Mushrooms are more than tasty fungi.
Many kinds of mushrooms Assorted
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If you feel like you're seeing mushrooms everywhere these days, you're not wrong. Mushrooms are certainly having a moment! The fungi, which are often considered a vegetable, are a completely different type of produce, found naturally, foraged in moist forests, or grown under special conditions to keep up with consumer demand, which is high these days.

Packed with flavor, nutrients, and completely vegan and good for the planet and human body, mushrooms are a true superfood. Keep reading to learn the benefits of eating mushrooms.

Nutritional Benefits of Mushrooms

"Mushrooms are my personal go-to for optimal wellness today, and the nutrients in them help protect against disease risk for tomorrow," says Pam Smith, RDN, president and founder of Shaping America's Plate Inc.

Mushrooms Support Cognitive and Bone Health

"Fresh mushrooms contain the minerals and phytochemicals that can support cognitive and bone health and are important for feeding the immune system with nutrients such as B vitamins and selenium, essential antioxidants, and, in some instances, vitamin D."

RELATED: 6 Nutrient-Packed Foods to Eat for Better Brain Health

Mushrooms Are Packed With Vitamin D

All that sounds great, but it's the vitamin D that really stands out to Smith. "The vitamin D present in UV-exposed mushrooms not only may help strengthen bones, it also regulates the production of proteins your body needs to fend off bacterial and viral infections," she says. "Mushrooms are the only food found in the produce aisle that contain vitamin D, truly setting mushrooms apart. Be sure to look for the UV light-exposed mushrooms for that extra boost of vitamin D."

Mushrooms Keep the Digestive and Nervous Systems in Check

The combination of B vitamins riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid in mushrooms is also a key to the fungi's nutritional values. "This helps maintain healthy digestive and nervous systems, as well as healthy skin and hormonal balance," Smith says. "They also help to maintain optimum weight and regulate cholesterol and blood sugar levels, energy, and moods."

Do Different Types of Mushrooms Have Different Nutritional Benefits?

Whether you're a button, portobello or enoki lover, you're in for some nutrition!

"All mushrooms are nutrient rich, so you can reap the benefits by choosing whatever is available at your local grocery store, fits into your budget, and makes the most sense with your recipes," Smith says. "Just adding mushrooms to anything makes it better for your body, better for your taste buds, and better for the planet."

Still, there are some standouts if you're shopping for mushrooms specifically to optimize your nutrient intake. "Mushrooms are the only item in the produce aisle that feature immune-supporting vitamin D, and maitake mushrooms are particularly packed," Smith notes. One serving of maitake mushrooms (that's one cup) offers nearly a full day's recommended allowance of vitamin D.

More mushrooms stars? "Just one whole portobello or four cremini (baby bellas) provide an excellent source of copper (27 percent), selenium (28 percent), niacin (24 percent) and contain 4.3mg of ergothioneine," Smith says.

How to Cook Mushrooms

"My goal is to eat a variety of mushrooms every day—white buttons, creminis, portobellos, shiitake, maitake, beech, oyster and lion's mane when available—in a variety of dishes," Smith says. "There are so many interesting mushroom textures and flavors to try, from dense, meaty portobellos and earthy maitakes, to savory shiitakes. Mushrooms are delicious flavor lifters whether they are grilled, roasted, sautéed, stir-fried, or blended using a culinary technique called "The Blend."

What's The Blend? It's a technique of chopping or mincing fresh mushrooms to match the consistency of ground meat and then blending them into the beef, poultry, seafood, or plant proteins you're cooking with. You can use this technique to make burgers, taco meat, meatloaf, pasta sauce, chili, larb, or really anything you would traditionally cook with a ground protein. And adding mushrooms to ground beef or poultry is a great way to save money on meat. "Mushrooms' umami blends with other ingredients to make menu items more flavorful, juicier, and even meatier. This can reduce both the total fat, calories, and sodium of your dishes," explains Smith.

"What's interesting about mushrooms is that they contain the same nutrient content whether raw or cooked," Smith says. "Roasting or grilling mushrooms with high heat and little fat or water develops savory caramelization, making them even more flavorful and bringing more umami to your dishes."

How Long Do Mushrooms Stay Good For?

Focus on selecting mushrooms that are firm with a fresh, smooth appearance. The surfaces of the mushroom should be dry, but not dried out, and appear plump. A closed veil under the mushroom cap indicates a delicate flavor, while an open veil and exposed gills mean a richer flavor, notes a spokesperson for The Mushroom Council.

How to Store Mushrooms

Store mushrooms in their original packaging or in a porous paper bag for prolonged shelf life. Some mushrooms may keep for up to one week in the refrigerator. If they start smelling ammonia-like or develop a moist, soggy surface, dispose of them. Fresh mushrooms should never be frozen, but frozen sautéed mushrooms will keep for up to one month.

How to Clean Mushrooms

Brush off any debris, like dirt, from mushrooms with your fingers or a damp paper towel, or rinse mushrooms briefly under running water and pat dry with a paper towel. If the mushroom stem is tough, trim it before cooking. Typically, the stem is fully edible, but with shiitakes, stems should be removed before use. For portobellos, gills may be removed upon preference, but they offer great flavor and ability to soak up marinades.

For more tips on how to wash mushrooms, including specific store-bought, cultivated, and wild-foraged varieties, click here.

Mushroom Recipes

Now that you know the health benefits of mushrooms, plus how to clean them, store them, and cook with them, it's time for some mushroom-centric recipes!

Crispy Roasted Mushrooms
Credit: Danny Kim

1 Crispy Roasted Mushrooms

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Once you taste a crispy mushroom, you may never go back. Use this mushroom recipe as a side dish or to create a topping for a variety of proteins, pastas, or even potato dishes.

tufu and mushroom larb
Credit: Caitlin Bensel

2 Tofu and Mushroom Larb

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This spicy Thai salad celebrates mushrooms in all their wonderfully textural glory. This dish is about to become a weeknight staple.

creamy chicken and mushroom pasta
Credit: Caitlin Bensel

3 Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Pasta

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A comfort dish laden with mushrooms, this pasta may not specifically seem super-healthy, but because you're consuming all of mushroom's nutritional benefits alongside a rich pasta, it nets out, right? Right.

RELATED: 9 Ways to Add More Protein to Your Favorite Pasta Dish—and Recipes to Get You Started

crispy mushroom reuben sandwiches
Credit: Greg Dupree

4 Crispy Mushroom Reuben Sandwiches

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If you're looking for fun ways to swap mushrooms for meat, this crisp, gooey deli-style sandwich is a great place to start.

Tortellini Mushroom Soup
Credit: Antonis Achilleos

5 Tortellini Mushroom Soup

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Store-bought tortellini gets a major glow-up in this homemade soup recipe with a few shortcuts. Feel free to add extra mushrooms to make the dish even more mushroomy!

Shiitake Mushroom and Potato Enchiladas
Credit: Sang An

6 Shiitake Mushroom and Potato Enchiladas

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One of the healthiest mushrooms out there belongs at enchilada night! This vegetarian baked dish is perfect to serve a crowd.