Going Plant-Based for Your Health: The Marvelous Mushroom

by Karen Pullen

Good news for mushroom lovers! A new study has reported that people who consumed more mushrooms had a lower risk for all-cause mortality when compared to those who did not eat mushroom

Additionally, the researchers found that replacing one daily serving of red or processed meat with mushrooms was also associated with a lower risk of premature death. A possible mechanism for the reduced risk includes the antioxidant properties of ergothioneine and glutathione, compounds found in mushrooms. 

These findings support a previous meta-analysis that showed a protective effect of these same antioxidants against cancer, especially breast cancer.

Nutritional Benefits of Eating Mushrooms. Mushrooms have a unique nutrient profile. They are packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Nutritional benefits vary depending on the type of mushroom but overall, they are a good source of the following nutrients:

Antioxidants help protect the body from damaging free radicals that can cause conditions like heart disease and cancer. They also protect you against damage from aging and boost your immune system. 

Beta glucan is a form of soluble dietary fiber that’s been strongly linked to improving cholesterol and boosting heart health. It can also help your body regulate blood sugar, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

B vitamins riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid are found in mushrooms. The combination helps protect heart health. Riboflavin is good for red blood cells. Niacin is good for the digestive system and for maintaining healthy skin. Pantothenic acid is good for the nervous system and helps the body make the hormones it needs.

Copper helps your body make red blood cells, which are used to deliver oxygen. The mineral is also important to other processes in the body, like maintaining healthy bones and nerves.

Potassium is extremely important when it comes to heart, muscle, and nerve function. There’s about as much potassium in 2/3 cup of cooked portobello mushrooms as there is in a medium-sized banana.

Cooking with mushrooms  For centuries, mushrooms have been widely used in global cuisines for their umami savory flavors. Mushrooms add extra taste without sodium or fat. They’re low-calorie and cholesterol-free. More than 2000 varieties are edible!

When choosing your mushrooms, make sure they feel firm, aren’t moist to the touch, and are mold-free. They can be stored in a paper bag inside the fridge for about five days. Brush the dirt off and rinse them lightly when you’re ready to use them. Searing and oven roasting are the best cooking techniques.

This portobello napoleon is elegant and delicious.

Roasted Portobello Napolean

  • 30 minutes plus 2 hours marinating, serves 6
  • 6 portobello mushrooms 
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 
  • 1 t pepper 
  • 1/2 t salt 
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped 
  • 1 T Italian herbs 
  • 1 cup quinoa, not cooked
  • 4 cups fresh spinach
  • 1/2 jar roasted red peppers,
    sliced into slivers
  • good quality balsamic vinegar (look for 4% acid)

Remove stems from mushrooms (save for another use). Combine vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, Italian herbs, and mushrooms in a bowl. Let the mushrooms marinate for 2 hours.

To roast mushrooms, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange portobello mushrooms on the pan. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 20 minutes.

Cook quinoa according to package directions. 

To sauté spinach, add to a pan over medium heat with a tablespoon of water and cook about 3 minutes until wilted. For each Napoleon, assemble in this order, bottom to top:

Karen Pullen is a plant-based cooking instructor, certified in plant-based nutrition from Cornell. Learn more at