Mushrooms are on the longevity diet: A look at the varieties you should be eating and their health benefits
08/01/2019 // Melissa Smith // Views

Mushrooms are edible fungi that are often prized for their health benefits. They are known to prevent diseases and prolong your life.

Many varieties of mushrooms possess psychotropic and antibiotic properties. Mushrooms are also prebiotics, improving the gut microbiome’s beneficial bacteria, such as Acidophilus and Bifidobacterium. As a result, they enhance digestion and overall health.

In addition, certain varieties of mushrooms are great dietary sources for powerful antioxidants, such as sulfur-rich ergothioneine and glutathione, the "major biological antioxidant." A diet rich in these antioxidants can protect your cells from harmful free radicals that cause oxidative stress. Mushrooms are also rich in nutrients, particularly vitamin D which is important for a strong immune system.

Researchers from The Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine assessed the antioxidant properties of 11 mushroom species. Of the 11 species tested, the top seven mushrooms with the strongest antioxidant constituents are also some of the most nutritious ones. Here are the seven mushrooms you should be eating, ranked in order:

  1. Porcini – Porcini mushrooms, which are popular in Italian cuisine, are large reddish-brown mushrooms that have a thick stem and are slightly sticky to the touch. Their caps can grow up to 12 inches in diameter. They grow from summer to fall, so they are available in specialty markets almost all-year round. For foragers, you can find them in the mulchy undergrowth of hardwood forests with chestnut, hemlock, pine, and spruce trees.
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  3. Golden oyster – These mushrooms are golden in color, grow in clusters, and have a nutty, slightly bitter flavor. These mushrooms are more often cultivated than wild-harvested. They grow in almost anything, such as straw mats, which makes it easier to grow them on your own.
  4. Pioppino – Pioppino mushrooms are also known as velvet pioppino because of the velvety-brown appearance of their small caps. They grow in clusters on long, sturdy stems. They’re small, with caps growing only about 2 cm wide. These mushrooms grow on decaying logs or at the mulchy base of hardwood trees. When cooked, they retain a firm texture and have a mild, slightly peppery taste.
  5. Oyster – One of the most common and versatile mushrooms, oyster mushrooms are easy to cultivate and grow mainly on decaying wood. These mushrooms have a slightly sweet, anise-like smell and a short, thick stem. They are so-called because they look like oysters. Their colors can range from green, pink, to yellow, depending on the variety. Their fluted caps can grow from two to eight inches, with white gills on the underside. This species is one of the few carnivorous mushrooms – their mycelia eat small roundworms and bacteria.
  6. Lion’s mane – Lion’s mane mushrooms are popularly used in medicine, especially in traditional Chinese medicine, for improving memory and mood. This species has a meaty texture and is often boiled and used in soup or stew as a meat replacement. They can also be found in supplement form as a powder or tincture.
  7. Maitake – Maitake mushrooms grow in clusters and are often found at the base of oak trees. They are a polypore mushroom, so they lack the distinctive gills on the underside of the cap. Several caps emerge in layers from a single, thick underground stem, and can grow quite large. Their caps can be white or brown. The whole "fruit body" can weigh at least 50 lbs, with a single cap growing up to 12 inches wide. When cooked, they become semi-firm and have a slightly earthy flavor. Maitake mushrooms are well-known for their cancer-fighting properties. (Related: Harvesting mushrooms for food and fire: Tips for identifying them.)
  8. Shiitake – Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular mushrooms in the world, especially in Asia because of their powerful medicinal properties. In some cultures, they have become a symbol of longevity. This species grows in clusters on decaying hardwood trees. Shiitake mushrooms have a classic umbrella shape, with caps ranging from white to light brown with white spots. They can grow up to eight inches in diameter. Shiitakes are versatile with a rich, earthy flavor and can be consumed raw or cooked. They can also be found in powdered supplement form.

For more articles on foods that help you live longer, such as mushrooms, visit

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