Is a mushroom a fruit or a vegetable?
It is eaten like a vegetable, yet the part we eat is called a “fruiting body”, with most of the mushroom growing underground in what is called “mycelium”. But the mushroom is neither a fruit nor a vegetable. All mushrooms come from a completely different living kingdom, the mushroom kingdom, or what we call the “3rd Food Kingdom”.
Because it is from a different food kingdom, the mushroom has a very different nutrition profile and has antioxidants and bioactive compounds not found in plants. For example, it has more B vitamins that found in vegetables, it is a good source of essentials mineral like selenium and has powerful antioxidants like ergothioneine.
The mushroom evolved at a different time to plants (Carroll 2001). They arrived on earth after plants and before animals. So, please keep eating your vegetables, while adding mushrooms to the meal to take advantage of its unique health benefits. In fact, the latest research indicates that it is a smart decision to eat mushrooms daily as they have a positive influence on blood lipids, blood glucose, immunity and weight control, and offer many essential nutrients and antioxidants.
So, rather than eating five vegetable serves a day, try eating four serves of vegetables and one serve of mushrooms for good health.
Carroll SB. Chance and necessity: the evolution of morphological complexity and diversity. Nature 2001; 409: 1102-1109
Does the mushroom contain vitamin B12?
Mushrooms are often associated with vitamin B12, a vitamin commonly found in animal foods. Ground-breaking research at the University of Western Sydney revealed that there are wide-ranging amounts of B12 in mushrooms. Their detailed experiments on mushrooms of all sizes and stages of growth from around Australia conclusively proved that:
- Mushrooms do have B12 present. It is on both the surface of the mushroom and in the flesh of the mushroom. The majority of B12 is in the surface of the cup of the mushroom.
- The B12 present is bio-available, in exactly the same form as B12 in beef liver and fish; therefore it is easy to absorb from the intestines.
- The amount of B12 in mushrooms varies from crop to crop. One serve will provide about 2-4% of the RDI. However, that level may be an important amount over a lifetime for a vegan who loves their mushrooms.
Although mushrooms are not high in B12, they are still the only non-animal fresh food source of B12. See the fact sheet on vitamins and minerals for more information.
Koyyalamudi SR, Jeong SC, Cho KY, Pang G. Vitamin B12 is the active corrinoid produced in cultivated white button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus). J Agricultural & Food Chemistry 2009; 57 (14): 6327-6333
Do mushrooms have vitamin D?
This is another indication that the mushroom differs from plants. The mushroom, like humans, generates vitamin D when it is in the sunlight, specifically the UV part of sunlight. This is why wild mushrooms naturally generate 2-40 mcg of vitamin D in 100g serve. Compare that to the 5-15 mcg of vitamin D we need each day. You probably don’t eat wild mushrooms and prefer to buy them from grocers. Well, even putting your mushrooms in the sunshine for a 30-60 minutes will get them to start producing vitamin D.
Exposing commercial mushrooms to sunlight after harvest also triggers the production of vitamin D. Some Australian farmers have produced mushrooms with the daily needs of vitamin D in a single 100g serve, about 3 button mushrooms. Vitamin D mushrooms are also available in Canada, NZ and the USA. For more information, see out fact sheet on Mushrooms and Bones or go to Vitamin D Mushrooms.
Do mushrooms cause gout or make it worse?
There is no evidence that certain fruits, vegetables or even mushrooms make gout worse. In fact, a high consumption of fruit, vegetables and mushrooms is linked to a lower risk of gout. Advice to gout sufferers to avoid foods such as spinach, asparagus and mushrooms is not justified. There is a separate fact sheet that discusses gout, the role of diet, in particular mushrooms, and provides references for those with an interest in science.
Is it true that mushrooms can reduce the risk of breast cancer?
In truth, we don’t know but there is some very compelling evidence that women who eat mushrooms have a much lower risk of breast cancer than women who don’t eat mushrooms. There have been three population studies that show that women who include mushrooms in their diet have about half the risk of breast cancer. A meta-analysis of all the research also supported a strong link between mushroom consumption and a lower risk of breast cancer.
It might be that some compounds in mushrooms protect women against breast cancer or it may be some other aspect of their lifestyle that is lowering the risk. This requires further research to determine the role of mushrooms in cancer. Please read the fact sheet on cancer for more information.
Full Article: Power of Mushrooms.