Learn about different types of mushrooms and their health benefits
There are four types of mushrooms: saprotrophic, mycorrhizal, parasitic, and endophytic.
While there are many different types of mushrooms within these categories, not all of them are edible. Since some may be poisonous or hallucinogenic, it’s important to be careful if you ever try to pick mushrooms in the wild. Edible mushrooms you buy at the grocery store are safe and full of nutritional value.
What are different types of edible mushrooms?
Edible fungi have been part of our diet for centuries. There are countless varieties. Examples include:
- Button (white) mushrooms: Widely available, button mushrooms are typically white or light brown. Plump and dome-shaped, these mushrooms have a mild, earthy flavor that intensifies when cooked.
- Chanterelle (girolle) mushrooms: Intrinsic to French cuisine, chanterelle mushrooms are vase-shaped, bright yellow to orange and expensive when fresh. They are nutty and delicate in flavor and texture. They are also available dried and canned.
- Cremini (Italian brown) mushrooms: Cremini mushrooms have naturally dark caps that range in color from light tan to rich brown. They are sometimes called “baby bella” mushrooms because they are the younger, smaller version of portobello mushrooms.
- Shiitake (forest and oak) mushrooms: Shiitake mushrooms range in color from tan to dark brown and have broad, umbrella-shaped caps up to 10 inches in diameter with wide open veils and tan gills. They have a rich, full-bodied flavor that is almost steak-like, with a meaty texture when cooked.
- Oyster mushrooms: The fluted caps of oyster mushrooms resemble a fan and range in color from a soft beige-brown to gray. This mushroom has a faint oyster-like or seafood flavor that matches its physical likeness to oysters.
What are the health benefits of mushrooms?
Mushrooms are a low-calorie food that packs a nutritional punch. Loaded with many health-boosting vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, they have long been recognized as an important part of a balanced diet. For instance, mushrooms raised with exposure to ultraviolet light are a good source of vitamin D, an important component in bone and immunity health.
Other health benefits include the following:
- Lowers blood pressure: Mushrooms are rich sources of potassium, a nutrient known for counteracting the negative impact that sodium can have on the body. Potassium lessens the tension in blood vessels by causing them to dilate, potentially helping to lower blood pressure.
- Boosts immune system: The anti-inflammatory effect of mushrooms improves the efficiency of the immune system. Beta-glucans in mushrooms help stimulate the defense cells (white cells) in the immune system, enhancing its ability to fight off foreign bodies and making the body less susceptible to serious illnesses.
- Weight loss: Mushrooms, in combination with exercise and other lifestyle changes, can help with weight loss by helping the body burn fat. The antioxidants in mushrooms are also thought to reduce the risk of hypertension and other metabolic disorders.
- Strengthens bones: Ultraviolet B-labeled mushrooms are exposed to sunlight during their growth period as opposed to mushrooms that are grown in the dark. They have converted a compound called ergosterol into vitamin D. Eating ultraviolet B-exposed mushrooms can therefore go a long way in meeting your daily vitamin D requirement. Dried mushrooms contain about 600 IU of vitamin D2 per 3.5 ounces if stored in dark, cool and dry conditions for up to 6 months. Some varieties contain even more vitamin D2 content.
Medically Reviewed on 6/9/2021
Valverde ME, Hernández-Pérez T, Paredes-López O. Edible mushrooms: improving human health and promoting quality life. Int J Microbiol. 2015;2015:376387. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4320875/