Don't sleep on mushrooms! Hippies, foodies, and vegetarians may be known for adding chaga to their coffee, or tossing portobello "burgers" on the grill come the 4th of July, but mushrooms are not a fringe food. While definitely gaining steam worldwide, the humble mushroom is still a wildly underrated superfood that, quite frankly, really needs to be part of your WFPB diet (or any diet!). The health benefits of mushrooms are plenty, but mushrooms are also essential for a thriving environment. Yep — these “fun guys” (I can’t help myself) were recycling before it was cool.
Here's why it's time to add more mushrooms to your plate, plus the super easy and delicious ways to do just that.
Calling all mushroom fans: say hello to the vegan Hungarian Mushroom Soup of your dreams! This creamy, dreamy soup's loaded with porcini and white button mushrooms, two of the most antioxidant-rich mushrooms out there. Oh, and it doubles as a WFPB gravy so whip up a batch of your favorite dairy-free mash and enjoy. Get started with plant-based meal delivery from MamaSezz here.
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Here's a little something to bake your noodle...
Even though you can find mushrooms in the veggie section at the grocery store, mushrooms don’t technically fall into the “plant” kingdom (although they for sure are included in a healthy WFPB diet). And no, these little wonders don't fall into the “animal” kingdom, either. So where they heck do mushrooms belong?
Mushrooms are a fungus (I know, it doesn't sound appetizing but don't let it deter you). And fungus, believe it or not, gets one of the six biological kingdoms all to itself!
Kingdom indeed! There are over 14,000 types of mushrooms on this planet (only about 300 of those are edible).
An important thing to know is that the inedible mushrooms can be fatally poisonous, and many varieties produce a hallucinogenic effect when ingested. You've probably heard these kinds of mushrooms referred to as "magic" mushrooms — and probably by your friend who really likes jam bands. While "magic" mushrooms can be dangerous, they have been decriminalized in some states as research shows they may reduce depression and PTSD when taken in small supervised doses.
OK, but let's get back to the edible mushrooms you can (and should!) eat, without fear of hallucination. Edible mushrooms are popular with WFPB eaters and those looking to cut back on meat because they have a meaty flavor and texture, making them a great plant-based swap in old favorites, like vegan bolognese or pulled "pork."
Need Some Gudiance? 13 of Our Favorite Varieties of Mushrooms (with Handy Flavor Descriptions):
- White button: Mild flavor, most commonly used (young crimini)
- Portobello: Meaty, large, great for grilling or stuffing (mature crimini)
- Shiitake: Oaky, woody, chewy.
- Oyster: Delicate flavor, high-end
- King Oyster “King Trumpet”: Meaty, chewy
- Chantarelle: Rare, firm, golden colored
- Lion’s Mane: Spongy, shaggy, often sold dried and powdered
- Porcini: Sharp flavor, rich, woodsy (has the highest antioxidant content of any mushroom)
- Maitake “Hen of the Wood”: Soft, earthy, gamey, spicy
- Chicken of the Wood: Firm, Tastes and texture like chicken
- Enoki: White, thin, have a slight crunch when eaten raw
- Beech: Sweet, nutty, crunchy
- Crimini “baby bellas”: Common, baby portobellos with a more mild flavor
Your local grocery store will carry white buttons, “baby bellas,” and Portobellos. And if you’re lucky you might find shiitake, oyster, and dried porcini there, too.
You’ll most likely have to head to a farmer’s market, natural food store, or co-op to find the rest.
Mushrooms are mother nature's recyclers! While plants use sunlight as fuel, these fungi feed off of dead and decaying organisms. They actually weave a network below the soil that can reach miles and miles, with mushrooms or mushroom clusters popping up here and there above the surface.
Fun(gi) fact: The biggest “mycelium,” as they call these networks, covers over 2 miles and is over 8,500 years old...that's one humungous fungus!
Oh, and here's another cool green fact: mushrooms are sustainably grown. They don’t require chopping down thousands of square feet of rainforest for the industry (that was a bit passive aggressive towards agro-farming, but it's true and it's one of the reasons I love mushrooms!).
In Tanzania there is a program called, “Farm Africa,” that helps farmers grow and sell oyster mushrooms instead of rearing livestock to promote sustainability. So cool, right?
And mushrooms aren't just good for the planet — there are so many health benefits of mushrooms it'd be wild not to eat them. Here are some of the top reasons to add this versatile fungus to your plate.
1. Mushrooms Slow the Aging Process
Want to stay young? Eating mushrooms might just get you one step closer to immortality (or so the Ancient Egyptians thought). But honestly they weren’t that far off! Mushrooms are a WFPB food loaded with antioxidants to help and keep your cells intact, slowing the aging process on your body along the way.
2. Mushrooms Help Fight Breast Cancer
Eating even just five white button mushrooms a day was found to be effective in suppressing breast cancer growth!
