How Mushrooms Can Help You with Weight Loss and Other Health Diseases

by Marixie Ann Obsioma, MT, undergrad MD on June 16, 2021
Last updated on June 27, 2021

If you like mushrooms, then you might just be surprised at how loaded they are with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibers (1). Mushrooms, while being neither vegetables or fruits but actually fungi, can actually protect you from several diseases and can help you provide you with a wide range of health benefits.

How Mushrooms Can Help You With Weight Loss and Other Health Diseases

Why Eat Mushrooms

Mushrooms are superfoods. Despite being a low-calorie food, they pack quite a nutritional punch (2). They are known to provide several and wide ranging health benefits to the person eating them. Some of these are:

1. Healthier Blood Pressure

Mushrooms are rich sources of potassium, which is known to reduce the negative impact of sodium on your body. Not only that, potassium lessens tension in your blood vessels, thus helping you to lower your blood pressure (2). Most adults usually have difficulty in reaching the recommended daily potassium intake, which could be solved by adding mushrooms to your diet. In fact, a 100 gram serving of mushroom is known to provide about 500 milligrams of potassium (3).

2. Boosted Immune System

Mushrooms have anti-inflammatory effects that can greatly improve the efficiency of one’s immune system. In fact, research shows that mushrooms can help stimulate and enhance the immune system’s ability to defeat foreign bodies. This helps make you less prone to more serious illnesses.  (2) Each type of mushroom would have a unique effect on your immune system. As such, the key is finding the one perfect for your body’s needs (4).

3. Potential Anti-Cancer Properties

In some countries, particularly in Asia, mushrooms or mushroom-derived medications are being used to treat cancer. Studies have actually shown that mushrooms such as reishi and turkey tail might have anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties (4). On the other hand, there are also studies that show that white button mushrooms have been effective in preventing both breast cancer and prostate cancer (5).

4. Stronger Bones

You already know that mushrooms are packed and are rich with vitamins. One of these vitamins is Vitamin D. Most mushrooms are a good source of and could help increase Vitamin D levels in your body. Vitamin D, in turn, makes your bones a lot stronger (6).

Mushrooms for Weight Loss

Both long term and short-term studies have found that mushrooms are beneficial to a weight loss routine. Coupled with exercise and proper lifestyle changes, mushrooms can have a huge impact on your overall weight loss.

For starters, mushrooms have extremely low calories but extremely rich in nutrients (7). Thus, replacing some unhealthy or high calorie/cholesterol food in your diet with mushrooms as an alternative would definitely lead to better weight loss given that mushrooms contain only a fraction of calories of food like meat (8). This also means that you do not need not eat or venture into less healthy food choices just to get the different types of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that you need. You could already get a lot of what your body needs by eating mushrooms on a daily basis and incorporating them into your diet (7).

Apart from having very low calories, you’re probably wondering how mushrooms can help you with weight loss. Well, if you have tried going on a diet, you would probably know that the hardest part is not feeling full or satisfied after eating. As such, you would probably be tempted to break your diet and eat unhealthy foods. This is where mushrooms could be of help to you.

In a study published in the journal Appetite’s October issue, fifteen (15) men and seventeen (17) women who participated were given either two servings of sliced mushrooms or ground beef meat in 10 days. The purpose of the study was to measure the difference in the feeling of fullness or satisfaction between eating 226 grams of white button mushrooms and 28 grams of meat. The study, authored by Joanne Slavin, a professor at the University of Minnesota, found that those who consumed a mushroom-rich breakfast experienced less hunger, greater fullness and decreased prospective consumption when compared to those who were eating meat (9).

In another study using obese mice, it was found that mushrooms have a direct effect on the reduction of body weight and the prevention of weight gain and fat accumulation. While this has not yet been tested in humans, this opens several possibilities of the potential of mushrooms in the fight against obesity and obesity-related disorders. In this study published by an international group of scientists, two groups of mice were fed a high fat diet for 8 weeks. However, as compared to the first group which was fed the high fat diet alone, the second group was supplemented with an extract from Reishi mushrooms (10).

In that study, those mice who were supplemented with Reishi mushrooms as compared to those who were not have shown:

  • Decrease in body weight of approximately eight percent (8%) to sixteen percent (16%)
  • Decrease in fat deposited in the body cavity of approximately twenty percent (20%) to twenty nine percent (29%)
  • Decrease in fat deposited underneath the skin of approximately forty-four percent (44%) to fifty nine percent (59%)
  • Reduced adipocytes, the cells that produce and store fat, both as to size and fat content
  • Significant reductions in in inflammation
  • Significant bacterial toxin reduction in the bloodstream (10)

Lastly, another research has shown that substituting twenty percent (20%) of your beef consumption with mushrooms would lead to improvements in both body mass index (BMI) and belly circumference. Further, the antioxidants in mushrooms could help with reducing the risk of hypertension and other metabolic disorders (2).

