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What Are the Healthiest Types of Mushrooms?
author:Jillian Kubala, 2024-04-25 [Health]

Mushrooms, which are botanically classified as fungi, are rich in health-promoting compounds such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fiber, and antioxidants. 

Studies show that regularly eating mushrooms can improve the quality of your diet, protect against heart disease, support immune health, and even extend your lifespan.

While all edible mushrooms are healthy, some stand out because of their impressive nutrition profile and positive effects on health. 

Here are 5 of the healthiest mushrooms you can eat.



1. Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms


Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus species) are a group of edible mushrooms grown worldwide. They are nutritious, highly productive, and easy to grow, making them one of the most popular and widely cultivated edible mushrooms.

Oyster mushrooms have an oyster-like shape, a mild umami flavor, and a meaty texture. They are commonly enjoyed in recipes like pasta, soups, and meat dishes. Oyster mushrooms can be purchased at grocery stores and are also commonly foraged by mushroom hunters, as they grow in forests in many areas of the world. 

Oyster mushrooms are low in calories and carbohydrates yet high in B vitamins such as niacin, pantothenic acid, folate, and choline, as well as minerals like potassium.

In addition to nutrients, oyster mushrooms are a rich source of antioxidants, such as the phenolic compounds gallic acid, p-coumaric acid, chlorogenic acid, and naringenin, and the amino acid ergothioneine, all of which have powerful cellular-protective properties. They also provide beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that may help support healthy blood sugar and blood lipid levels.

A 2020 review of eight studies found that oyster mushroom intake helped reduce blood sugar, triglyceride, and LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) levels, all of which could help protect against heart disease.


2. Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms


Shiitake (Lentinus edodes) is an edible mushroom used for culinary and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Native to East Asia, shiitake mushrooms are cultivated worldwide and are commonly enjoyed in dishes like stir-fries and soups. Shiitakes have an earthy, rich taste and a meaty texture and are an excellent source of nutrients such as choline, copper, selenium, and zinc.

Shiitake mushrooms are a great choice for pregnant and breastfeeding people, as they’re packed with choline, a nutrient in high demand during these stages of life. For example, one cup of cooked shiitake mushrooms provides 116 milligrams (mg) of choline, which covers 25% and 21% of daily choline needs during pregnancy and breastfeeding, respectively. Choline plays an important role in fetal growth and development, as well as metabolism, cellular health and function, and neurotransmitter synthesis.

Shiitake mushrooms are also rich in immune-supportive and anti-inflammatory compounds. One 2015 study that included 52 people found that daily consumption of 5 to 10 grams (g) of dried shiitake mushrooms for four weeks improved immune health by increasing levels of natural killer cells (NK cells), which help protect against disease and illness, and led to reductions in inflammatory proteins like C-reactive protein (CRP).8


3. Maitake Mushrooms 

Maitake mushrooms


Grifola frondosa, commonly known as maitake or hen-of-the-woods, is a nutritious mushroom that’s a popular target of mushroom hunters and foragers. Maitake is native to China but also grows in other areas of the world, such as in the forests of North America. These mushrooms can reach up to 50 pounds and grow in fan-shaped clusters at the base of trees. These clusters sometimes resemble the tail feathers of a hen, hence the name hen-of-the-woods.

Maitake mushrooms have a rich, savory flavor and meaty texture that pair well with vegetable, poultry, and meat-based dishes. They are highly nutritious, providing B vitamins such as folate, niacin, and riboflavin and minerals like copper, which are necessary for energy production, neurotransmitter synthesis, and red blood cell production.

Studies suggest that maitake mushrooms have anticancer, immune-supporting, anti-diabetic, and anti-inflammatory properties. Maitake also contains compounds such as beta-glucans and amino acids, which may protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and support healthy aging.


4. Button Mushrooms

Button mushrooms


Button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) are the most commonly consumed mushroom in the world. Their classic umami taste and firm texture make them a popular choice for dishes like salads, pizzas, and omelets.

Button mushrooms are highly nutritious, providing vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They're especially high in selenium, a mineral required for the production of selenoproteins, which are specialized proteins necessary for important functions such as thyroid hormone production. Selenoproteins also function as antioxidants, protecting cells against oxidative damage that may otherwise lead to disease.

