NUTRITION

This Just In: Mushrooms Can Help Fight Depression, Ageing and More

Beyond adding a beautiful savoury flavour to different dishes, mushrooms pack a powerful punch in terms of health benefits. Here are the ways in which you can tell the common types of mushrooms apart, and all the reasons they belong on your plate.

By Shreya Maji
06 February 2022
Mushrooms

We add them to our soups or use them as pizza toppings, but mushrooms remain under-appreciated and underutilised in comparison to their off-the-charts nutritive value. Usually bell-shaped in appearance, mushrooms are low in fat, high in fibre and contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. Netflix’s 2019 documentary Fantastic Fungi details how mushrooms can have significant uses in neurology, psychiatry and medicine. From contributing to better heart health to strengthening the immune system and preventing cognitive decline, research published in 2021 in the Journal of Fungi has shown that mushrooms have a myriad of health benefits. What’s more, these are not just the medicinal, adaptogenic or exotic varieties: even the common button mushrooms have these properties.

 

Here are the seven most commonly available mushrooms in India, and a breakdown of their vital nutritional benefits.

 

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  • Button mushrooms: The most popular choice for culinary uses, the white button mushroom is commonly available in India. They are round-capped, have a mild flavour, and are milky white or light brown in appearance. They can easily blend into any dish they are added to, making them a favourite for soups, salads and as a pizza topping.
  • Oyster Mushrooms: Grown extensively in the regions of Orissa, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, this variety of mushrooms are fan-shaped, whitish in colour, and have a delicate odour. When cooked, they have a smooth texture and a slightly earthy flavour.
  • Straw Mushrooms: Grown in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, this variety is also called Chinese mushrooms. The mushrooms are harvested before their caps open up, giving them the appearance of small eggs. They have a mild, earthy flavour, making them a good addition to any recipe of your choice.
  • Shiitake Mushrooms: Identified by their umbrella-shaped brown cap, these mushrooms are grown in Northern India. They have a light woodsy flavour and a smoky aroma, and are often used in Japanese and Chinese dishes.
  • Portobello Mushrooms: A common substitute for meat because of their distinct umami flavour, the portobello mushroom was originally grown only in Italy. They resemble button mushrooms, but are much bigger in size. Their texture and size make them a great option for making grilled or stuffed mushrooms.
  • Enoki Mushrooms: These mushrooms have small, shiny white caps attached to thin stems. They have a distinctive crunch that makes them a good addition to salads and noodle dishes.
  • Morel Mushrooms: An exotic, rare variety of mushroom grown in the Himalayan region where it is called Gucchi, the honeycomb-textured morel mushroom has a smoky, nutty flavour. It is most often used in French cuisine.

 

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Why You Should Add Mushrooms to your Diet

1. Good for your heart
Mushrooms contain anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants. They are also high in a set of bioactive compounds called eritadenine and sterols that help reduce the build-up of plaque, cholesterol, and blood pressure. In a study published in 2021 in the Journal of Fungi, it was observed that eating mushrooms had a significant positive impact on blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels in subjects with type 2 diabetes, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

 

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2. Can boost your memory In a study conducted by the National University of Singapore over the course of six years, it was observed that eating one to two servings of mushrooms every week reduced the risk of mild cognitive decline in older adults by 43 per cent, lowering the chances of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. A recent study published in October 2021 in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research associates this to the presence of high amounts of polyphenols in mushrooms.

 

3. Might help combat anxiety and depression
One of the nutritional benefits of mushrooms is their promising effects on mental health. A long-term study conducted from 2005 to 2016 by the Penn State College of Medicine found that people who consumed moderate to high levels of mushrooms have lower odds of depression and anxiety. This is because of the presence of amino acids with anti-inflammatory properties called ergothioneine, which cannot be synthesised by the human body. Additionally, mushrooms are a great source of vitamin D, which has been shown to improve mood, and potassium, which reduces anxiety.

 

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4. Can reduce visible signs of ageing
If you are looking for ways to reduce the risk of wrinkles, adding mushrooms to your diet might be the way to go. According to a 2017 study by Penn State College of Medicine, mushrooms are packed with two antioxidants, ergothioneine and glutathione. These antioxidants prevent oxidative stress and reduce visible signs of ageing, allowing you to look more youthful.

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