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The Magic of Mushrooms

Find out about the fascinating health and beauty benefits of fungi.

May 16th, 2013

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 The Magic of Mushrooms

Mushrooms may not be a fruit or a vegetable, but science says they are a boon to your health. You may already have a hunch that they pack a pretty nutritious punch: “They're a good source of fiber, they also are low in calories, and they offer unsaturated fatty acids,” says registered dietitian Heather Bauer, founder of the nutrition subscription service Bestowed. But recent studies have shown that mushrooms have even more benefits than we previously realized.

MORE: Why You Can't Stand Certain Foods

Not a fan of mushrooms? You may change your mind after we walk you through these fungi findings and the myriad of ways mushrooms boost your health:

Lose Weight
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University studied a group of adults who were trying to lose weight. Over the course of a year, half of these dieters substituted mushrooms for meat in their meals. The researchers found that these mushroom-eaters lost more weight than those on the meat diet, and they were able to keep this weight off.

Take-home tip: At your next barbecue, try a grilled portabello instead of a burger on your bun. “Portabello burgers are a great hearty, healthy meal,” says Bauer. “You get that meaty, steak-y quality of a burger without the cholesterol.” She recommends brushing the portabellos with olive oil prior to grilling. But she warns against marinating your portabellos for too long, as they'll over-saturate with oil.

Boost Your Immune System
Susan Percival, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at the University of Florida, recently found evidence that mushrooms can benefit your immune system.

She asked study subjects to eat shiitake mushrooms daily for four weeks. Percival took a blood sample from the participants before and after the experiment. After the four weeks of mushroom consumption, she found that their extracted immune cells were more reactive, with less inflammation, than before the experiment. 

MORE: Simple Steps to Boost Your Immune System

“I have to say,” notes Percival, “that the changes before and after consumption of mushrooms was one of the clearest responses I've seen in all of my studies. Mushrooms seem to do an excellent job of supporting our immune system.”

While this study only considered shiitake mushrooms, Percival expects that future studies with other kinds of mushrooms will show similar effects. What’s more, other mushroom varieties, such as maitake, have even been shown to promote cancer-fighting cells.

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