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There was a time when the only mushrooms you could get in United States supermarkets were white “button” mushrooms. Now, we have access to a wealth of different tasty fungi. Shiitake, straw, crimini, enoki, and portobello are among the most common. Most share similar nutrition profiles: Many species are high in fiber and protein and provide several B vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin.
Brown mushrooms appear to provide more antioxidants.
White button mushrooms provide vitamin D, one of the very few non-animal sources for this vitamin. Vitamin D is essential to calcium metabolism and bone health. Deficiency in vitamin D is implicated in a variety of conditions, from chronic pain to Parkinson’s disease, including coronary and cardiovascular disease. Vitamin D also appears to play a role in the immune system, and it produces a hormone that has been effective against cancer cells in laboratory tests. White mushrooms may provide some major components of vitamin B12, though whether this is in a form that can be used by the body remains uncertain.
Shiitake mushrooms have a long history of medicinal use in China. Ming Dynasty physician Wu Juei wrote that shiitakes were a tonic against a variety of ills, including premature aging. In modern times, a compound found in shiitakes called lentinan has been investigated for its potential tumor-inhibiting capabilities, as well as its antiviral and antibacterial properties. It appears to stimulate the production of white blood cells and other components of the immune system used to fight disease.
Another compound in shiitakes, lenthionine, keeps blood platelets from sticking together and may help prevent blood clots and stroke. Ergothioneine, found in shiitakes and several other mushrooms (notably oyster and maitake mushrooms), is an antioxidant, but it behaves differently than other sulfur-containing antioxidants (such as those in Allium and Brassica foods). Mushrooms are the richest source of this compound, which scavenges free hydroxyl radicals and may help protect against nitric oxides and regulate metal-carrying enzymes.
Shiitake mushrooms are an excellent source of selenium and a very good source of iron. They are also a good source of protein, dietary fiber, and vitamin C.Nutritional Facts
(raw mushrooms) One-half cup of raw mushrooms provides 9 calories, 1.6 g carbohydrate, 0.7 g protein, 0.1 g fat, 0.4 g dietary fiber, 1 mg vitamin C, 1.4 mg niacin, 7 mcg folic acid, 130 mg potassium, 36 mg phosphorus, 2 mg calcium, and 4 mg magnesium.
(dried shiitake mushrooms) One ounce of dried shiitake mushrooms provides 83 calories, 21.1 g carbohydrate, 2.7 g protein, 0.3 g fat, 3.2 g dietary fiber, 1 mg vitamin C, 4 mg niacin, 46 mcg folic acid, 430 mg potassium, 82 mg phosphorus, 3 mg calcium, and 37 mg magnesium.