3. Mushrooms Boost your Immune System
Stay healthy this cold and flu season and eat more mushrooms! Mushrooms are an immunity-boosting superstar. They’re high in Vitamin D (which activates the immune system response and helps T cells do their job of warding off infection). They’ve also got plenty of beta-glucans, which have been shown to activate killer cell function — again, to help you ward off illness.
Eating mushrooms also helps your body to increase antibody production, while decreasing inflammation. One study demonstrates that with just one cup of white button mushrooms a day, the IGA antibody production in saliva doubles. Even crazier? It stays that way for two weeks after eating the mushrooms!
4. Mushrooms Keep Your Heart Healthy
While mushrooms are cholesterol-free like all WFPB foods, they’ve also got lots of chitin and beta-glucan. These are the fibers that lower cholesterol and help boost cardiovascular health.
5. Mushrooms Lower Your Blood Pressure
Hello vitamin B3 (also known as niacin) — mushrooms are loaded with it, which helps your body drive out toxic buildup and can lower blood pressure.
6. Mushrooms Help You Lose Weight
If you're interested in a plant-based diet to lose weight, definitely add mushrooms to your grocery list. Mushrooms are a hearty (and tasty) substitute for beef. One study by John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health showed that when adults swapped ground beef for mushrooms in just one meal per day, they consumed 400 fewer calories daily, lost on average 7 pounds over the course of the study, and reduced overall body fat.
I get it. Mushrooms can be kind of intimidating, especially if you're new to a WFPB diet or didn't grow up eating them.
How do I cook them?
Where do I buy them?
Can I eat them raw?
I'm here to put your mind at ease and sharing my best WFPB mushroom tips and tricks so you can experience the health benefits of mushrooms, without any stress!
How to Clean Mushrooms
Wipe mushrooms with a damp paper towel or reusable cloth to remove any dirt before cooking.
How to Cook Mushrooms
Always cook your mushrooms! Mushrooms contain agaritine, which can have toxic effects on the body. Heating the mushroom mutes that toxin, leaving your mushrooms healthy to eat.
Where to Buy Mushrooms
Find fresh mushrooms in the refrigerated produce section at your grocery store.
How to Store Mushrooms
Store mushrooms in your refrigerator. They keep best in paper bags so if you have those, use them! Take off the plastic wrapping on your packaged mushrooms and place the mushrooms in a brown paper bag (like a lunch bag!), then roll the bag or fold it down to "seal" it. If your mushrooms start to smell bad, or become slimy, it’s time to throw them out.
How to Cook Mushrooms Without Oil (on the Stove):
If you're just starting a a WFPB diet, you may be wondering how you can sauté mushrooms without mushroom. Well wonder no more!
After cleaning, slice mushrooms thinly, chunk them up, or leave them whole. Add mushrooms to a hot pan with about ¼ a cup of water and let the water cook off. Stir. Then, add another ¼ cup of water along with your spices, and let that cook off. Do NOT stir. Leave the mushrooms on the heat until all of the water is gone, and they begin to sizzle. Let them sizzle for a few minutes, and the remove them from the heat. The sides of the mushrooms that were in contact with the pan should be golden brown. Enjoy your oil-free sautéed mushrooms.
The Easiest, Most Delicious Way to Flavor Mushrooms
Garlic powder + low sodium Tamari. Add a bit of thyme or parsley if you’re feeling wild. That's it! So easy, so delicious. You can do this!
How to Eat Those Tasty Mushrooms
OK, now that you've prepared your mushrooms (it was so easy, right?!), here's what to do with them.
- Add mushrooms to your WFPB salads
- Toss them with veggies and noodles
- Mix into your stir-fry
- Cook in your soups or add as a garnish
- Top your avocado toast
- Enjoy with a baked potato
- Pile them on your vegan sandwich
The Easiest Way to Reap the Health Benefits of Mushrooms: Let MamaSezz Cook!
We love us some mushrooms here at MamaSezz! And the proof's in many of our best-selling meal staples. We've got seven plant-based dishes that include white and porcini mushrooms, which means it's super easy for you to reap the health benefits of mushrooms...without having to prep and cook them yourself.
Want to eat more mushrooms? Add any of these to your next MamaSezz order:
- Hungarian Mushroom Soup
- Ricotta Style Mushroom and Tomato Bake
- Breakfast Scramble
- Veggie Loaf
- Mama’s Burger
- High Protein Veggie Burger
- Breakfast Sausage
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- Mushrooms are fungus that produces edible, poisonous, and psychedelic fruits.
- There are 300+ edible mushroom varieties, but the most common are white button, crimini, portobello, porcini, and oyster.
- These eco-friendly fungi help our planet naturally recycle dead organisms.
- Mushrooms are loaded with health benefits, including weight loss, boosted immunity, cancer fighting properties, anti-aging, and heart health.
- Mushrooms should be cleaned before cooking and cooked before consumption.
- Mushrooms are a great vegan meat replacer, and can essentially be eaten in any savory dish. Oh, and they taste fantastic with low-sodium Tamari.
Caroline is a plant-based chef, recipe designer, and whole food plant-based nutrition educator, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.