Mushrooms are one of the favorite light foods that are used worldwide. However, the question of whether these are vegetables or fruit caused a huge debate. Most people ask: Is a mushroom a vegetable or fruit?
In culinary terms, mushrooms are generally treated like a vegetable, or even a tasty ingredient, typically with meats or vegetables. Botanically, mushrooms are neither fruits nor vegetables, but they are part of kingdom fungi. Portobello, particularly, is similar to meat, and you can use it to provide the meat’s texture but not the savor of meat in dishes like stews.
Those with a scientific background may know them as part of kingdom fungi. So, mushrooms neither belong to the fruit kingdom nor vegetables. However, people treat them as a vegetable as they are cut and cooked just like vegetables.
Though mushrooms have been treated as a vegetable for a long time, these have their species called “Fungi. ” The reason that may lead to their categorizing of vegetables is their resemblance with vegetables.
This guide will unveil the basic features of all the kingdom fungi, the main categories of mushrooms, the pros and cons, and how to buy and store them safely. You might enjoy reading: Top 9 Mushrooms That Have The Most Protein.
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Is Mushroom a Vegetable Or Fruit?
Even though mushrooms are categorized as vegetables, technically, they are not plants but are categorized in the Fungi kingdom, not the Animalia kingdom. Yet, they share some features with animals and plants. Mushrooms are fungi, but they are counted as vegetables and essential sources of nutrients, according to the California Department of Education.
What Is a Fungi Kingdom?
The fungal kingdom contains at least eleven separate groups (7 phyla plus four subphyla of the polyphyletic Zygomycota) with various genetics, morphologies, and life histories. Fungus (plural fungi) is about 144,000 known species of organisms of the kingdom Fungi, including yeasts, rusts, mildews, molds, and mushrooms.
So they are classified as part of kingdom fungi. Generally, mushrooms can be divided into three broad categories:
- Saprophytic mushrooms grow on dead organic matter, including plant roots, fallen leaves, and deadwood. They pull carbon dioxide, minerals, and other nutrients from organic matter. Common saprophytes include white button, shiitake, crimini, and oyster mushrooms.
- Parasitic mushrooms grow on living trees and other plants, pulling their nutrients until they die. They are also known as murderers among the mushrooms.
- Mycorrhizal mushrooms typically form a symbiotic relationship with the roots of living trees. They extract sugars and nutrients from the tree, but they give back minerals and essential elements, which enlarge the root system of their hosts. Mushrooms belonging to this group are challenging to cultivate and are often found only in nature. Well-known mycorrhizal mushrooms include chanterelles, porcini mushrooms, and truffles.
How to Distinguish Fungi from Plants?
Some features of fungi and plants are discussed in the following section. With this data, you can learn which category mushrooms belong to.
Vegetables and Fruit
You know that all vegetables and fruit come from plants. Plants use sunlight in association with their chlorophyll to convert them into energy. One can recognize vegetables by the fact that these are parts of plants that it used for reproduction. Some vegetables are eaten as such, while some are cooked before eating.
For instance, we can use onions, lettuce, spinach, celery, or cauliflower as such. While many other vegetables need to be cooked before eating. Also, some vegetables have roots, like carrots.
Fruits are those parts of plants that it doesn’t use for reproduction. So, these can be eaten after ripening. But these also come from plants.
Unlike plants, fungi don’t turn sunlight into useful energy. They turn dead and decaying matter into useful nutrients. Also, they may get essential nutrients from the roots of plants. These, along with yeast and molds, belong to a separate kingdom called ” Fungi. ”
Mushrooms also belong to the very same category of living. They can be categorized into three basic groups depending on how they live.
- Some mushrooms live with the roots of living trees and prove beneficial for them. They get their nutrients from the plant roots, which help them to convert larger food ingredients into smaller and easily digestible ones. These mushrooms help in making the planet’s roots healthier and are called Mycorrhizal Mushrooms.