One 3-ounce serving of button mushrooms provides 9.3 micrograms (mcg) of selenium, which covers around 17% of the recommended Daily Value (DV). Selenium has powerful cellular-protective properties and findings from animal research suggest that eating more selenium-rich button mushrooms may help reduce the risk of health conditions related to oxidative damage, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Additionally, certain types of button mushrooms can help boost levels of vitamin D, a nutrient that plays critical roles in bone health, immune function, and growth and development. Studies show that consuming button mushrooms exposed to UV light can effectively boost blood levels of vitamin D to a similar degree as vitamin D supplements.


5. Lion's Mane Mushrooms

Lion's Mane mushrooms


Hericium erinaceus, commonly known as lion’s mane, is a unique-looking mushroom prized for its adaptogenic properties. Adaptogens are substances that increase the body’s resistance to stress, including physical, biological, and chemical stressors. Adaptogens also protect the body from stress-related damage and support normal functioning during times of stress.

Research suggests that consuming lion’s mane mushrooms may help reduce stress and improve cognitive function. A small 2023 study of 41 adults found that after supplementing with 1.8 grams of lion’s mane per day for 28 days, the participants reported significantly lower subjective stress scores compared to a placebo treatment and their baseline stress levels. The study also found that a single dose of lion’s mane significantly increased performance speed on cognitive tests.

Lion’s mane has also been shown to have antioxidant, anticancer, and neuroprotective properties, which are likely due to its high concentration of phenolic acids, polysaccharides, and terpenoids, all of which have powerful cellular-protective qualities.

Lion’s mane has a savory, seafood-like flavor and a tender texture that's delicious in pasta and grain dishes. It gets its name from its white, hair-like body that resembles a lion’s mane. Lion’s mane can be purchased in specialty grocery stores and online and is also a popular mushroom amongst foragers. 



What About Mushroom Supplements?

When taken in supplement form in specific doses, some mushrooms, such as lion’s mane, turkey tail, reishi, and cordyceps, have been shown to positively affect health.

For example, adaptogenic mushrooms like lion’s mane and reishi may help protect the body from the effects of physical and mental stress, improve physical performance under stressful conditions, and benefit cognitive function. Other mushrooms are known for their immune-supportive benefits and have even been used as alternative treatments for certain medical conditions, like some cancers.

One 2023 review of 26 studies found that medicinal mushroom supplements, such as those containing specific components of turkey tail and shiitake mushrooms, may have the following effects in people with certain cancers, including breast cancer and colorectal cancer:

  • Prevent the spread of cancer
  • Prolong overall survival
  • Reduce chemotherapy-related side effects
  • Improve immune function
  • Enhance the quality of life

While many mushrooms used in supplements have a strong safety record and haven’t been associated with serious health risks, taking concentrated doses of mushrooms isn’t safe or appropriate for everyone. Certain mushrooms have the potential to interact with common medications, provoke allergies, and increase the risk of symptoms in people with certain health conditions. 

If you’re interested in supplementing with mushrooms, it’s important to check with your healthcare provider first, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking one or more medications.



Tips for Consuming Mushrooms

Mushrooms are easy to prepare and can be enjoyed in a variety of recipes. Most people prefer cooked mushrooms, but certain types, like button mushrooms, can be consumed raw in dishes like salads. 

Here are a few ways to incorporate mushrooms into your diet:

  • Add sliced mushrooms into soups, stews, and gravies
  • Use them in egg dishes, like omelets, frittatas, and quiches
  • Try them in your favorite pasta and grain-based recipes
  • Incorporate them into burgers, meatloaf, and meatballs
  • Serve sautéed mushrooms as a flavorful side dish
  • Top homemade pizza with your favorite mushrooms
  • Use sautéed mushrooms as a savory topping for avocado toast

Mushrooms can be added to most savory dishes and can be blended into baked goods, like breads.

Mushrooms vary in taste and texture, so you may have to experiment with different types and cooking methods to find a mushroom that suits your preferences.


A Quick Review

Mushrooms are fungi that offer a variety of health benefits. Not only are mushrooms a source of essential nutrients, like selenium and B vitamins, but eating certain kinds can promote heart health, reduce inflammation, and support cognitive function.

Oyster mushrooms, shiitake, maitake, button mushrooms, and lion’s mane are just a few mushroom types known to positively impact overall health.