Mix up your mushrooms for maximum health benefits

Mushrooms are finally being recognised for their nutritional value as well as their delicious contribution to the dinner table. But what are the nutritional differences between different types of mushrooms? Nutritionist Ashleigh Feltham reports.

Mushrooms are trending right now — and not only because they look and taste amazing. The humble fungi are making a name for themselves as a great source of antioxidants, vitamin D, B vitamins, potassium and selenium, all nutrients necessary for a functioning body.

But is there any difference between mushroom types? Should you be choosing a specific shroom if you are seeking a specific health benefit? The short answer is yes — there is a difference in the amounts of different nutrients your body will receive. The long answer: it depends on what you’re after.

Take vitamin D for example. Different types of mushroom rank very differently in the amount of vitamin D (measured in International Units (IU)) your body gets. Farmers can actively increase the amount of vitamin D the mushroom contains by exposing the mushroom to more UV light in its growing stages. Here are the top 5 mushrooms for vitamin D2 content:

  1. Maitake (943IU)
  2. Portobello, exposed to UV light, grilled (493IU)
  3. Portobello, exposed to UV light, raw (375IU)
  4. Chanterelle, raw (178IU)
  5. Shiitake, dried (129IU)

Most other types of mushrooms contain equal or less than 24IU of vitamin D2.

If you already enjoy a specific variety already, here’s a breakdown of the most common types.

Button mushroom

Also known as the common mushroom, white mushroom or champignon mushroom, the button is the immature white form of agaricus bisporus, the Portobello mushroom. It’s native to grasslands in Europe and North America and is one of the most popular mushrooms in Western countries — over 90% of mushrooms consumed in the US are buttons.

Nutrition: A serving of button mushrooms (4-5 mushrooms) contains 18cal/75kj and 6g of carbohydrates. They are good sources of the antioxidant selenium and also contain 2.8mg of the antioxidant ergothioneine, three B vitamins (pantothenic acid, niacin and riboflavin), copper, 300mg of potassium and 6IU of vitamin D2.

Use: Ways to enjoy button mushrooms can include slicing them for on a pizza, in pasta or omelettes, on a cheeseburger or in quesadillas.

Portobello mushroom

The Portobello belongs to the same family as the button mushroom, it’s just a matured version. They’re often brown and about the size of your palm.

Nutrition: 1 mushroom contains 18cal/75kj and 4g of carbohydrates. These mushrooms are good sources of selenium, B vitamins riboflavin and niacin as well as copper. Portobello mushrooms rank as good sources of potassium and phosphorous, and have 4.3mg of the antioxidant eregothioneine.

Use: Being a bigger mushroom they can be grilled and used on burgers (as either buns or meat replacement), stuffed and baked or sliced and used in a stir fry.

Cremini mushroom

In the same family as both the Portobello and Button mushroom, cremini mushrooms are the immature brown type. While about the same size as the button, they have a slightly firmer texture.

Nutrition: A serve of 4-5 cremini mushrooms contain 23cal/96kj and 4g of carbohydrates. They’re a better source of selenium than button mushrooms, cremini are an excellent source of the B vitamin riboflavin and a good source of B vitamins niacin and pantothenic acid. Cremini are also good source of potassium and phosphorous, and contain 4.9mg of the antioxidant ergothioneine.

Use: Cremini have a stronger flavour and firmer texture than white button mushrooms, and go well in red meat and vegetable dishes.

Shiitake Mushroom

Grown and consumed mostly in east Asian countries, shiitake mushrooms have long been considered a medicinal mushroom in some traditional Asian medicines. You can usually find them fresh or dried.

Nutrition: 4-5 mushrooms contain 41cal/171kj and 10g of carbohydrates. Shiitake mushrooms boast a fantastic source of the antioxidant selenium, providing you with 30% of your daily needs. This variety is also an excellence source of copper and the B vitamin pantothenic acid, and is still a good source for the B vitamin riboflavin.

Use: When fresh, these mushrooms are very meaty in flavour — add them to any stir fry, pasta and soup. Dried, they make a great addition to soups (especially miso soup) and salads.

Maitake Mushroom

English speakers know this coral-like mushroom as the hen of the woods or sheep’s head mushroom, but in Japanese cuisine it’s known as the maitake and Italians might know it as the signorina mushroom. It’s been used in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine for centuries.

Nutrition: A small cluster or one serve of this mushroom has 26cal/109kj and 6g of carbohydrates. They’re a good source of the B vitamins pantothenic acid, niacin and riboflavin as well as copper. If you’re trying to increase your fibre intake, Maitake has the added bonus of containing 2g of fibre per serve, with the daily requirements being 20-30g a day. Maitake also contains the most vitamin D2 of all the ones tested in the study above.

Use: try sautéing these floral mushrooms with onions in extra virgin olive oil to enhance the flavour, or serve with pasta, red meat, cheese and crunchy veg.

Oyster Mushroom

Named due to its shape, the oyster mushroom was first cultivated during World War 1 and is now grown and eaten worldwide. It has a bittersweet aroma often described as being like bitter almonds, and are one of the most foraged mushrooms — but be careful if foraging for your own, they have at toxic doppleganger!

Nutrition: A serving of 4-5 oyster mushrooms or 1 large mushroom contains 28cal/117kj and 5g of carbohydrate. This variety is an excellent source of Vitamin D and the B vitamin niacin, and a good source of copper and the B vitamin riboflavin. Like Shiitake mushrooms one serving contains 2g of fibre.

Use: This variety has a smokey, rich and earthy flavour and is best used in stir fry, soups or sauces. Try oyster mushrooms in meat-based dishes to really enhance the flavour. You could even have them simply stuffed and baked.

Each mushroom has its own taste, texture, flavour and nutrient profile, so it’s worth skipping grabbing a bag of the buttons and trying something a bit different.