If you’re a fan of mushrooms, you’re bound to run into people who can’t stand them and have all sorts of reasons why you should stay away, too. They’ll claim they don’t like the way mushrooms taste (as if they have a single flavor) or that there’s no point in eating them because they have no health benefits. Some mushroom naysayers make unfounded claims because they think we won’t bother to verify their veracity. Well, they’ve never been more wrong!
To save you some time, we’ve done the research to disprove five of the most common myths perpetuated by mushroom haters.
Myth #1: All mushrooms are the same.
If you’ve spent any time on R&R Cultivation’s website, you know this isn’t true! Mushroom species can look and taste completely different, and they can also have different health benefits. Mushrooms’ fruiting bodies can have one of several structures, from the widely recognized “toadstool” style cap and stem to the intriguing “toothed” structure (such as Lion’s Mane). Their taste can range from mild to peppery to buttery and cover many flavors in between. When cooking with mushrooms, most of us have been raised around the grocery store button mushrooms that remain relatively colorless and flavorless no matter how they’re prepared. If you’re ready to have your mind blown, swap a gourmet mushroom for button mushrooms in your favorite dish.
Myth #2: Mushrooms are a vegetable.
Mushrooms actually are not plants; they belong to their own kingdom known as fungi. They do have some attributes in common with plants, but they are also like animals in some ways. As a result, mushrooms offer unique benefits when consumed. For example, mushrooms contain a carbohydrate called chitin that has prebiotic properties and is a great source of indigestible fiber. Chitin is also found in some shellfish and insects but is not found in plants.
Mushrooms develop complex structures to gain information about their environment and collect nutrients. They use mycelium, a network of microscopic fibers, to grow and connect with trees, other mushrooms, and far-away soil. For more on the fascinating life cycle of a mushroom, check out this post.
Myth #3: Eating raw mushrooms is dangerous.
This one is a little controversial, and many well-known health gurus caution against eating raw mushrooms. This is because they contain a compound called agaritine that is potentially carcinogenic. When you cook mushrooms the agaritine is broken down. However, these articles fail to mention that agaritine begins to break down once the mushroom is picked, so if your raw mushrooms have been stored in the fridge for a while prior to eating they likely contain only a fraction of agaritine compared to the amount found in freshly picked mushrooms.
A team of Swiss researchers calculated that the agaritine the typical mushroom eater is exposed to over the course of their lifetime may lead to one extra case of cancer per 50,000 lifetimes – a pretty small risk. In addition, mushrooms actually have anti-carcinogenic properties that may cancel out this risk. This one is up to you, but we say go ahead and add mushrooms to your favorite salads and other raw foods!
Myth #4: Mushrooms have no nutritional value.
Some people think that a mushroom’s lightweight structure and beige color preclude it from being a nutritious addition to their diet. This is patently untrue. Mushrooms offer high levels of antioxidants, minerals, and B vitamins, including B12 (great for vegans who don’t get them through animal products). They’re filling, nutritious, and low in calories.
Myth #5: There’s no science showing mushrooms have medicinal value.
Many credible studies have been published that show mushrooms’ medicinal value. For example, in the last decades many scientists have studied the Reishi mushroom, which has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to improve health and longevity for thousands of years. It is one of the most popular medicinal mushrooms in China, Japan, and Korea. Modern pharmacological tests of the Reishi mushroom have demonstrated some important characteristics of this fungus, such as immunomodulating, antiallergic, anti-radiation, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, antiparasitic, and antioxidant properties. Some benefits for the cardiovascular, respiratory, endocrine, and metabolic systems have also been described.Mushroom lovers rejoice! These myths won’t stand in the way of you eating delicious mushrooms any longer. Head to your local Twin Cities farmers market or Lunds and Byerly’s to pick up R&R Cultivation’s gourmet, organic mushrooms, or order for local delivery through our website.