation, and disease formation. So by ensuring we consume adequate dietary selenium, we’re supporting the creation and recycling of glutathione, decreasing inflammation, and improving longevity and our wellbeing.
Selenium is also important for lowering cholesterol levels, cardiovascular health, blood glucose levels, and the immune system. Selenium is also required for the conversion of T4 to T3, which is 10x more metabolically active and improves metabolism, energy production, and can assist in weight loss. Selenium is also required for the conversion of T4 to T3 which is 10x more metabolically active and improves metabolism, energy production and can assist in weight loss.
Benefits of Selenium;
Mushrooms are a good nutrition source of selenium.
Copper is a trace mineral involved in iron metabolism. It is anti-inflammatory, ensures superoxide dismutase – another potent antioxidant compound that can decrease oxidative stress, and has a role in energy creation (3).
Copper is utilized specifically in supporting healthy iron levels as it is a part of metallothionein and ceruloplasmin. Ceruloplasmin enables the conversion of non-heme iron into heme iron, with metallothionein involved in regulating gene expression and modulating inflammation, both of which require copper for proper function and health effects.
Benefits of copper;
Being a trace mineral, we don’t need much copper, and mushrooms contribute 1/5th of the RDI of copper per 100g serving, making mushrooms a good source of dietary and nutritional source of copper.
Phosphorous is an abundant maco mineral within our body. It is also abundant in whole foods and plant foods. A 100g serving of mushrooms provides 11% of the RDI (recommended daily intake) of phosphorous, making mushrooms a viable nutritional source of phosphorous.
Phosphorous is abundant in the body and like the B-vitamins, is involved in essentially every kind of organ system, specifically the skeletal system, energy production, and protein metabolism.
Benefits of Phosphorous;
Potassium is one of the major minerals essential for optimal health. Not only is potassium an electrolyte, but it’s also necessary for muscle contraction, nerve transmission, the nervous system, balancing blood sugar, energy production, healthy kidneys, and cardiovascular health, to name a few key ones.
There’s no RDI for potassium as it’s abundant in plant foods and whole foods. But the adequate intake level for adults is 2,800 – 3,800mg each day. A 100g serve of mushrooms provides 360mg of potassium. Additional potassium is required for athletes or those who are very active, as it is involved in muscle contraction and nerve transmission. And a lack of potassium prevents the conversion of stored glucose (glycogen) into glucose to be utilized as energy to fuel muscle contractions.
Potassium is crucial for;
B12 or cobalamin is such an important B vitamin. It is needed for proper iron status, cell division, DNA synthesis, nervous system function, cognition, modulating inflammation and homocysteine levels, and energy production.
Of course, when we talk about B12, we talk about vegan diets that are lacking animal sources of B12. Mushrooms offer a non-animal source of B12, making it an even more attractive dietary addition and boosting B12 levels through food. The RDI for B12 is 2.4ug per day.
Benefits of B12 include;
B12 is especially crucial for vegans and vegetarians, but also individuals lacking high-quality protein diets or have malabsorption issues, leaky gut, dysbiosis, or low stomach acid, as all of these conditions impair the absorption and utilization of B12.
B12 not only enables DNA to be replicated and healthy gene expression, but is also involved in healthy iron levels. A lack of B12 causing megaloblastic anemia, which contributes to fatigue, slow wound healing, recovery, and mood imbalances, so ensuring adequate B12 levels is a must for everyone, not just vegans and vegetarians.
Some mushroom varieties that contain considerable amounts of vitamin B12 include the fruiting bodies of Lion's Mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus), Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes), black trumpet (Craterellus cornucopioides) and golden chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius).
Other mushrooms with trace levels of vitamin B12 include the fruiting bodies of porcini mushrooms (Boletus sp.), oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus), and black morels (Morchella conica).
As we’ve touched on in previous articles, antioxidants play a key role in overall health, the absence of disease and symptoms, and in supporting longevity. The key reason we want to be consuming antioxidant-rich foods is to balance out the levels of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is caused by free radicals, rogue molecules that damage DNA and interfere with gene expression and cell function.
We naturally produce free radicals in our liver and bodies. And we’re exposed to free radicals in our environment, such as air pollutants, toxic chemicals, and artificial flavors, to name a few, all of which add to our allostatic load and oxidative stress level. Too much oxidative stress negatively impacts our immune system, cardiovascular system, and is linked to heart disease and metabolic disease.
Because we live in a world that adds more oxidative stress, we need to help balance this delicate see-saw by adding antioxidant-rich foods and superfoods.
Antioxidant compounds “donate” themselves to these free radical compounds, canceling them out and inching our body closer to homeostasis and balance. Antioxidant compounds are rich in plants and are polyphenols like flavonoids, vitamin C and vitamin E, beta-carotene, lutein, gallic acid, and quercetin, to name a few well-known ones.
Medicinal mushrooms like Chaga Mushroom are rich in potent antioxidant compounds and help maintain the oxidative/antioxidant ratio improving overall health, nutrition, and wellbeing.
