What’s not to love about mushrooms? They add a delicious umami flavor to just about any savory dish and fare beautifully on their own — whether they’re roasted, sauteed, grilled, or tossed into soup. The best part? You don’t have to go out of your way buying fancy varieties to reap important health benefits. Research suggests that white mushrooms improve immune system function and contribute to a healthy cardiovascular system.
What are white mushrooms?
Known as Agaricus bisporus in the scientific community, white mushrooms (or white button mushrooms) are an edible type of fungi. They like to grow in fertile, damp soil, and many home gardeners cultivate them in a mixture of compost and soil.
White button mushrooms, cremini, and portobello (often spelled portabella) mushrooms are actually stages of the same mushroom species. White buttons are the youngest while cremini (or “baby bella”) are slightly more mature with brown tops. Portobello are the brownest, largest, and most mature.
White, cremini, and portobello are the most common mushroom varieties in the US. In fact, they make up over 97 percent of all mushrooms produced in America, according to a USDA report.
White mushrooms may boost immune function.
Research has long shown that mushrooms are antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory, and even help to prevent tumor growth. (In fact, humans have been using mushrooms in medicinal ways for centuries.) According to an animal study published in The Journal of Nutrition, white button mushrooms enhance the body’s natural killer cells — immune cells that kill tumor cells or cells infected with a virus. In effect, eating more of this mushroom variety may increase your innate immunity to tumors and viral infections.
B vitamins may also aid in immune health.
The extra immune-boosting benefits of white mushrooms lie in their nutritional profile: They are rich in B vitamins. “B vitamins are crucial vitamins for energy production and cell growth,” explains Serena Poon, certified nutritionist, celebrity chef, and founder of Just Add Water. “They also support healthy digestion, skin health and nervous system function. Folate, in particular, is really important for brain development, and it is recommended that pregnant women stock up on this essential vitamin. There is growing research about the supporting role of B vitamins in immune function. Your body does not produce B vitamins, so they must be consumed in the diet.”
Poon points to a 2020 scientific review published in Nutrients, which highlights years of research on B vitamins and immunity. While some of the research is conflicting (some studies suggest that certain B vitamins are linked to a higher risk of certain cancers), other studies show that B vitamins have a protective effect against cancer.
Still, B vitamins are essential to our health and tend to do more good than bad. “Mushrooms are a lovely way to consume these important vitamins,” Poon adds. “One cup offers about 18 and 25 percent of the daily recommended intake for women of niacin and riboflavin, respectively, and about three and five percent of your daily recommended intake of folate and thiamin, [respectively].”
Potassium boosts heart health.
White button mushrooms also contain potassium, a key ingredient to good heart health. “Potassium is one of the most important minerals in your diet and is often overlooked,” says Poon. “It supports both muscle function, including your heart, and nerve function. Potassium also helps manage blood pressure and balances sodium in your body. Button mushrooms are a good source of potassium, containing about nine percent of your daily recommended intake, as are many other fruits and vegetables.”
Indeed, a 2021 study from The New England Journal of Medicine showed that low potassium levels (coupled with high sodium levels) increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association also notes that a diet high in potassium-rich foods like mushrooms can help manage high blood pressure.
Delicious Recipe Ideas for White Mushrooms
Ready to add more white buttons to your diet? Poon has the answers. “I love cooking with mushrooms,” she says. “Not only do they support health, but they also have a wonderful texture for a plant-based diet. Because of their earthy flavor and hearty texture, they can add value to so many dishes.
“Some of my favorite dishes to prepare with mushrooms include: vegan cream of mushroom soup, vegan stuffed mushrooms with spinach, walnuts, and garlic, and button mushrooms sauteed with fresh herbs added as a topping to a main dish or warm salad.” For cooking tips, check out this trick to avoid rubbery shrooms.
We can’t wait to try these delicious options!