LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — Looking for a way to get all of those daily nutrients health experts say are important — without a giant grocery list? A new study finds adding just a half-cup of mushrooms to a diet can significantly increase the amount of nutrients people consume. Even better, researchers say a side-order of mushrooms won’t add extra calories, sodium, of fat to your meal.
The study, which, notably, was commissioned by the Mushroom Council, examined what adding a serving of mushrooms does to eaters lacking in certain nutrients. Researchers looked at data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2011-2016. Dr. Victor L. Fulgoni III and Dr. Sanjiv Agarwal studied two different scenarios involving the nutritious produce.
One model added 84 grams, roughly a half-cup, of common mushrooms to the survey information. These varieties include white, cremini, and portabella mushrooms. The other added the less common oyster mushrooms to meals. The results reveal the addition of one serving of mushrooms can make up for deficiencies in both potassium and fiber.
Adding a serving of any of the mushrooms in the study also increases nutrients like copper (24%-32%), phosphorus (6%), selenium (13%-14%), zinc (5%-6%), riboflavin (13%-15%), niacin (13%-14%), and choline (5%-6%) in both children and adults.
Mushrooms are not vegetables, they’re super-nutritious fungus
Although they make their home in the produce aisle with all the vegetables, mushrooms are fungi. Researchers say they’re biologically different from both plant and animal-based foods.
While the United States Department of Agriculture may classify this food grouping by its use as a vegetable, mushrooms actually provide nutrients common in both plants and animals. They are becoming more popular among people switching to plant-based diets and those avoiding calories, saturated fatty acids, and sodium.
“This research validated what we already knew that adding mushrooms to your plate is an effective way to reach the dietary goals identified by the DGA,” says Mary Jo Feeney, nutrition research coordinator to the Mushroom Council, in a media release. “Data from surveys such as NHANES are used to assess nutritional status and its association with health promotion and disease prevention and assist with formulation of national standards and public health policy (CDC, 2020).”
Make room for shrooms if you need some vitamin D
According to the USDA’s FoodData Central, five medium, raw white mushrooms adds up to about 90 grams or a half-cup. That serving only contains 20 calories and zero grams of fat. It also accounts for three grams of protein and has very little sodium in it.
Another added bonus of chowing down on mushrooms is the boost in vitamin D. Researchers say few foods naturally carry this important nutrient. Exposing mushrooms to UV-light however, provides this food with several micrograms of vitamin D per serving. Eating one serving of white mushrooms (90g) or cremini mushrooms (80g) can add 23.6mcg and 25.52mcg of vitamin D, respectively.
When it comes to lowering rates of vitamin D deficiency, study authors find adding mushrooms to a diet meets and even exceeds the recommended daily amount health experts call for. A serving of UV-exposed mushrooms can drop the population inadequacy of vitamin D from 95 percent in children to just 53 percent. For adults, it would drop from 95 percent to just under 64 percent.
Mushrooms are also rich in sulfur-containing antioxidant amino acids such as ergothioneine and tripeptide glutathione. Some varieties of the healthy fungus contain more than others, with the oyster mushrooms packing the most amount.
The Mushroom Council is made up of fresh market producers and importers who provide over 500,000 pounds of mushrooms annually. They are supervised by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
The findings appear in the journal Food Science & Nutrition.