February 16

Anxiety or Depression? Eat Mushrooms

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by Rob Baker

It turns out that the unique flavor of umami isn’t the only reason to pick up mushrooms at the supermarket. Recent studies suggest that these friendly fungi are phenomenal for depression and anxiety. If you want to put some pep back into your step, it’s time to consume some ‘shrooms.

The Science Behind Mushrooms for Mood

According to a recent study of 24,000 people, those who ate mushrooms were about 45% less likely to have problems with depression and anxiety. That’s a huge drop.

An interesting tidbit is that studies there wasn't much of a difference between eating some mushrooms and eating a ton of mushrooms. What’s important is including them in your diet regularly. If you’re not a huge fan of mushrooms, you don’t need to go overboard.

The Power of Mushrooms for Anxiety and Depression

Why are mushrooms so good for keeping the blues away? One reason may be the high level of antioxidants and vitamins they have:

  • Ergothioneine: This amino acid is amazing for keeping anxiety and depression away. You can only get it from a healthy diet, and mushrooms are the biggest source.

  • Potassium: Getting enough potassium is important for optimal brain function. It can help prevent anxiety problems.

  • B vitamins: Few vitamins are more essential for brain health than B vitamins. These nutrients help with energy production, memory and mood. Mushrooms are rich in vitamins B-1, B-3, B-5, B-9 and B-12.

  • Vitamin D: This vitamin is also known as the sunshine vitamin. It’s good for mental health. Mushrooms have the curious ability to turn sunlight into vitamin D, just like your skin. If you’re stuck inside the house, mushrooms are a great way to get your daily dose of D.

Antioxidants in mushrooms can fight inflammation in the body, including your nerves. They can help you feel happier, improve your mental focus and memory, and boost your energy levels. That’s a big win — especially if you love mushrooms.

Tasty Types of Mushrooms

Mushrooms work well with all kinds of cuisine: Italian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, American, Mediterranean, French, Mexican and Moroccan. Here are some of my faves:

  • Portobello: Large and meaty, portobellos are my go-to substitute when I’m making a vegetarian version of tacos or fajitas. My kids love them, which is all that counts.

  • Button: The working man’s (and woman’s) mushroom, buttons get the job done. They’re a breeze to prepare and have a mild flavor that adapts to any recipe, from mushroom-topped steaks to Mediterranean salads.

  • Porcini: Deep, mysterious and packed with protein, porcinis are filling and nutritious. They work great in pasta dishes.

Shiitake: These are the mushroom lover's mushrooms. They have a stronger umami flavor, making them perfect for Asian stir-fries or tender pot roasts.

Tricks for Getting Kids (or Yourself) To Eat More Mushrooms

Are you worried that your kids won’t like mushrooms? Try these tricks to get kids to devour them without realizing it.

Keep pieces small at first, about the same size as chopped onions. You can disguise mushrooms easily in spaghetti sauce or cooked along with proteins such as chicken and beef. Some mushrooms add more flavor to any soup, and most of their nutrients end up in the broth so kids don’t need to eat the pieces to get the benefits.

I love pairing ‘shrooms with cheese. The flavors complement each other amazingly in grilled cheese sandwiches, scrambled eggs and other family favorites.


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