- Another category of mushrooms that lives on the roots of living plants is parasitic. These get their nutrients from plant roots but don’t give back anything to them. That’s the reason for their name.
- The third type of mushroom is Saprophytic. These don’t live on living plants or other organisms. Instead, they survive on dead matter and convert them into organic matter. These are essential for the decomposition of dead animals and plants. Life without such mushrooms will be impossible.
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What Is a Mushroom Classified As?
Mushrooms are classified in the Fungi Kingdom differently from plants and animals. The way fungus gets their food nutrients puts them in a separate kingdom.
All vegetables and fruits originate from edible plants. The principal characteristic of plants is that they contain chlorophyll, which converts energy from sunlight into carbohydrates. However, mushrooms do not have chlorophyll, meaning they can not photosynthesize. They often ‘steal’ the carbohydrates they need from plants.
Top 10 Mushroom Benefits and Disadvantages
Like anything in life, mushrooms also have pros and cons. Let’s discuss mushroom benefits and disadvantages.
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What Are the Benefits of Mushrooms?
Here are some advantages associated with the use of mushrooms.
1- Rich in Nutrition
Like many other foods, mushrooms are a great natural source of different beneficial nutrients. These are rich in vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients.
Reishi mushrooms could improve good cholesterol or blood sugar, according to a small amount of research.
2- Mushrooms May Prevent The Risk of Cancer
Vitamin D, selenium, and antioxidants help prevent the chances of cancer. They activate the enzymes in our body that reduce those compounds from the body, which may cause cancer.
Also, they increase the growth of new cells, which eventually leads to enhanced immunity towards cancerous compounds.
According to a Penn State study, mushroom consumption is associated with lower cancer risk. However, the researcher concluded that future investigations are needed to pinpoint better the mechanisms involved and specific cancers that may be affected.
Medicinal mushrooms have been authorized as an addition to standard cancer treatments, mainly in Japan and China. We needed more studies to help us understand the relationship between mushrooms and cancer prevention.
3- Mushrooms May Boost immunity
Cooked shiitake mushrooms could strengthen the immune system, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
Researchers from the University of Florida asked volunteers (52 healthy adults between the ages of 21 and 41) to consume a four-ounce serving of shiitake mushrooms each day for four weeks.
To not interfere with the results, researchers also requested participants to avoid tea, supplements, and probiotics, along with limiting their alcohol consumption to 14 servings a week and their fruit and vegetable consumption to seven servings a day.
The study concluded that regular Shiitake mushrooms consumption improved immunity.
4- Mushrooms May Slow Signs of Aging
Like strength training, are mushrooms also the Fountain of Youth? Researchers from Penn State discovered that mushrooms have high amounts of ergothioneine and glutathione.
According to the researchers, these are two antioxidants that can help prevent the destruction of aging because antioxidants play an essential role in protecting the body from cellular damage linked with numerous age-related chronic conditions.
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5- Mushrooms Could Help Fight Depression and Fatigue
Psilocybin is a chemical found in more than 100 species of mushrooms in the world, according to research.
Two doses of the “magic mushroom” chemical psilocybin produced rapid and significant reductions in depressive symptoms for individuals with major depression for at least a month, found in a small study issued by Johns Hopkins Medicine of adults with major depression.
Psilocybin mushrooms, also known as magic mushrooms with red caps or stems, can cause intense visual and auditory hallucinations.
6- Mushrooms May Prevent Heart Diseases
Mushrooms contain certain chemicals that maintain the cholesterol level in the body. Proper cholesterol level helps in reducing the chances of heart disease.
These are rich in sodium and potassium, which decrease heart issues. Also, one can prevent heartburn and acid reflux problems.
Several studies have shown the effect of mushroom intake on some metabolic markers, including total LDL, HDL cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammatory damage), which potentially may reduce the risk of suffering cardiovascular diseases.
7- Effective for Anemia And Bone Problems
Mushroom consumption can help anemic patients as these are rich in iron. Iron, in turn, helps in the formation of body cells that regulate the blood pressure in the body. Also, these prevent many bone diseases.
