A recent research study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease showed that those who consumed > 2 portions of mushrooms per week had reduced odds of having mild cognitive impairment.  The bioactive compounds in mushrooms have the potential to delay neurodegeneration according to the cross sectional data in this study. (4)  Bioactive compounds are chemicals found in small amounts in plants that may promote health.

Mushrooms are regarded as a vegetable but they are actually a fungi.   These fungi are fat free, cholesterol free, gluten free, low in sodium and low in cholesterol.

Health Components of Mushrooms

Consuming mushrooms that are enhanced with Vitamin D2 through UV light exposure is one strategy to increase Vitamin D intake which many fall short on.  Optimum Vitamin D intake is essential for inflammation reduction, bone health, cell growth, in addition to neuromuscular and immune function. Crimini and portabella varieties contain higher levels of ergosterol; a precursor or pro Vitamin D2, which is converted to vitamin D upon exposure to UV light. (1)  Salmon and cod liver oil are also great sources of Vitamin D.

Selenium is a trace element that serves as an antioxidant which may help reduce cognitive decline.  The selenium content in mushrooms is variable due to the selenium content in the soil the mushrooms are grown in.  As we age our selenium concentrations decrease.  Some of the highest sources of selenium are seafood and organ meats.  Brazil nuts are also high in selenium content. (3)

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Ergothioneine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that acts as an antioxidant and has a unique role in the protection of mitochondria from oxidation.  It is only obtained from dietary sources with mushrooms being a top source.  (2)  Depending on the variety, one serving of mushrooms  can contain 2.4 to 4.9mg of ergothioneine.   Mushrooms that contain the highest amounts of ergothioneine include King oyster, maitake, oyster, and shiitake varieties.   It can also be found in black beans, red beans and oat bran.  

Incorporating Mushrooms Into a Healthy Diet

With a focus on nutrition as it relates to brain health; one should focus on eating a nutrient dense diet consisting of a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts/seeds, healthy fats (avocados, olive oil), lean meats, eggs and dairy.  There has been a shift towards plant based diets by making half your plate fruits and vegetables. Just recently, the Produce for Better Health Foundation launched the Have A Plant campaign. (5). This campaign looks at helping consumers to connect eating fruits and vegetables with feeling happier and healthier.

A great way to incorporate mushrooms that is trending is to blend them with beef, turkey or chicken for added nutrients and less meat intake. This “better for you blend” will add nutrients (Vitamin D, B Vitamins, Potassium, antioxidants) and decrease calories, fat, sodium.  It will also enhance flavor, extend portions (leftovers) and save on costs.    The Umami flavor of mushrooms is due to Glutamate and certain 5′-ribonucleotides chemicals.(2)  For added nutrients and flavor try adding mushrooms to stir-frys, burgers, meatloaf, meatballs, tacos, omelettes, pizza, and pasta sauce. Mushroom extract is being added to coffee and Trader Joe’s has a new spice that is mushroom based; Multipurpose Umami Seasoning Blend.   There are a multitude of health benefits that mushrooms provide including; antioxidant activity, immunity enhancement, anti-cancer properties, weight management and the reduction of sodium and saturated fat intake.  The mushroom trend will continue to expand in 2019 according to the Mushroom Council. (1)

Recipe: Mushroom Lentil Meatballs

These vegan mushroom lentil meatballs are perfect for a party appetizer, paired with pasta for a simple dinner or as a meatball sub for a tasty summer lunch.

Author: Amari from Eat Chic Chicago and Recipe Redux. Yield: 6 (4 meatballs/serving).

Yield: 6 (4 meatballs/serving) Recipe makes 2 dozen meatballs.


  • 1/2 cup dried brown or green lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 8 ounces baby bella or crimini mushroom
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup cannellini beans (or other white bean)
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon coconut aminos (or tamari or soy sauce)


1. Preheat oven to 400*F.

2. In a medium sauce pan, combine lentils, bay leaf, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 10-12 minutes or until nearly all the liquid is absorbed. Remove bay leaf and set aside to cool for a few minutes.

3. In a small bowl, combine ground flaxseed and 1/4 cup warm water. Stir and set aside to gel and form 2 flax eggs.

4. In a food processor, combine mushrooms, oats, beans, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes, thyme, and rosemary. Add lentils and flax eggs and pulse until mixture is combined and well chopped.

5. In empty saucepan, combine olive oil, onions, salt and pepper. Cook on medium-high heat until translucent and beginning to caramelize (about 8-10 minutes). Add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add vinegar and coconut aminos and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.

6. In a large bowl, combine lentil mixture and onions. Let cool for a few minutes before handling.

7. Roll mixture into golf ball-sized meatballs and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Continue until all mixture is used up.

8. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until meatballs are a deep golden brown and the inside is cooked through.

Calories: 156
Fat: 5 grams
Carbohydrates: 25 grams
Protein: 8 grams


  1. https://www.mushroomcouncil.comMushroom Council, official site, accessed April 11, 2019
  2. Mary Jo Feeney, Johanna Dwyer, Clare M. Hasler-Lewis, John A. Milner, et.al.  Mushrooms and Health Summit Proceedings, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 144, Issue 7, July 2014, Pages 1128S–1136S, https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.114.190728
  3. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Selenium-HealthProfessional/National Institute of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements Selenium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals, accessed April 11, 2019
  4. Feng,Lei, Cheah,Irwin Kee-Mun, Ng, Maise Mei-Xi et.al. The Association between Mushroom Consumption and Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Community-Based Cross-Sectional Study in Singapore, The Journal of Alzheimer’s, vol. 68, no. 1, March 2019, pp. 197-203, https://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-alzheimers-disease/jad180   
  5. https://fruitsandveggies.org/join-the-movement/ Fruit and Veggies, official site, accessed April 25, 2019 

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