Clearly all of these studies and research point to the invaluable contribution that mushrooms could have on weight loss and in keeping you healthy. That is why it comes as no surprise that many celebrities including Katy Perry, Kelly Osborne, Roxanne Pallett all subscribe to the M-Plan (1).

M-Plan Diet for Weight Loss

Now that we’ve mentioned the M-Plan to you, you might be wondering what the M-Plan is. Those who follow the M-Plan diet, or the mushroom diet, replace one of their meals each day with a mushroom-based meal for 14 days. In the M-Plan diet, the person, apart from eating two regular meals per day, eats another meal consisting of any variety of cooked mushroom. Those who adhere to the M-Plan diet steaming, roasting, or sautéing the mushrooms but with as little fat as possible. Essentially then, the M-Plan is a meal substitution diet whereby one meal is replaced with mushrooms. According to advocates for the M-Plan Diet, it reduces fat in the thighs, hips, and waist, but at the same time it does not lead to losing bust size in women (11).

The most highlighted pro of opting for an M-Plan diet is that it is simple and less restrictive. Most diets call for you to watch your calorie count or pick out the exact food that you can only eat. This type of diet feels too restrictive for most people and frankly, might be hard to maintain. On the other hand, the M-Plan diet is simple. You get to eat your regular meals and you just have to substitute one with a mushroom-based meal. It doesn’t specifically exclude other types of food that you may want to eat. Just make sure that you still watch out and try to reduce eating unhealthy foods. It can be aligned with basic advice for healthy eating and combine it with the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) dietary guidelines for eating a balanced diet by creating recipes to that effect (11).

How To Pick Out the Best Mushrooms

There is no one rule when purchasing mushrooms. Most of the time, how you pick out your mushrooms depends on the type that you are purchasing. However, there are few guidelines that you could apply to whatever type of mushroom you might be buying.

First off, mushrooms have a natural dirt-like, earthy smell. If you smell something different, like a sour or fishy smell, this means the mushrooms are no longer good for eating. Furthermore, you probably want to choose mushrooms which are too dry, too moist, or too wrinkled and contracted. Instead, make sure to go for those that look fresh and firm (12).

When buying mushrooms, also remember that buying loose mushrooms or mushrooms that are not yet packaged together is better. It allows you to inspect the conditions of the mushrooms to get a better assessment of their state. Check for bumps, breaks and bruises for each mushroom before buying them (12).

By making sure that you buy the right mushrooms, you have already done the first step in reaping the several surprising health benefits that these little fungi can provide.

How to Store Mushrooms

After buying the mushrooms, it is best to know how to store them. Of course, if you are eating them right away, then you won’t have much of a problem. But if you’re saving them for cooking and eating for another time, proper storage is essential given that mushrooms do not have a very long shelf life (12).

The best way to store your mushrooms is to keep them in an open bag inside your refrigerator, not in a cabinet or in the pantry. This will allow them to continue to stay fresh for the next few days. Do not store them in tightly sealed containers or in tightly sealed areas with no air as this will only hasten molding. However, while mushrooms can be stored, it will always be best to use them within the first few days from purchase (12).

Top Healthiest Mushrooms For Weight Loss

Now you probably know that there are several types of mushrooms out there and you’re probably wondering which mushrooms to use for your weight loss diet or even for other health benefits that you might want to derive. To help you, we have listed down some types of mushrooms that are extremely nutritious as well as their possible effects on your health.

1. Shiitake Mushrooms

These mushrooms grow naturally in Asian countries and are one of the most easily available mushrooms in the market. What’s nice about shiitake mushrooms is that it is a good meat alternative because it contains almost all of the same amino acids in meat. Further, it also contains sterols, eritadenine, and beta glucans that could help lower your blood sugar and combat high cholesterol (4).

2. White Button Mushrooms

Everyone who eats mushrooms is surely familiar with white button mushrooms since these are the most common mushrooms and are the easiest to find on the shelves. As per research, it has been shown that these easily available mushrooms might be effective in fighting against tumor growth (4) and in preventing breast cancer and prostate cancer (5).

If you love chips but are too afraid of their unhealthy content, then white button mushrooms can be of great help to you. Ditch those chips and try using fried white button mushrooms for your dips instead. Not only are mushrooms less calories by a huge margin, but they can also provide you with vitamins, like Vitamin D, which chips would never have.

