You may have heard that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but now there’s a new kid on the block – mushrooms. Everyone knows mushrooms are a great source of nutrients, but simply adding one serving of the tasty little fungi could increase your intake of important (and often neglected) micronutrients with almost no downside, suggests a study published in the journal Food Science and Nutrition.
The study, which was conducted by two nutrition scientists from the USA, found that the addition of an 84 gram (2.96 ounce) serving of white, crimini, and portabella mushrooms to the diet demonstrated significant improvements in dietary fiber and various nutrients including phosphorus, potassium, and selenium whilst having no impact in calorie intake.
It is important to note that the study was funded by the Mushroom Council, a large organization of mushroom producers and importers involved with promoting fresh mushrooms. However, the study has been peer-reviewed and accepted into a renowned journal, as well as including a large sample size and aligning with previous research.
"This research validated what we already knew that adding mushrooms to your plate is an effective way to reach the dietary goals identified by the DGA," said Mary Jo Feeney, MS, RD, FADA, and nutrition research coordinator to the Mushroom Council, in a statement.
"Data from surveys such as NHANES are used to assess nutritional status and its association with health promotion and disease prevention and assist with formulation of national standards and public health policy (CDC, 2020)."
Taking data from a 5 year-long survey from 2011-2016 of people aged 9-18 and 19+, the researchers compiled the dietary data from each before modelling how a serving of mushrooms would impact their nutrition. The survey accounted for about 10,000 adults and children every two years, creating a large sample size over the entire 5 year period.
After the addition of mushrooms, important micronutrients were up significantly, with the highest gain seen in copper at a maximum of 32% increase. Not only were they nutritious, but exposing the mushrooms to UV light also provided almost all the recommended daily vitamin D from just one serving. With vitamin D being a point of concern for many people, through more people working from home and lockdowns preventing most outdoor activities, such an addition could be a valuable resource.
The authors do acknowledge a number of limitations in the study. Firstly, the data is self-reported, which carries a distinct bias that may not be indicative of the true nutritional information. Also, as this is an estimation study, there is no guarantee that the addition of mushrooms would have the effect mentioned above, with the estimations being a maximum nutritional impact.