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What Are the Disadvantages of Mushrooms?
Below are the drawbacks of eating mushrooms:
8- Contaminated Mushrooms May Cause Food poisoning
Food poisoning is one of the drawbacks of eating mushrooms contaminated containing campylobacter jejuni, which can be present in commercially grown mushrooms.
9- Mushrooms May Cause Allergic Reaction
Spores in some mushrooms might cause severe allergic reactions in some people.
In addition, some people might have mold allergies that are triggered by consuming mushrooms.
10- Mushrooms May Upset Your Stomach.
Other disadvantages of mushrooms include stomach upset, which might cause diarrhea, vomiting, cramping, and even nausea for some people.
Other disadvantages of mushroom consumption include:
- Some wild mushrooms may cause different types of allergic reactions.
- Some groups of mushrooms can lead to severe illness, so choose them wisely.
- These are harmful to people fighting asthma, arthritis, sclerosis, and lupus.
Which Mushrooms To Buy?
There exist thousands of varieties of mushrooms with different colors, shapes, and sizes. Since some wild mushrooms can cause allergic reactions, stomach upset, or even be poisonous, here are the safest types of mushrooms.
- Button mushroom is the most common mushroom in the U.S. It has a mild taste, and you can even eat it raw or cooked.
- Portobello mushroom is a large brown wide cap with a juicy flavor that works well as a meat substitute.
- Enoki mushroom has long, thin white stems with small white caps to eat raw or cooked.
- Chanterelle mushroom has a cap that looks like a wavy golden trumpet-like shape.
- Shiitake mushroom has a dark brown umbrella cap with a thin cream-colored stem.
- Cremini mushroom (baby Bella) is a dark, firm, and young Portobello mushroom.
- Maitake mushroom has a head that resembles flowering leaves
- Morel mushroom has a spongy cap dimpled oblong shape
- Oyster mushroom has a delicate fan-shaped cap
- Porcini mushroom has a reddish-brown rounded cap with a thick cylindrical stem.
How To Store Mushrooms?
- Choose mushrooms with whole firm caps with an even texture.
- Keep them refrigerated until use, but ideally within one week.
- Do not wash or clean mushrooms until just before using.
- Ensure you store mushrooms in a brown paper bag with the top open will help absorb moisture and keep them from spoiling.
- Do not freeze mushrooms, as they will become mushy when you defrost them ( mushrooms are 80-90% water)
Is Mushroom a Vegetable or Protein?
Mushrooms are neither vegetables nor protein. They have a separate group called ” Fungi “. However, they share some common features with vegetables, so they are sometimes categorized as vegetables for convenience.
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Is Mushroom a Fruit or Flower?
Mushrooms are neither fruit nor flower. They belong to another category, which is called fungi. The way they get their nutrients distinguishes them from flowers and fruit.
As mushrooms are cooked and used as light food, they are treated as vegetables. This is just for the sake of kitchen convenience, nothing else.
Is it OK to Eat Mushrooms Every Day?
Mushrooms are rich in beneficial nutrients. They provide the body with ingredients that prevent neurological disorders. However, poorly cooked mushrooms can be harmful, so make sure that you cook them well. If you can manage to take five-button mushrooms per day, you can prevent your brain from aging effects.
Whether mushrooms are vegetables or fruit causes confusion in many people. Mushrooms have a special group called fungi.
In culinary terms, mushrooms are generally treated like a vegetable, or even a tasty ingredient, typically with meats or vegetables.
Botanically, mushrooms are neither fruits nor vegetables, but they are part of kingdom fungi. Portobello, in particular, is similar to meat, and you can use it to give the meat’s texture, but not the taste, of meat in dishes like stews.
You can even use mushrooms as meat substitutes, such as a grilled Portabello mushroom. Other people generally use mushrooms as a fruit used in desserts or anything that tastes sweet.