3. Miatake Mushrooms

Miatake mushrooms, also called “Hen of the Woods”, are loaded with antioxidants and potassium that helps in lowering the risk of high blood pressure and stroke. What is nice about his mushroom, however, is that, apart from its health benefits, it is also a good ingredient for soups and sides and that is because of its distinct nutty and woodsy flavor. Additionally, there are those who also make more nutritious miatake-based coffee packed with disease fighting ingredients as a substitute to regular coffee (5).

4. Reishi Mushrooms

Last but not the least in the list are reishi mushrooms, which are called the mushroom of immortality, and rightly so because of their high nutrient contents. Apart from the study we mentioned earlier on the beneficial effects of reishi mushrooms in combating obesity and obesity-related diseases, reishi mushrooms also contain beta glucans and ganoderic acids, among other important nutrients for the body. These nutrients help protect your immune system, promote better sleep and greatly improve heart health (4).

These are just four of the many other mushrooms that could serve as meat alternatives for your M-Plan diet and that could provide wide ranging health benefits for your body. Should you want to learn more about the other mushrooms as well as their health benefits, you can search for oyster mushrooms, portobello mushrooms, porcini mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, crimini mushrooms, lion’s mane mushrooms, and turkey tail mushrooms, among others.

Tasty Mushroom Recipes

Another great thing about mushrooms is that they are not only nutritious, but they are culinarily versatile, meaning they can be used in cooking a variety of dishes, whether as the main ingredient or as a supplemental ingredient. As such, it makes it easier and less boring to stick with eating mushrooms. If you’re looking for your next mushroom-based meal, here are two delicious and tasty recipes you might want to consider.

1. Shiitake Meatless Pulled Pork Sliders

The ingredients you are going to need for this recipe are:

  • 4 ounces slice shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon of avocado oil
  • ½ cup of diced onions
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • ¼ to ½ cup of barbeque sauce
  • slider buns
  • salt and pepper (13)

For the slaw you are going to need:

  • 1 cup of shredded green cabbage
  • 1 cup of shredded purple cabbage
  • ½ cup of grated carrot
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 lime for the juice (13)

Cooking Procedure:

  • First, heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Then add the oil, onions and mushrooms.
  • Saute this for a maximum of eight (8) minutes until the mushrooms and onion soften.
  • Once the mushrooms and onion begin to soften, add in the garlic, apple cider vinegar, smoke paprika and barbeque sauce.
  • Then, cover the pan with a lid, reduce the heat to medium and cook for a maximum of ten minutes to get the mushrooms completely tender.
  • Once tender, season it with salt and pepper and set it aside.
  • It’s now time to make your slaw by mixing together the slaw ingredients in a bowl. Once you’ve done this, toast your slider buns in the oven.
  • Now that all your ingredients are cooked and ready, top each toasted slider bun with 2 tablespoons of your mushroom mixture and ¼ cup of your slaw and viola you now have a nutritious and delicious pulled pork alternative. (13)

2. Cream of Mushroom and Crab Soup

For this recipe you are going to need the following ingredients:

  • 2.5 pounds of white button mushrooms (washed and chopped)
  • ½ pound of vidalia onions (chopped)
  • ¼ cup of fresh garlic (chopped)
  • ½ pound potatoes (peeled and chopped)
  • ½ pound parsnips (peeled and chopped)
  • ½ teaspoon fresh rosemary (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh tarragon (chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce (low sodium)
  • 2 quarts vegetable stock (low-sodium)
  • 2 teaspoons oregano (dry)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon porcini powder
  • 1 tablespoon wasabi powder
  • 2 cups milk (nonfat)
  • 2 cups sour cream (fat free)
  • ½ pound crabmeat (lump)
  • ¼ cup chives (snipped) (14)

Cooking Procedure:

  • Use a large non-stick cooking pot and sauté the first nine ingredients (with the soy sauce) for ten (10) minutes.
  • Then, add the vegetable stock, oregano, basil, and porcini powder. Cook this over medium heat for five (5) to seven (7) minutes and wait for the potatoes to become tender.
  • Once the potatoes are tender, add the mild and blend until smooth. Lastly, add sour cream and crabmeat, then stir and blend.
  • Cook this for another two minutes and you can then serve it with chives as garnish (14).

The Bottomline

Mushrooms are filled with a wide variety of nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Not only that, but they also contain a lot less calories than meat and other regular food we need to eat.

Further, mushrooms also possess culinary versatility, making them the best alternatives for meat. In fact, several studies have shown that mushrooms are effective in reducing risks of obesity and other health-related diseases like high cholesterol, hypertension, and heart disease. With all these great nutrients in tasty and delicious mushrooms, you may want to regularly include these super fungi in your diet.

References

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