White and crimini mushroom nutrition is impressive, but the benefits of mushrooms extend far beyond the vitamins and minerals they offer. Aside from adding a deep, rich umami flavor to your dishes, mushrooms also feed the good bacteria in your gut and act as an anti-inflammatory.
Mushrooms are also rich in antioxidants that help combat oxidative stress and protect your body from some of the most common chronic diseases, like cancer. You can easily add mushrooms to your diet by sautéing them and putting them on top of chicken breast or steak or sneaking them into your morning omelet.
What Are Mushrooms?
Mushrooms are classified as vegetables, but they're actually not even plants; they're a type of fungi that is biologically distinct, but shares some characteristics with both plants and animals. For example, mushrooms contain a type of carbohydrate called chitin, which is also found in the shells of shrimp and crabs, but no other plants. Chitin adds bulk to the diet and helps keep you regular.
Of the many types of mushrooms, white and crimini mushrooms are among the most popular, and widely available in stores. Mild, smooth-capped white, or button, mushrooms belong to the Agaricus bisporus species. According to Berkeley Wellness, they were once the only mushrooms commercially grown in the United States. Their mild taste works in almost any dish calling for mushrooms or in any dish that you choose to add them to.
Crimini mushrooms, also called brown mushrooms, baby bella or cremini mushrooms, are a variety of white, button mushrooms, but they have a more intense flavor because they're more mature than regular white mushrooms. Full-grown crimini mushrooms are called portobello mushrooms.
White vs. Crimini Mushroom Nutrition
Because mushrooms are all really similar, their nutrition and health benefits are similar too. The nutritional breakdown of 1 cup of whole white mushrooms looks like this:
- 21 calories
- 3 grams of protein
- 0.3 grams of fat
- 3.1 grams of carbohydrates
- 1 gram of fiber
- 1.9 grams of sugar
- 83 milligrams of phosphorus
- 305 milligrams of potassium
- 7 international units of vitamin D
The breakdown for crimini mushroom nutrition looks like this (same size serving):
- 19 calories
- 2.2 grams of protein
- 0.1 grams of fat
- 3.7 grams of carbohydrates
- 0.5 grams of fiber
- 1.5 grams of sugar
- 104 milligrams of phosphorus
- 390 milligrams of potassium
- 3 international units of vitamin D
Mushrooms are also rich in selenium, potassium and the B vitamins, riboflavin and niacin. These B vitamins are especially important for people who don't eat meat; that's why mushrooms make a great meat and burger substitute. But one of the things that really makes mushrooms stand out is their vitamin D content.
Few foods naturally contain vitamin D; it's mostly added to fortified foods during processing. But like human skin, mushrooms can increase their own vitamin D content when exposed to sunlight. The Produce for Better Health Foundation points out that no other vegetable can do that. And according to a November 2014 report published in Nutrition Today, the vitamin D in mushrooms can help improve vitamin D status as effectively as the vitamin D from supplements.
Read more: Protein Content in Mushrooms vs. Meat
The Carbs in Mushrooms
Although both white and crimini mushroom carbs are minimal, the carbohydrates they do have are pretty special. Mushrooms are rich in certain types of carbohydrates called:
According to a report that was published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences in September 2017, this blend of carbohydrates makes mushrooms an excellent prebiotic. You may have heard of probiotics, which are good bacteria in your gut and in supplements, but prebiotics are foods that feed those probiotics and help them grow and multiply. And when probiotics are allowed to grow, they keep your gut healthy.
But a healthy gut doesn't just translate to good digestion. When your gut is healthy, it also acts as a barrier against potentially harmful microorganisms, boosts your immune system and can also reduce the risk of some chronic diseases, like nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (or NAFLD), pneumonia, heart disease and even cancer.
The report in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences also notes that mushrooms can help keep you at a healthy weight, reduce insulin resistance and help your body more effectively use insulin and combat chronic inflammation due to their prebiotic properties.
White and Crimini Mushroom Benefits
In addition to their vitamins, minerals and probiotics, there are other white and crimini mushroom benefits that classify them as a medicinal superfood. Mushrooms are considered:
This means they can help neutralize free radicals, combat cancer and reduce chronic inflammation. And according to a report that was published in Molecules in October 2015, they have a specific compound called ergothioneine that protects all of your cells from oxidative stress and damage, which interferes with the body's ability to properly detoxify and contributes to chronic disease, like heart disease and cancer.
Adding Mushrooms to Your Diet
If you're not used to eating mushrooms, there are a lot of ways you can introduce them to your diet. One of the easiest ways to cook mushrooms is to simply sauté them in an oiled pan over high heat. It takes only a few minutes for them to soften, and then you can add them to any meal. Put them on top of your steak, add them to a salad or mix them into rice. You can also:
- Add them to sauces before adding them to zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash.
- Slice them thin and add them to sandwiches.
- Make a vegetable skewer with whole mushrooms, bell peppers and tomatoes and grill them with a side of lean protein, like chicken breast.
- Add them to your scrambled eggs or omelet in the morning.
- Sprinkle them, and other vegetables, on top of your homemade, grilled pizza.
- Add dried mushroom powders to soups, sauces, rice and stews.
- Mix them into casseroles.
- Replace some of the meat in your recipes with chopped mushrooms or swap out a hamburger patty for a portobello mushroom patty.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Fun With Funghi: Garnish Your Meals With Mushrooms"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Mushrooms, White, Raw"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Mushrooms, Brown, Italian, or Crimini, Raw"
- International Journal of Molecular Sciences: "A Critical Review on Health Promoting Benefits of Edible Mushrooms Through Gut Microbiota"
- Berkeley Wellness: "Types of Mushrooms"
- Produce for Better Health Foundation: "Mushroom – Shedding Light on their Nutritional Value"
- Molecules: "Antioxidants of Edible Mushrooms"
- Food Chemistry: "Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Edible Mushrooms: A Review"
- Nutrition Today: "Mushrooms—Biologically Distinct and Nutritionally Unique"