Did you know that mushrooms aren’t plants? In fact, mushrooms and humans are kind of related—we belong to the same genetic kingdom, albeit distantly. I’ve always wondered why people were so eager to eat mushrooms, since undoubtedly quite a number of people met their ends after sampling a dangerous variety of mushrooms. Thankfully, they’ve done the hard work for us, and now we’ve got a checklist of shrooms that regularly appear on the dinner menu. But if these fungi have such a history of being dangerous, should we really be including them in the Paleo lifestyle?
Are mushrooms healthy?
Well, it turns out we don’t really have anything bad to say about mushrooms! They’re not the greatest source of many of your typical vitamins and minerals, but they do include some of the rarer nutrients that can be difficult to work into your diet, like selenium and copper.
Mushrooms have been linked with a reduction in mood disorders, especially depression and anxiety, because they promote healthy nerve function and encourage active brain processing. They’re also associated with nutrient intake, because mushrooms seem to help us absorb the nutrients in the foods we eat. Their chemical compounds help to make the vitamins and minerals in our food more bioavailable so that our body can use them.
Truth be told, it doesn’t really seem like there’s too much wrong with mushrooms, right? Well, we’ve got just a little bad news. While mushrooms seem to be a great food, it’s important to know that they lose many of their antioxidants just days after being picked. That means that the natural sugars have been destroyed by ripening, and we lose a lot of the health benefits of mushrooms.
However, the Paleo experts still agree that mushrooms are a great choice for your diet.
What do other Paleo experts say?
Mark Sisson says: “Humans have probably always eaten mushrooms, since mushrooms grow wild everywhere….they’re good sources of relatively rare nutrients like selenium, copper, and pantothenic acid.”
Chris Kresser says: “The [foods] that are most highly recommended for health…are asparagus and broccoli and kale and spinach, mushrooms, arugula, lettuce, [but]they respire so rapidly that within two or three days of harvest they might have half or even less of the antioxidants.”
Are mushrooms Paleo?
Mushrooms are a great addition to a Paleo diet, but do your best to eat them when fresh in order to get the most out of them. Try checking out local mushroom hunting groups or mycological societies to learn how to mushroom hunt for yourself and find the mushrooms you can eat (and the mushrooms you definitely can’t).