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Anti-Inflammatory Diet Tip: Mushrooms

See why the health benefits of mushrooms put them in the "all-star" category when it comes to diet.

Research continues to show that the health benefits of mushrooms are many, offering a host of protective benefits from heart disease to diabetes. The meaty shiitake mushroom contains a compound called eritadenine, which may lower your cholesterol by blocking it from getting into your bloodstream. It may also protect against many types of cancer, especially stomach cancer. Both shiitake and cremini mushrooms may have antibacterial and antiviral properties to help you fight off germs like the common cold and the flu. 

Oyster mushrooms are another all-star. They may lower your cholesterol, and some studies suggest they may protect against breast and colon cancers. They may also help control your blood sugar levels. One study showed that eating these mushrooms significantly lowered blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor to be sure these mushrooms won't drop your blood sugar too low. 

Reishi mushrooms are one of the most impressive varieties when it comes to inflammation. These types of mushrooms  may have anti-inflammatory properties stronger than aspirin. They may also help lower your blood pressure. 

What do experts say? 
"Mushrooms aren't a standard on superfoods lists, like blueberries and kale, but they should be," says dietitian Janis Jibrin, MS, RD. "They're a good source of copper, which is good for your heart, and selenium, which helps fight cancer. They also contain decent levels of B vitamins and phytonutrients." 

How should you eat them? 
Mushrooms aren't high enough in protein to swap wholesale for meat, says Jibrin, but their meaty texture can help you cut back. She suggests subbing in mushrooms for half the meat in casseroles, pasta sauces, Sloppy Joes and other dishes. 

The best way to take advantage of reishi mushrooms is by drinking them as a tea. They're too bitter and hard to eat, but a hot cup of reishi mushroom tea brings out all their goodness. 

Medically reviewed in November 2020. Updated in March 2021. 

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