Mushrooms can lower cholesterol through their fiber and chitin content, as well as their beta glucans. Cholesterol is naturally synthesized in the liver and is used to create sex hormones as well as HDL / LDL and VLDL, all of which carry cholesterol to and from our cells.
We utilize cholesterol also within our cell membranes; hence it has a functional and beneficial role. It’s when we have too much of the “bad: cholesterol; the VLDL and LDL and cholesterol get dumped into the bloodstream, that atherosclerosis and plaque begin to form, which drives stroke and heart attacks.
Mushrooms can improve and “mop” up excess “bad” cholesterol as fiber binds with cholesterol and bile salts and excretes it from the body via the digestive tract.
Additionally, Maitake mushrooms, Shiitake mushrooms, and Reishi mushroom have been shown in numerous trials and studies to reduce total cholesterol, improve cardiovascular health and may help prevent heart disease (4).
The beta glucan, alpha-glucans, galactans, chitin, and polysaccharides of mushrooms can influence and “speak” to the microbiome. Improving gut health, functioning as a prebiotic modulating the microbiota, and supporting a healthy immune system (7).
With 80% of the immune system located within the gut, we can see how mushrooms elicit both an immune-boosting benefit, improving the colonization of healthy bacteria while also upregulating the resistance of pathogenic bacteria that can cause illness and inflammation.
Mushrooms have been used for centuries to improve gut health and being a fungi, not a bacteria themselves, they have an alpha top-down ability to help shift microbial species within the gut and vaginal microbiome. This is also due to their phenolic compounds and bitter triterpene compounds.
Specific studies have shown that Chaga Mushroom induced changes to the gut microbiota and increased Bacteroidetes species. Reishi mushrooms also increasing Bifidobacterium species, both of which are very advantageous to a healthy gut, which we know is the epicenter of our wellbeing (7).
Mushrooms are a secret nutrition tip to improving immune and gut health.
When it comes to weight loss, I know for me, I look at it from a holistic perspective because calories aren’t just calories, and there’s often numerous underlying mechanisms in why weight isn’t lost.
It can be stress, a lack of sleep, low thyroid function, hormone imbalances, anxiety, under or over-exercising, and wrong food choices, to name a few.
Mushrooms can help with weight loss and assist already existing weight loss programs because they address all of these factors. Mushrooms support the nervous system and buffer the stress response, enabling our body to “know it’s safe” and leave fight-or-flight mode. Instead, mobilizing fat stores to be utilized, since it is not survival mode for cortisol to be blocking weight loss.
Mushrooms are also potent antioxidants that can fight inflammation which is a key block in weight loss. Mushrooms also help to balance hormones and restore homeostasis.
Mushrooms also contain very low to almost no calories and are rich in micronutrients that support a healthy body, BMI, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels, all linked to a healthy weight.
Mushrooms lead to healthier-looking skin due to being rich in specific skin-loving nutrients like selenium, Vitamin D, and key amino acids. These nutrients are utilized by skin cells, with selenium acting as an antioxidant protecting against UV damage and further oxidation in the skin.
Selenium plays a key role in protecting skin from oxidative stress and UV damage that accelerates signs of aging. It also protects skin cells from further damage, which damages their function. Selenium is also necessary for DNA synthesis. Our skin cells have a rapid turnover rate, and selenium is beneficial in supporting this.
Vitamin D not only protects the skin from the sun but also decreases DNA damage and apoptosis, improving skin health overall. Vitamin D is anti-inflammatory and modulates the immune response, which can assist in improving eczema and psoriasis.
Mushrooms are rich in amino acids, low in carbohydrates, and fats and contain numerous micronutrients like Vitamin D, selenium, phosphorous and potassium.
Mushrooms contain virtually 0 calories, and are very low in fat, and carbohydrates. They are adequate in protein.
The carbohydrate content of mushrooms is very low. Nutrient data shows that mushrooms contain short-chain sugars known as polysaccharides. These particular mushroom nutrition compounds include chitin, beta glucans and alpha glucans which help support and improve the immune system.
Mushrooms are an adequate additional source of protein ranging from 6-10g of protein per 100g.
Mushrooms themselves are not high in iron but are sources of copper, folate, and B12, which are required for high iron.
Mushroom nutritional value is all about being rich in micronutrients and specific vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin D, selenium, potassium, phosphorous and copper. Mushrooms are low in carbohydrates being beneficial for those with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, low in lipids and adequate in amino acids. Mushrooms are able to support the nervous system, gut health, boost skin health, help with cholesterol and weight loss and promote longevity and wellness.
Eliza Hedley is a health, mindset and abundance enthusiast obsessed with helping millennial's experience living at a higher level.
Eliza's relaxed new age approach and understanding of nutrition and wellness sees her empowering and coaching individuals to understand that their health is the ultimate asset. Upon experiencing first hand the power and place of tonic herbalism and medicinal mushrooms in everyday life, Eliza’s become an adaptogen fangirl and feels their utilisation in today’s world is essential for abundance and wellbeing.