Reviewed by Dr. Richard Foxx, MD — Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) are an edible fungus with a name that matches their appearance. They grow in forests around the world and are known for their molluscular look, pleasant taste, and potential health benefits.
As with a host of other fungi, including cordyceps and lion’s mane, there is an interest in the potential health benefits of oyster mushrooms. These fungi are nutrient-dense, rich in antioxidants, and may have the potential to prevent or treat chronic illnesses.
Oyster mushrooms have a thick, white flesh; mild flavor; and licorice-like aroma. They generally grow on dead or dying hardwood trees like beech and oak, but can also be found on fallen branches and stumps. In recent years, they have become a hot commodity among foragers.
These mushrooms can be used in a variety of ways, and taste great sautéed with onions and served as a side dish. Oyster mushrooms can also be added to soups, sauces, pastas, and meat dishes.
Oyster Mushroom Nutrition Facts
Like other fungi, oyster mushrooms are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that may help with various health markers.
One cup of sliced oyster mushrooms, or 86 grams, features:
|Nutrient||Amount||% Daily Value|
|Carbohydrate||5.6 grams (g)||N/A|
|Niacin (Vitamin B3)||4.3 milligrams (mg)||21%|
|Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)||0.3 mg||18%|
|Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)||1.1 mg||11%|
|Thiamine (Vitamin B1)||0.1 mg||7%|
|Folate (Vitamin B9)||23.2 micrograms (mcg)||6%|
|Vitamin B6||0.1 mg||5%|
While it is unlikely that you’d eat an entire cup of oyster mushrooms in one sitting, they do offer a diverse array of nutrients. They are particularly high in niacin and riboflavin, B vitamins that are good for healthy cholesterol levels and cell growth and function, respectively.
Potential Health Benefits of Oyster Mushrooms
The nutritional profile of oyster mushrooms offers plenty of potential benefits to get excited about, including:
Mushrooms are one of the best plant sources of niacin. Research shows the vitamin can boost levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol and lower levels of triglycerides.
Your body produces cholesterol naturally, and you need it to survive. But too much of it, and things can get dangerous, particularly for your heart.
Eating too many sugary snacks can boost “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol that accumulates along arterial walls, and puts your heart health at risk.
The cholesterol makes it harder for blood to move through blood vessels and increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes.
Some animal studies have shown that oyster mushroom supplements can have a substantial cholesterol-lowering effect. Rats given oyster mushroom supplements saw their cholesterol go down by 37% and triglycerides cut by 45%.
More work needs to be done to see if a similar effect is found in humans.
Lower Inflammation and Increased Immune Strength
Inflammation is your body’s natural response to an infection or injury, and is completely natural. Sometimes, however, the immune system doesn’t shut down and inflammation doesn’t go away. This is called chronic inflammation, and it is associated with a variety of long-term health conditions.
Test-tube studies show that oyster mushrooms may be able to reduce several inflammatory markers, meaning it could have benefits for immune health and inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
Lower inflammation may also have benefits for conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Better Brain Health
Oyster mushrooms also feature nutrients that are good for brain health. In addition to the potential anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering benefits (which are great for brain health), the niacin in oyster mushroom may also contribute to healthy cognitive function.
Research suggests niacin may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline in older adults.
Antioxidant & Fiber Effects
Fungi are rich in antioxidants that can lend themselves to a number of health-promoting benefits. They help fight free radicals to keep cells healthy and reduce the risk of chronic illness.
Fiber can help improve digestion and gut health, as well as heart health.
Fiber adds bulk to your stool so that it passes more easily through your digestive tract. It can also help feed the healthy bacteria in your gut.
Studies have shown that fiber has positive effects on heart-health factors like blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Oyster Mushroom Precautions
Oyster mushrooms are safe for the most part. But there are some things you will want to pay attention to.
Firstly, do not forage for your own. If you are not an experienced mushroom forager, there is simply too much risk involved. Many fungi can easily be mistaken for others, and you could end up with poisonous mushrooms. Leave foraging to the professionals.
In the same vein, only purchase oyster mushrooms from trusted sources. Some low-priced, unproven vendors may not have your safety or best interest at heart. Shop from trusted grocers, brands, or farmers.
People with mushroom allergies should also avoid oyster mushrooms. They can cause flare-ups of symptoms like shortness of breath, inflammation, or other problems you may experience when consuming mushrooms.
Oyster mushrooms also contain a tiny amount of a sugar alcohol called arabitol, which can cause gastrointestinal symptoms in some people.
Purines are another compound found in mushrooms (not just oyster mushrooms) that can lead to trouble for some people. Purines are broken down into uric acid, which may aggravate gout symptoms.
Lastly, some people who eat large quantities of mushrooms may experience:
If you’re planning to supplement with oyster mushroom, talk to your doctor first and seek out reputable products.
Oyster Mushrooms: A Friendly Fungus
If you like mushrooms, oyster mushrooms are certainly worth a try. They are palatable and versatile, and the nutrients found within them could benefit your health in a variety of ways.
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