Healthy? Yes, but some claims about mushrooms sound too good to be true.
Add fungi to any dish and you’ll impart loads of savory, meaty flavor—for very few calories. (Six white ’shrooms clock in at a mere 28 calories.) Mushrooms also deliver nutrients that many of us lack, such as potassium, which keeps blood pressure in check: A cup of white buttons has nearly 10 percent of your daily target (4,700mg)—a goal only 2 percent of Americans meet.
They’re brimming with phytochemicals, antioxidants, and a fiber called beta-glucan, all of which have anti-inflammatory properties. That means they can protect you from a number of diseases, says Lawrence Cheskin, MD, director of Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center.
A 2017 study found fungi to be the best source of two disease-fighting antioxidants, ergothioneine and glutathione (low levels of the latter have been linked with higher risks of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer). But here’s the catch—there isn’t research to show eating mushrooms alone influences health. One study linked low ergothioneine levels with cognitive decline, but mushroom consumption didn’t differ between those with normal and mild cognitive impairment. And research on mushrooms’ impact on the immune system, gut health, tumor growth, and blood sugar is preliminary at best.
Bottom line: Mushrooms are delicious and nutritious, but they’ve yet to achieve cure-all status.